A Recommended Podcast: Sold A Story

By Kimberly Stevens 

I recently had a week of vacation and my youngest daughter and I packed the car and made the 3 and a half hour trek to Illinois for a week. I just love road trips, it gives you the opportunity to explore, get to know the people in the vehicle a bit better, and learn new things. For me, once the singing and chair dancing session is complete, and my daughter puts on her headphones, its the perfect time to expand my mind. That’s when I turn to podcasts or audiobooks. 

About a year ago, one of our tutors recommended a podcast titled Sold a Story. It’s a six-episode series from American Public Media about reading, how to teach reading, what works, what isn’t working, and the science of reading. This podcast moved me, frustrated me, and had me yelling at the stereo in the car. 

Personally, I think one of the hardest things I heard over and over again in the podcast is how reading is taught in our schools, and according to some, is it being taught? Sounding out the word is rarely taught and our children are taught to use cues and guess (emphasis is mine). Guessing is not reading. Guessing is not science. Guessing is not understanding. And when it comes to our money, guessing isn’t an option, so why is this strategy used to teach children how to read?

Did you know?

“According to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress report card, 67.4% of fourth grade students in Wisconsin failed to test at proficient or above in reading. Similarly, about 67.6% of eighth grade students were not proficient or above in reading.” (Gretzinger, E., Wisconsin Watch, April 17, 2023).

That means only 1 out of every 3 students is reading proficiently. Surprised? These numbers only decreased by 3 points from 2019 so don’t blame it all on COVID; there is something fundamentally wrong here.

There is good news on the horizon. I’m excited Wisconsin Assembly Bill 321 was recently passed to make improvements in reading and allow for early literacy screening. I’m even more excited that the guessing (sorry, I meant cueing) strategy must be barred from schools beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. We have a ways to go to make the necessary improvements for our children when it comes to reading and overall literacy, but with growing awareness of such a critical issue, this can only be a step in the right direction.