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Teaching Children to Read - Wrightslaw

Learning to Read  l Teaching Reading  l Writing
Q & As
 l Free Pubs
l Caselaw
Service Providers Training

young girl excited about learning to read

Our National Reading Problem in a Nutshell

Highlights: Nation's Report Card for 2020.

Reading: On the 2019 Nation's Report Card, reading proficiency for 4th and 8th grade students dropped from 2017. In 2019, 34% of 4th and 8th graders were proficient readers. Scores dropped in 17 states/jurisdictions, stayed the same in 34 states/jurisdictions, and increased in one state (Mississippi).

Math: In 2019, 4th graders' Math scores improved slightly over 2017, but dropped in the 8th grade.


IDA Dyslexia Handbook: What Every Family Should Know - how to recognize signs and symptoms of dyslexia in speaking, reading and writing; includes information on assessments, effective teaching approaches, self-advocacy ideas, and resources that will be useful through the child's life. Download.

NELP Report: Developing Early Literacy. Summary from Reading Rockets. The National Early Literacy Panel looked at studies of early literacy and found many things that parents and preschools can do to improve the literacy development of young children and that different approaches influence the development of a different pattern of essential skills. Download Report (pdf)

Preventing Early Reading Failure "We have tools to reliably identify the children who are likely destined for early reading failure. Most importantly ... if we intervene early, intensively, and appropriately, we can provide these children with the early reading skills that can prevent almost all of them from ever entering the nasty downward spiral ..."

Catch Them Before They Fall By Joseph Torgesen. Identification and Assessment To Prevent Reading Failure in Young Children. Published by the American Federation of Teachers, American Educator.

Why Children Succeed or Fail at Reading, Research from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Program in Learning Disabilities.

* * * * * * * * * *

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Teaching Children to Read

Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science, What Expert Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do by Louisa Moats, published by the American Federation of Teachers.

IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (International Dyslexia Association). “Reading difficulties are the most common cause of academic failure and underachievement." These Standards provide a content framework for courses and delineate proficiency requirements for practical application of this content (e.g., interpretation of assessments, delivery of differentiated instruction, and successful intervention with a child or adult with a reading disability).

"Reading disabilities are the most understood and effectively corrected learning disability ...
[but] if help is delayed until third grade, children rarely catch up with their peers ...

"75% of children who were poor readers in the 3rd grade remained poor readers in the 9th grade and could not read well when they became adults."

"If parents suspect that their child has dyslexia, the sooner they act on their suspicions,
the better it will be for their child."

From ABC to ADHD: What Every Parent Should Know About Dyslexia

What Content-Area Teachers Should Know About Adolescent Literacy. Report from the National Institute for Literacy (2007).

No Offense: But It's Alarming That So Many Children are Not Learning to Read. If your child was in 5th grade and reading on the 2.7 grade level, wouldn’t you be alarmed? Wouldn’t you want a research-based reading program that has a proven record of success before your child falls even further behind?

One Reason Kids Aren't Learning to Read by Sue Whitney. "We should not be surprised that people untrained to accomplish the goal are unable to accomplish the goal. If we were graduating and certifying people who could teach reading, they would be doing it."

Fifth Grader is Reading at 2.7 Grade Level. Should He Be Tested for Special Ed? The big question is whether anyone will teach him how to read if he goes into special ed. Several factors are working against him in special ed.

What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning. The National Council on Teacher Quality examined what aspiring teachers learn about reading instruction in college. NCTQ analyzed a representative sample of reading courses to assess the degree to which students are taught the five essential components of effective reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Reading Recovery: What Do School Districts Get for Their Money? A Review of the Researchby Dr. Melissa Farrall.

Decoding Dyslexia. Let's Take it Viral! Decoding Dyslexia, launched  by New Jersey parents, is an excellent and inspirational story about how a small group of parents banded together to change education in their home state and in other states.

video Watch video of Pete's Keynote at Decoding Dyslexia Day in Richmond, VA.

What Works in Teaching Children to Read, Whole Language or Phonics? by Dr. Reid Lyon.

Why Reading is Not a Natural Process by Reid Lyon from LD Online. To learn to decode and read printed English, children must be aware that spoken words are composed of individual sound parts termed phonemes.When we speak to one another, the individual sounds (phonemes) within the words are not consciously heard by the listener. Thus, no one ever receives any natural practice understanding that words are composed of smaller, abstract sound units.

video Establishing an Effective Reading Program - This teleconference discussed how schools and their districts can find the best research-based reading program to meet the needs of their student population according to the mandates of the law.

Chat Transcript: Evidence-Based Research Policy with Dr. Reid Lyon, research psychologist and the chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch within the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity: Dr. Sally Shaywitz, author of Overcoming Dyslexia, an outstanding book on dyslexia, also has a superb website with a tremendous amount of information -- both facts and human interest stories.

Open Letter about Reading Recovery - In an open letter to policy makers, educational leaders, researchers, and federal agencies, more than 30 international reading researchers expressed serious concerns about the continued use of Reading Recovery in public schools.

Why Reading Recovery is Not Appropriate for First Grade Children - Dr. Joseph Torgesen describes problems with Reading Recovery and why schools should not use this program, especially with children who have reading disorders.

Whole Language Lives on, The Illusion of "Balanced" Reading Instruction by Louisa Moats, published by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

Teaching Decoding by Louisa Moats, published by the American Federation of Teachcers, American Educator.

What Reading Tests Measure . . . and Don't Measure by Dr. Melissa Farrall. Before educators can design an effective remedial program for a child, they must understand the exact nature of the child's weaknesses. This is not as easy as it sounds. Learn about the most commonly used tests of reading - what they measure, how they are administered, and their limitations.

Questions Parents Can Ask about Reading Improvement. These questions were compiled through a collaborative effort by parents, educational consultants, teachers, professors from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Charlotte, and staff from the Exceptional Children's Assistance Center.

Pop-Ups and Checklists

Assessing Reading Difficulties and Disabilities. Click on the pop-up box to learn about reading difficulties and disabilities, like dyslexia, and find out how reading is assessed. Get IDEA requirements for evaluations, see answers to your questions, find federal law or regulations that support these answers, and a list of additional resources.

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Understanding Dysgraphia. This fact sheet from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) describes types and causes of dysgraphia, who can diagnose, appropriate treatment for dysgraphia, and whether children should use cursive writing or printing.

Testing Written Expression: Myths and Misconceptions. Dr. Melissa Farrall explains the importance of measuring specific skills when evaluating writing expression. You will learn what areas should be included in a written language test and learn what commonly used tests of written expression measure.

Could Your Child Have Dysgraphia? Take the Quiz from the Understood for Learning and Attention Issues.

The "Write Stuff" for Preventing and Treating Writing Disabilities - Written language disabilities are prevalent in children with learning disabilities. Although reading disabilities are often identified sooner than writing disabilities, writing disabilities are more persistent. This article focuses on early intervention to prevent writing problems and long-term remediation to treat writing disabilities. She describes types of writing difficulties - handwriting automaticity, spelling, and composition - and the coordinated components of a functional writing system.

Dysgraphia Information Page from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Fact Sheet from the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of Minnesota.

My Child Has Dysgraphia - How Can I Find a Tutor? If your child has dysgraphia - or dyslexia, dyscalculia (a learning disability in math), another learning disability - here's an article about where to start.

Questions Parents Can Ask about Spelling, Writing, and Testing. These questions were compiled through a collaborative effort by parents, educational consultants, teachers, professors from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Charlotte, and staff from the Exceptional Children's Assistance Center.

How Spelling Supports Reading -And Why It Is More Regular and Predictable Than You May Think by Louisa C. Moats. Research has shown that learning to spell and learning to read rely on much of the same underlying knowledge. Spelling instruction can be designed to help children better understand that key knowledge, resulting in better reading.

Statistically, more American children suffer long-term life-harm from the process of learning to read than from parental abuse, accidents, and all other childhood diseases and disorders combined.

In purely economic terms, reading related difficulties cost our nation more than the war on terrorism, crime, and drugs combined
." - Children of the Code

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Q & As

Q&A with Pete Wright: 'Kids are...Teaching-disabled'

My Son Can't Read - What Can I Do?

How Can I Get Help for My Child with Reading Problems?

How Can I Get a Trained Certified Reading Teacher?

Teaching a Child to Read: Special Ed or Reading First?

Double-Dipping: Are Kids with Disabilities Barred from Title I Programs?

How Can We Find a Tutor Who is Knowledgeable about Research-Based Reading Instruction

What Works in Teaching Children to Read?

What Works in Teaching Adolescents to Read?

Late Bloomers: Are We Teaching Kids to Read Before They Are Ready?

Is Retention an Appropriate Intervention?

Doing Your Homework. Sue Whitney, Research Editor at Wrightslaw, answers FAQs about Reading.

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Nation's Report Card

The Nation's Report Card for 2019. The average reaading score for 4th and 8th grade students decreased between 2017 and 2019. The NCES results show lower reading scores at both grades. Mathematics scores increase at grade four, and decrease at grade eight compared to 2017. Most states show no score change in math.

In 2019, 34% of fourth graders read below basic level. Only 26% are at proficient lever, a decrease from 2017. For eighth graders, 27% read below the basic level while 29% are proficient readers, a decrease from 2017.

Previous Years

The Nation's Report Card for 2017. Compared to 2015, there was a 1-point increase in the average reading score at grade 8 in 2017, but no significant change in the average score for reading at grade 4, or for mathematics at either grade. 36 percent of fourth graders are proficient readers - and more nearly 60 percent are not proficient. 4th grade scores remain the same from 2015, with no significant increase. 24 percent of eighth graders are "below basic" readers.

The Nation's Report Card, 2015. Average scores for reading in 2015 declined at grade 8; there was no significant change in the reading score for fourth-grade student. Thirty-six percent of fourth-grade and 34 percent of eighth-grade students perform at or above the Proficient level in NAEP reading. Thirty-one percent of fourth-grade and 24 percent of eighth-grade students perform at the below basic level in reading.

The Nation's Report Card, 2013 Mathematics and Reading, shows some improvement nationally from the last assessment in 2011 among fourth- and eighth-grade students in mathematics, and among eighth-grade students in reading. The performance of 4th graders in reading shows no improvement.

The Nation's Report Card 2011 shows improvement reading comprehension at grade 8, but no significant change at grade 4. The overall average score for fourth-graders in 2011 was unchanged from the score in 2009. The average score for eighth-graders in 2011 was 1 point higher than in 2009. State results for grade 4 show higher scores in 2011 than in 2009 for 4 states, and lower scores for 2 states. At grade 8, scores were higher in 2011 than in 2009 for students in 10 states, and no states had a lower score than in 2009.

The Nation's Report Card 2009 reports reading scores up since 2007 at grade 8 and unchanged at grade 4.

The Nation’s Report Card for 2007 states the average reading score for eighth-graders was up 1 point since 2005 and 3 points since 1992; however, the trend of increasing scores was not consistent over all assessment years. In comparison to both 1992 and 2005, the percentage of students performing at or above the Basic level increased, but there was no significant change in the percentage of students at or above the Proficient level.

According to the Nation's Report Card for 2005, 31 percent of 4th graders and 31 percent of 8th graders are proficient readers. Minority students score lower - just 16 percent of African American and 22 percent of Hispanic 12th graders are proficient readers.

Reading, math and science
performance has not improved in 30 years. Graph

Free Pubs

NELP Report: Developing Early Literacy (2009). Summary from Reading Rockets. The National Early Literacy Panel looked at studies of early literacy and found that there are many things that parents and preschools can do to improve the literacy development of their young children and that different approaches influence the development of a different pattern of essential skills. Download Report (pdf)

Framework for Informed Reading and Language Instruction: Matrix of Multisensory Structured Language Programs. This publication from the International Dyslexia Association explains different reading programs and what they cover. These programs, when properly implemented, have been successful in teaching students to read, write, and use language.

A Child Becomes a Reader: Birth Through Preschool.

A Child Becomes a Reader: Proven Ideas from Research for Parents (K-Grade 3). What to do at home, what to look for in classrooms, what every child should be able to do by the end of K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd grades.

Put Reading First: Building Blocks For Teaching Children To Read: Kindergarten Through Grade 3. Describes the 5 essential components of reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension); summarizes what researchers know about each skill; implications for instruction; proven strategies for teaching reading.

Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read - A Parent Guide. An overview of findings of the National Reading Panel; gives ideas for what to expect from a school's reading program based on evidence from the research (preschool through grade 3); suggests ways parents can reinforce reading instruction at home.

Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction--Reports of the Subgroups. Published by the National Institute for Literacy, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the U.S. Department of Education.

Using Research and Reason in Education. Because teachers say it is difficult to stay current on research about effective instruction, this paper helps teachers become consumers of educational programs and materials, provides guidance on how to recognize scientifically based instructional strategies, how to use the concepts of research in the classroom.

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Special Education Cases: Reading

Carter v. Florence County School District IV. Tuition reimbursement case that was appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. Decision focuses on an appropriate program and IEP for Shannon, a child with dyslexia.

Carter v. Florence County, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit  After Florence County lost in District Court, they appealed to the Fourth Circuit. Florence County argued that four months a year of progress in reading was sufficiednt, and that because Trident Academy was not on the State's "approved" list, Shannon's parents should not be reimbursed for the placement. Court discusses "least restrictive environment" and a contrary Second Circuit case. This ruling for Shannon created a "split" among circuits that supported an appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court in Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter.

New in 2021 - Rogich v. Clark County School District, US District Court, Nevada, 2021. Methodology and procedural safeguards case. School district failed to provide an IEP that identified and utilized an Orton-Gillingham based methodology or structured literacy format that teachers would have to use to meet the needs of a child with dyslexia; school district refused to accept the parents' offer to pay to train teachers in an effective structured literacy method; IEP teams failed to adequately review evaluations provided by parents and failed to "meaningfully consider parents' concerns for enhancing their child's education." Judge held that telling parents "Trust us to provide what she needs" is "not sufficient."

Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System (N.D. GA 2007) - School district misdiagnosed a dyslexic child as mentally retarded, placed him in self-contained program for years, he did not learn to read. The Court ordered the school system to provide him with compensatory education at private special education school for four years or until he graduates with a regular high school diploma.

Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7, (1993).

Landmark decision issued in 34 days by a unanimous 9-0 Supreme Court. If the public school defaults and the child receives an appropriate education in a private placement, the parents are entitled to reimbursement for the child's education. This ruling opened the door to children with autism who receive ABA / Lovaas therapy.  Links to all decisions, transcript of oral argument in Carter

Evans v. Rhinebeck Central School District, U. S. District Court, Southern District of New York. Excellent case about tuition reimbursement, procedural and substantive issues, FAPE, dyslexia, objective measurement of progress.

Joseph James v. Upper Arlington City Sch. District, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Decision about tuition reimbursement for education of child with dyslexia, statute of limitations, procedural safeguards. In pdf    In html

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Database of Service Providers

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) maintains a national database of providers and others who can help, including:

  • psychologists
  • diagnosticians
  • academic and educational therapists
  • tutors
  • speech language therapists
  • pediatricians
  • advocates
  • attorney

For information about the IDA database (or to be included in the database), contact the IDA Information and Referral Department at 410-296-0232, extension 125 or e-mail Join IDA l IDA Provider Directory l IDA Branches

The International Dyslexia Association
40 York Rd., 4th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21204
Phone: 410-296-0232; Fax: 410-321-5069

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Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) Providers

These individuals and groups have stipulated to the International Dyslexia Association that they use structured, multisensory, alphabetic techniques.

Alphabetic Phonics Based Methods
Academic Language Therapy Association
14070 Proton Road, Suite 100
Dallas, TX 75244
(972) 233-9107 ext. 226

Alphabetic Phonetic Structural Linguistic Approach to Literacy (APSLA) Derived Programs

The Association Method
Maureen K. Martin, Ph.D., Director
DuBard School for Language Disorders
The University of Southern Mississippi
118 College Drive #5215
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0035
(601) 266-5223 E-mail:

The Lexia Herman Method
Lexia Learning Systems, Inc. (acquired in 2013 by Rosetta Stone)
300 Baker Ave., Suite320
Concord, MA 01742

Voyager Soprise Learning
Cambrium Learning Group

17855 Dallas Parkway, Suite 400
(800) 547-6747

Lindamood-Bell Learning Process
Learning Center Locations
Teacher Workshop Locations

Orton-Gillingham Approach
Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators
P.O. Box 234
East Main Street
Amenia, NY 12501
(845) 373-8919

Project Read/Language Circle
P.O. Box 20631, Bloomington, MN 55420
1620 West 98th Street, Suite 130, Bloomington, MN 55431
(800) 450-0343

Reading ASSIST
Reading ASSIST Institute
100 W. 10th Street, #910
Wilmington, DE 19801
(888) 311-1156 or (302) 425-4080

The Slingerland Approach
The Slingerland Institute for Literacy
12729 Northup Way, Suite 1
Bellevue, WA 98005
(425) 453-1190

Sounds in Syllables
Sandra Dillon, Director
Multisensory Language Training Institute of New Mexico
3915 Carlisle Blvd. N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87107
(505) 881-0026

The Spalding Method
Spalding Education International
23335 N. 18th Drive, Suite 102
Phoenix, AZ 85027

Starting Over Starting Right
Knight Education
317 West 89th Street, #9E
New York, NY 10024
(917) 612-7072

Wilson Reading Language System
Barbara Wilson, Director
47 Old Webster Road
Oxford, MA 01540
(800) 899-8454
(508) 368-2399

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Note: In 2015, Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the statute formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act. The new statute , the "Every Student Succeeds Act," removed many requirements about school accountability.

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