Despite decades of educational legislation and standards-based reform efforts, literacy rates in the US remain unacceptably low. A simple web search of “USA literacy rates” reveals a multitude of grim statistics. Regardless of which demographic group or definition of literacy we examine, a keynote assertion made by Dr. Kenneth Pugh on April 6, 2018 at Syracuse University’s Annual Neuroscience Research Day is one we can all agree on. “Not being able to read is not good.”
Indeed, it is not. Low literacy rates are associated with undesirable life outcomes that include an increased risk of poor health, shortened life expectancy, unemployment and underemployment, low income status, incarceration, and unwanted pregnancy. People with limited literacy are also less likely to experience the joy and fulfillment that come from reading a beautifully composed novel or a nonfiction text about their world.
Dr. Pugh also said,
We largely know how to fix this problem. It is therefore criminal if we don’t fix it.
The gap between research and practice is well established in the professional literature on reading instruction. In the introduction to her 1990 book, Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print, Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams advised, “We must ask what it is that beginning readers need to learn, and how they might learn it most efficiently, effectively, and usefully. We must assess the wisdom of our major assumptions and instructional activities (p. x).” Dr. Adams synthesized the growing evidence base about how children best learn to read. She encouraged stakeholders to reflect upon their practices and to consider amending them to be more aligned to the research findings. However, this message from the scientific community to classroom practitioners went largely unheeded. It continues to get lost in the pipeline while the research evidence continues to converge.
In their 2003 publication, Using Research and Reason in Education, Drs. Paula and Keith Stanovich lamented, “Sadly, scientific research about what works does not usually find its way into most classrooms (p. 2).” Twelve years later, Dr. David Kilpatrick dedicated an entire chapter of his book, Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties (2015), to acknowledging, explaining, and responding to the various factors that contribute to the research-to-practice gap. Clearly, not much progress has been made toward bridging this chasm. The Reading League aims to change that.
The Reading League’s mission is to advance the:
- Understanding, and
- Use of evidence-based reading instruction
How do our brains learn to read? What are the underlying causes when students have difficulty? How do we prevent those difficulties? How do we remediate those difficulties? The scientific evidence base has converged to answer all of these questions. By leveraging the existing research in ways that inspire educators to refine their literacy instruction, The Reading League bridges the gap between research and classroom practice. This results in improved literacy outcomes for students.
Dr. Maryanne Wolf captured the spirit of The Reading League’s work when she said in her book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (2007):
I hope to push you gently toward reconsidering things you might long have taken for granted – such as how natural it is for a child to learn to read. In the evolution of our brain’s capacity to learn, the act of reading is not natural, with consequences both marvelous and tragic for many people, particularly children. (p. 14)
Dr. Wolf’s words remind us that informed decision making around literacy instruction is vitally important in the lives of students. The Reading League is firmly committed to:
- Building an awareness that the scientific research evidence base exists
- Fostering an understanding of how the evidence base informs classroom practice
- Supporting educators as they implement instructional practices that align with the evidence base
We have set forth to accomplish our mission by:
- Recruiting thousands of League members
- Offering Live Events and an Annual Conference
- Establishing a social media presence
- Compiling resources for professional learning on our Knowledge Base page
- Forming partnerships with schools that include tailored professional development experiences and school-based coaching
Executive Board of Directors
- Dr. Jorene Cook
- President, Adjunct Professor at Syracuse University, Early Literacy Coach at Syracuse CIty School District
- Stephanie Finn
- Vice President, Literacy Coach at West Genesee Central School District
- Dr. Michelle Storie
- Treasurer, Adjunct Professor at Syracuse University, School Psychologist at Central Square Central School District
- Dr. Heidi Beverine-Curry
- Secretary, Adjunct Professor at Syracuse University & SUNY Oswego, Literacy Coach at West Genesee Central School District
- Dr. Sheila Clonan
- Psychologist, Educational Solutions CNY
- Dr. David Kilpatrick
- Associate Professor of Psychology, SUNY Cortland
- Doreen Mazzye
- Literacy Professor, SUNY Oswego
- Patrice Murphy
- Adjunct Instructor at SUNY Oswego, Reading Specialist at Baldwinsville School District
- Jessica Pasik
- Reading Specialist at Fulton City School District
Advisory Board Members
- Dr. Kymyona Burk
- State Literacy Director K-12, Mississippi Dept. of Education
- Dr. John Garruto
- Adjunct Professor at SUNY Oswego, School Psychologist at Oswego City School District
- Dr. Kristen Munger
- Associate Dean, School of Education at SUNY Oswego
- Amy Siracusano
- Literacy Integration Learning Specialist, Maryland
Dr. Maria Murray
Chief Executive Officer
Reading Coach Director
Yes. The Reading League is a NYSED approved CTLE sponsor, and you will be provided with a certificate of attendance at the end of our Live Events and Annual Conference.
Not necessarily. Much of the science of reading comes from disciplines outside of schools of education (e.g., neuroscience, linguistics, cognitive psychology, etc.) Therefore, professors who teach in schools of education are often unfamiliar with the scientific evidence base.
Not necessarily. School district administrators and teachers who plan professional development experiences are often not aware of the scientific evidence base on how students learn to read. Schools tend to implement popular, heavily advertised approaches and materials that they assume are grounded in the evidence base. Sadly, the profit-driven commercial entities that dominate the educational marketplace are often not aligned with the science of how students best learn to read.
Not at all. We tend to do a lot of work around phonics and phonemic proficiency, because the research on teacher knowledge indicates that these are the areas in which educators have the most significant gaps. However, The Reading League also addresses vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, early speech and language development, response to intervention, assessment, text types, writing, and other related topics. Check out our YouTube Channel for a sampling of our past Live Events and professional development videos.
Much of The Reading League’s work is done by dedicated volunteers. However, we do incur operating costs (e.g., video recording, photocopying, conference expenses, insurance) and personnel costs (e.g., tech support, school-based reading coaches). The Reading League relies on donations, grants, corporate sponsors, Live Event raffles, and merchandise sales to continue providing our services at low or no cost to educators. Please consider supporting The Reading League through a personal donation or any of the other avenues above. Because The Reading League is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, your donation is tax deductible.
Absolutely not. The Reading League is for all educators. General education classroom teachers are critically important to the literacy achievement of all children. When general education teachers provide “core,” or “Tier 1,” instruction that is grounded in the scientific research evidence base, fewer children experience difficulty and need extra help. Of course, The Reading League is also for teachers who provide intervention instruction and special education, as some students will need more than the core. The good news is that all students benefit from evidence-based instruction. We find that all types of educators at all grade levels – including speech and language pathologists/therapists, school psychologists, administrators, librarians, middle and high school content teachers, special area teachers, and more – attend our events and find them useful.
The Reading League does not have an instructional program. We believe that educators, not programs, teach students. That being said, some published instructional programs are more informed by the existing research evidence than others. When teachers build their knowledge of the evidence base, they are better positioned to make informed choices when selecting instructional programs, materials, and approaches.
No. The Reading League does not work directly with children. Our mission involves elevating the knowledge and skills of educators so that their instructional time with students is more impactful. We believe that we can make the most impact by helping educators maximize the instructional time they have, rather than adding instructional time to children’s already busy lives.
Not yet. At this time, we do not have the capacity to do this important job, but we hope to get there someday. Sadly, far too many adults did not have their literacy instructional needs met when they were in school. Evidence-based instruction can help these individuals. It is never too late to learn to read.