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New group informs educators about the science of reading, teaching methods

The most recent data from a national assessment show that only 39 percent of fourth graders in Washington state are proficient at reading. A new group formed by teachers in the Puget Sound region aims to improve that percentage.

The organization ReadWA is working to share information about the growing body of brain research into how children learn to read, as well as the most effective teaching methods.

This has become a big topic in education circles. Parents of children with the reading disability dyslexia have pushed for more systematic phonics instruction in schools, and podcasts by American Public Media have shown that many schools are still using outdated methods for teaching kids to read.

“We’ve got a whole lot of children who are not dyslexic who are simply not receiving the kind of powerful, effective instruction that we’ve learned really works for all children,” said Jan Hasbrouck, a ReadWA board member who holds a doctorate in educational psychology, with a focus on reading instruction and assessment.

Hasbrouck will give a talk this Saturday on the science of reading fluency. It's sold out, but a video will be archived on YouTube. Her previous talk on the science of reading also is available online.

Longtime public school teacher Julie Bedell is president of ReadWA. She said there’s a hunger among teachers for knowledge on best practices in reading instruction, and one big focus of the group is to share information on the importance of systematically teaching kids how to decode words using phonics.

“Some people will break the code on their own. They’ll just figure it out,” Bedell said. “But most kids need a little bit of instruction, especially in the early years – very structured instruction to break the code.”

Bedell said kids with dyslexia can learn to read if they're taught in a systematic way that emphasizes how spoken sounds are represented in written language. And that kind of teaching benefits all children, not just ones who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, Bedell said.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.