Schools Already Struggled to Teach Reading Right. Now They Have to Do It Online

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Ready or not, the nation’s elementary school educators are staring down a daunting new challenge: teach hundreds of thousands of young children to read, without being able to interact with them in person, using instead digital tools and videoconferencing platforms in sweeping new ways that are mostly untested.

Even before public schools shut their physical doors to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, many educators were struggling with this most fundamental of tasks. Especially concerning was schools’ scattershot, often-unscientific approach to teaching the basic building blocks of reading, such as understanding how sounds are put together to form words. That’s likely one reason why just 35 percent of American 4th graders are proficient readers, according to the most recent results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Now, with thousands of schools reopening virtually or using a mix of online and in-person instruction, even those teachers trying the

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