Tuesday, April 11, 2023

There are many ways in which people can learn about topics related to literacy education. A lot of this learning takes place via formal professional learning opportunities, sometimes in-person during building meetings or at larger conferences, and sometimes online, through offerings like our eLearning. These opportunities are crucial, as they allow educators to take a deeper dive into complex literacy topics. They may also give educators access to certification or continuing education credits.

In addition to these formal offerings, educators, caregivers, and others are learning about literacy education through other informative mediums. These offerings have expanded with the growing popularity of the science of reading movement. There are videos, books, articles on the web, and full-length documentaries that deliver information and tell a story about reading instruction in unique ways. There are also a growing number of podcasts about science of reading topics, many of which have become part of my regular listening schedule.

Podcasts appeal to me for several reasons. Listening to audio without an accompanying visual is a more intimate experience for me than watching a video or reading something. I can listen to an episode while I am doing something else, like walking to work or cleaning the kitchen, as long as the other task does not require a lot of brain power. Or, I can kick back and unwind while also learning something new.

Here is only a handful of some of the excellent science of reading podcasts I enjoy listening to. I made my selections from podcasts that are ongoing with new episodes published regularly. I find each of them to be unique, insightful, and entertaining.

Literacy Talks

This trio of cohosts provides a variety of perspectives. Stacy Hurst is an assistant professor of teacher education at Southern Utah University, as well as a former teacher and literacy coach; Donnell Pons is an adult educator who previously taught secondary language arts and was a school literacy leader; and Lindsay Kemeny is a first-grade teacher. The cohosts’ different areas of expertise play well off of one another and allow the podcast to explore reading science from a variety of perspectives.

Literacy Talks is light on guests and heavy on engaging conversations among the hosts. The three women talk extensively about their experiences teaching students to read and write. They also take on some of the science of reading movement’s hottest topics, such as the role of teaching sight words (specifically high-frequency words) as part of a structured literacy approach.

The thing that really strikes me in many episodes of Literacy Talks is the hosts’ willingness to be open and vulnerable with their listeners. For example, two of the hosts have children and spouses with dyslexia, and the hosts frequently talk about their own emotions, moments of success, and regrets related to trying to help and advocate for their loved ones.

Melissa and Lori Love Literacy

It is true: Melissa Loftus and Lori Sappington really do love literacy. That is made obvious to the listeners of their podcast by the excitement with which they speak about many topics and issues related to literacy education. This podcast is notable for its accessible and welcoming tone. When you listen, you feel like you are eavesdropping on a couple of friends getting coffee together and talking about literacy instruction. Usually, the two friends are joined by one or more guests, and Melissa and Lori’s passion and sense of humor make for a much more engaging listen than you might expect from a typical Q&A.

This podcast covers a wide variety of topics. The versatile hosts can spend an episode digging deep into the societal impacts of the (too often incorrect) way we teach children to read with guests like Emily Hanford and Kareem Weaver. Then, in the next episode, they can ask detailed questions of teachers and school literacy leaders about how they use student data to help guide their instruction or how they go about helping their students build background knowledge.

My favorite recurring part of the podcast is at the end of an episode when they ask their guests a few rapid-fire questions, like, “What do you love to watch?” Though hearing that dyslexia expert Richard Gentry loves jazz and country music is not as germane to literacy as the conversation that preceded it, these answers remind the listener that literacy experts are people who binge shows and listen to 90s hip-hop, just like the rest of us.

Triple R Teaching

Anna Geiger hosts a podcast that is difficult to categorize in both format and topic—and that is one of the reasons I appreciate it! Some episodes are done interview-style with a featured guest. In other episodes, Geiger goes solo and provides information and insights, usually on teaching a specific literacy skill in ways that are supported by the science of reading. She also delves into other big-picture topics related to literacy instruction. She has produced a number of multi-episode series (e.g., a series on fluency instruction, a reaction series to counterpoints offered by balanced literacy advocates), which are especially helpful for new listeners to narrow down where to begin based on their interests.

Geiger is an Orton-Gillingham certified former elementary school teacher who used to teach using balanced literacy. She talks openly about her process of learning about the science of reading and why she switched to structured literacy. During interviews, it is obvious that she is picking up on what her guests are saying and asks follow-up questions to get more insights for the listener.

While some episodes of Triple R Teaching really get into the pedagogical weeds, others take a wider view of the science of reading movement, so this podcast really offers something for everyone.

Together in Literacy

The cohosts of Together in Literacy have never been together in the same room. They started with an online friendship that grew into becoming cohosts. But you would not know it from listening to Emily Gibbons and Casey Harrison talk. Their conversation flows naturally as they explore a variety of topics related to the science of reading.

Though Together in Literacy fits into the broader category of a science of reading podcast, at its heart, it is also a dyslexia podcast. Many episodes are focused on supporting children and teens with dyslexia and their families, featuring topics such as working with older students with dyslexia and the legal aspects of dyslexia advocacy. But even topics that are more widely science of reading related are discussed with careful attention to their impacts on students with dyslexia. I really appreciate that the cohosts do not assume that the listener knows as much as they or their guests know about the topics being discussed. They frequently ask entry-level questions of their guests to ensure that everyone listening has a baseline of understanding of the topic at hand.

A great thing about this podcast—and many other literacy podcasts—is that they sometimes broaden their focus from literacy instruction alone to discuss parallel topics, such as social-emotional learning. I love that Emily and Casey give the listener the space to think about literacy learning and dyslexia in this way, which can help us see students as whole people who have complex and unique emotions about learning to read and school in general.

The Literacy View

I cannot summarize this podcast any better than its tagline: “Real Teachers Letting Loose.” This podcast definitely has the vibe of eavesdropping on friends chatting about things they are passionate about (in this case a broad range of topics related to the science of reading and teaching in general). But if cohosts Faith Borkowsky and Judy Boksner were chatting together in a coffeehouse, they would be getting some side-eye from the other patrons. They interrupt each other. They curse occasionally. They have strong opinions about literacy instruction and what is best for students, and they do not hesitate to give them. But once those fictional coffeehouse patrons realized how entertaining and knowledgeable these cohosts are, they would not be able to stop themselves from leaning in closer so as not to miss a word.

Judy works for the New York City Department of Education’s universal literacy team. Faith is a former teacher, reading and learning specialist, literacy coach, and administrator. According to the two co-hosts, their podcast is largely unplanned. They choose a topic they want to discuss, and they turn on the microphones and let it rip. What results are unpolished, conversational episodes that are engaging and a blast to listen to.

In what they describe as a “safe space,” they discuss the hot topics related to the science of reading. When a buzzy news article about literacy instruction is generating discussion online, they do an episode about it. When more than 1,500 parents sign on to a letter in response to a different letter written by 58 educators and researchers, all in response to the Sold a Story podcast, they do an episode about it and have the lead parent letter writer as a guest. They also wander outside of science of reading topics, with episodes covering subjects such as the rise in teachers leaving the profession. Whatever the topic, I usually find myself both laughing and contemplating something new to me whenever I listen.


I could not mention all of the excellent podcasts about the science of reading above, and I am always open to recommendations. Feel free to let me know of any that you love to listen to. Happy listening!


Editor’s note: The inclusion of a podcast in this blog post does not imply endorsement of the thoughts and opinions expressed by hosts and/or guests appearing in any episode. The inclusion of a podcast also does not imply endorsement of any commercial products and/or services offered by hosts/guests/podcast sponsors.