Have a question? WY Lit is here to help.


What can WY Lit do for me?

First, we will listen. We will ask questions about what kind of support would help you in your classroom. We can offer instructional, assessment, or intervention ideas. We can offer ways to support your conversations with colleagues, administrators and parents. We can connect you with teachers we have supported with similar questions or concerns. It takes a village.

I am embarrassed to admit that my undergraduate teacher preparation program did not teach me how to teach reading. Where can I learn more about how to teach reading and how to really use assessment to know what kids are missing?

Many teachers feel powerless when a student has trouble learning to read, or even guilty that they cannot help them or explain to the parents what is going on. You are not alone. Only a handful of teacher preparation programs around the country truly teach K-6 General Education and Special Education teachers how to teach reading! We encourage you to look at our Training link to find an upcoming training in evidence-based reading instruction. Most of the companies we list also offer on-site professional development. As always, please reach out to us if you don't know where to start!

I have a graduate degree in Literacy/Reading/Special Ed and learned nothing about how to teach reading. How can I be expected to be the expert in helping kids who are struggling? What can I do?

We recommend that you visit our Training page, where we feature the best training, workshops, and conferences available to learn evidence-based strategies for reading instruction.

Is there somewhere I can watch videos about the important components of reading instruction?

Reading Rockets provides a fabulous nine module guide to reading and writing instruction: Reading 101: A Guide to Teaching Reading and Writing. The nine modules cover: • Print Awareness • Phonological and Phonemic Awareness • Phonics • Fluency • Vocabulary • Spelling • Comprehension • Writing • Assessment.

What’s the difference between Dyslexia and a Specific Learning Disorder?

This is a great question the source of substantial confusion. First, a little bit of background. The DSM-5 is the book of codes that psychologists use to diagnose their patients. These codes are largely for insurance and billing purposes. A psychologist may diagnose a child with a learning disorder under the category of Specific Learning Disorder. The psychologist must then specify one of three subcategories of Specific Learning Disorder: (1) Impairment in Reading (Dyslexia) (2) Impairment in Writing (Dysgraphia) or (3) Impairment in Math (Dyscalculia). The use of the term “Dyslexia” is defined in the DSM-5 in the following manner: “Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities.” (p.67, DSM-5). Proponents of whole language and leadership of organizations like the International Literacy Association (ILA) imply that dyslexia is an old or catch all term that we should not be using. This is willfully ignorant as decades of brain research demonstrates specific neurological patterns associated with symptoms of Dyslexia. It serves only to propel their scientifically invalid notion that learning to read is as natural as learning to speak and will therefore be magically inferred through a literacy-rich environment. That 40% of our 3rd graders and 65% of our 11th graders do not read at grade level should be sufficient data to put that notion to rest.

What are the differences among Specific Learning Disorders in Reading, Writing and Math?

The Reading category reflects abilities in: word reading accuracy, reading rate, and fluency and reading comprehension. The Writing category reflects abilities: spelling accuracy, grammar and punctuation accuracy, and clarity and organization of written expression. The Math category reflects abilities in: number sense, memorization of arithmetic facts, accurate or fluent calculation, and accurate math reasoning.

Where can I find an evidence-based scope and sequence and lesson plans for foundational reading skills?

This is a very important question. Many commercial reading programs from big publishers lack a clear scope and sequence that lays out the sounds, rules, and structure of the English language. We love this resource: Evidence-Based Scope and Sequence & Lesson Plans

How can I learn more about the IEP process?

Terrific question. We like Understood.org’s resource on this: Understanding Individual Education Programs. It is meant to be a parent resource, but teachers find it very helpful.

What does the Science of Reading mean?

The Science of Reading is the study of how reading skills develop in the brain, what can get in the way of those skills developing, how to teach reading skills, and how to use data to inform instruction.

My district is constantly changing reading and intervention curriculums but without any systematic analysis of the curriculums, how they are being taught, or student data. How can I help improve that decision making process?

We feel for you. This is unfortunately a very common practice. We encourage you to look at the following resources meant to guide decision-making about curricular assessment and change.

I feel overwhelmed by the idea of differentiated instruction. What are some sources for small group differentiated instruction ideas?

Great question. The Florida Center for Reading Research has some of the best free resources we are aware of for K-5 Student Center and Learning Center activities. Visit them at Florida Center for Reading Research.

What is the difference between Balanced Literacy and Structured Literacy?

Terrific question. The absolute best source of information on this topic is written by Dr. Louisa Moats, Vice President of the International Dyslexia Association and a Consultant Advisor to Sopris West Educational Services. Whole Language Highjinks: How to tell when "Scientifically Based Reading Instruction" Isn't by Louisa Moats Additionally, please listen to Emily Hanford's excellent audio documentary for more insight. At a Loss for Words: How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers by Emily Hanford and American Public Media

Parents + Caregivers

What can WY Lit do for me?

First, we will listen. Then we will ask questions. Then we will offer you tools to support your children.

I think something is wrong but I can’t put my finger on it. What can I do?

Trust your instincts! Do not accept anyone telling you that “your child will catch up, is a slow bloomer, needs to work harder or focus more.” If, at any age, your instincts are telling you that something is not right, request a formal evaluation of your child for a possible learning disability. Unless the school feels there is absolutely no evidence of a learning disability, they will typically honor this request. It is important that you make this request in writing. Typically you will send the request to the Principal. We also recommend that you review the following websites that do a good job of explaining the signs that your child may be a bright Dyslexic child! Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity: Pre K - Adult Signs of Dyslexia Understood.org

Is getting a private diagnosis of Dyslexia worth the cost?

The answer is: it depends. If you are hoping it will put pressure on the district to evaluate your child for services, it may make sense. IDEA law clearly states that an outside evaluation must be considered by a district but only if it meets the standards of the district. So before spending a lot on a private evaluation, we encourage you to identify the district standards of consideration. A good evaluator can also be valuable in explaining to the child, caregivers, or school what is going on with a student.

My child has a formal diagnosis of Dyslexia from a psychologist, but the school tells me that they do not have “educational” Dyslexia. What does this mean?

We hear this a lot. What they are trying to say is that even though your child has been diagnosed with Dyslexia, it is not severe enough to cause substantial educational difficulties. When we hear this, it is typically the district is using what is called the Discrepancy Model to determine if there is a large enough gap between your child’s IQ and their academic proficiency. That is why the Discrepancy Model is called the Wait to Fail model. Rather than early identification of mild-to-moderate reading difficulties, they wait until the child has fallen substantially behind. Our national reading scores demonstrate that reading rates do not improve after 3rd grade, proving that the Discrepancy Model does not work.

I don’t feel like anyone really understands what is going on with my child or how to help them. I feel so helpless.

We have been there! We will be writing extensively on this topic going forward. We will address K-12 literacy teacher preparation and instruction from the General Education setting to the Special Education setting. We will write about the IEP process. For now, please know that we understand how terrified and lonely you feel and how much crying you have probably done. If it is possible, do your best to hold it together while you are collecting the following information: If your child is in K-3, the first question to ask is what core reading program they are using in your child’s general education classroom. You also want to know if they screen all students for mastery of the foundational reading skills: Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Reading words and non-words, Reading Comprehension, Oral Reading Fluency. (You can learn more about these for free on Reading Rockets Reading 101 Course) If they do, ask them to explain your child’s results. If they do not, ask what reading data they can share with you. Also, find out how they monitor the progress throughout the year. This next question is important but can be a tricky one to get a direct answer to: find out if the teacher has had training in how to teach reading. Believe it or not, very few Colleges of Education actually teach teachers how to teach reading. Many teachers will admit that they never learned how to teach reading in their teacher preparation programs or in graduate level programs. The goal of all of this is not to embarrass the teacher, but to make sure that the teacher receives whatever training they need to be a successful teacher of reading for your child. If your child is below grade level (or barely above grade level) and it seems like maybe the teacher has not had a lot of training in how to teach reading, the first thing to suggest is that the teacher be allowed to attend a training like the ones we have listed on this website. If your child is already on an IEP you may feel that they are not making progress or that the IEP goals seem to be very broad. In short, you need to know what data they are using to identify and fill the specific skill gaps that are preventing your child from becoming a fluent reader. Review your child’s IEP goals to make sure that they are SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Constrained. An example of a weak IEP goal would be, “In 35 weeks, Amy will improve her reading score by 1.2 grade levels.” An example of a strong IEP goal would be, “By the end of the month, Amy will read 50 words per minute with at least 98% accuracy. This will be measured using a DIBELS progress monitoring probe at her instructional level. In order to reach that goal, by _____ data, Amy will master short vowels. This mastery will be demonstrated by Amy reading 30 CVC non-words in 1 minute using a DIBELS progress monitoring probe.” The first step is to make sure that the school knows how to use data to identify and remediate specific skill gaps. Ask the same questions as are listed above about your child’s data and teacher training of any teacher or paraprofessional working with your child on reading. If you are the parent of a middle school or high school student who has trouble reading but is not on an IEP, check out our signs of Dyslexia information. Consider requesting a 504 Plan to support your child’s ability to access the curriculum and demonstrate their knowledge. This is a great resource for ideas for technology that can help your child: Effective Technology for Learning. If you are the parent of a middle school or high school student who is on an IEP, you have probably been upset with the IEP process since its inception. Very few secondary schools think it is their job to teach foundational reading skills. In fact, some refuse to do so. The problem is that if the specific foundational reading skill gaps are not filled, the student will not become a fluent reader. And the goals should be set at the instructional level—so if a 10th grader needs phonics help, the goal needs to be a phonics goal. A grade level goal may certainly be set, but more incremental goals have to be identified as well.

If I want to hire a private tutor, how do I find a skilled one?

This can be difficult, especially in low-population density places like Wyoming. Here are a few sources of tutors we trust are well-trained and experienced: Lexercise Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators Orton-Gillingham On-Line Tutors


What can WY Lit do for me?

We will listen to your concerns and ask questions. We can provide insights about how to select and assess issues of effectiveness, correct administration, and fidelity of use of instructional programs. We can offer ideas about how to develop decision guidelines for moving students between different tiers or intensities of support. We can connect you to other schools or districts that are working through similar reviews.

Is there somewhere I can find guidelines that might help me evaluate reading instruction during my classroom visits?

Principals and other administrators have told us that the following checklist from the Florida Center for Reading Research is very helpful: Classroom Observation Checklists

Can you help us evaluate our Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 instructional practices and decision guidelines?

YES! We love this question. Take a look at these terrific resources provided by education professors at Mount St. Joseph University. These professors not only teach at MSJ but work closely with community schools and the Ohio Department of Education. Tier 1 Literacy Analysis Guide Tier 2 Literacy Analysis Guide Tier 3 Literacy Analysis Guide

What are the pros and cons of the Discrepancy Model versus RTI/MTSS in terms of identifying and supporting students who may need reading support?

The key difference is that the Discrepancy Model focuses on identifying a problem, the RTI/MTSS model focuses on early identification, prevention, and remediation of reading difficulties. The Discrepancy Model requires that through extensive and formal testing with a district psychologist, a child demonstrate a substantial gap between their intellectual aptitude (IQ) and academic skill levels. This model is aptly called the “wait to fail” model because a gap large enough to trigger Tier 3 intervention or special education services typically does not develop until around 3rd grade. The RTI/MTSS model can be implemented as early as Pre-K. Screening and progress monitoring identify children who may be at risk for reading difficulties so that they can receive small group, differentiated instruction early.

How do we do a better job supporting struggling readers earlier?

Do not assume that general education or special education teachers have been taught how to teach reading in their undergraduate or graduate programs. Select a comprehensive core reading program that directly, explicitly and systematically teaches foundational reading skills based on a clear scope and sequence and pacing guide. Ensure trained general education and special education teachers explicitly teach foundational reading skills, interpret assessment data about gaps in those skills, and deliver differentiated, small group instruction to fill those gaps. Require that the scope and sequence and instructional language is consistent across Tier 1 - Tier 3 (General Education to Special Education). Children with difficulties learning to read need this consistency. Ensure that every teacher who teaches or supports reading instruction, including paras, have received training in your selected curricula.

How do we know if a core reading program evidence-based?

It might be easier to identify what an evidence-based reading program is not. An evidence-based core reading program never: Assumes that a child will infer how to decode words simply by being exposed to an environment rich in diverse texts Encourages a child to guess words based on context or pictures. You will never see mention of the 3 Cueing system in an evidence-based program or method of teaching reading. Assumes that a teacher has a skill scope and sequence, pacing guide, or sufficient initial and distributed practice materials. Implies that “meaning-based” instruction is more important than directly teaching and assessing mastery of foundational reading skills. Teaches vocabulary by asking a child to memorize a dictionary definition of a word. Assume that a child comes to the classroom with foundational reading skills that simply need to be nurtured by exposure to texts.

How do we know if an assessment tool is evidence-based?

In order to determine if a screening, progress monitoring, or outcome measure is evidence-based, you should review its Technical Adequacy report. This report will tell you if the measure is Valid—if it assesses what it says it assesses. It will also tell you if it is Reliable—if the test will yield consistent results if given to a student over time by different people. Here is an excellent piece about Technical Adequacy: Evaluating the Technical Adequacy and Usability of Early Reading Measures.

I read something where a literacy organization basically said that Dyslexia does not exist and talked about changes to how kids are diagnosed with learning disabilities. Can you tell me more about that?

We are so glad you asked this question. PBS aired a segment about Dyslexia and there was a letter sent protesting the piece and its content. The primary signatories of the letter are associated with the International Literacy Association. The protest letter is hosted by Reading Recovery. Below is the link to the scientifically invalid protest letter and a scientifically valid response by well-known clinical psychologist, Dr. Steve Dykstra. We also include links to two articles that discusses the lack of effectiveness of Reading Recovery’s Guided Reading for struggling readers. Protest Letter to PBS In Defense of Facts: A Reply to 57 Reading Voices on the Issue of Dyslexia by By Steven P. Dykstra, PhD An Experimental Evaluation of Guided Reading and Explicit Interventions for Primary-Grade Students At-Risk for Reading Difficulties by Carolyn A. Denton, Jack M. Fletcher, W. Pat Taylor, Amy E. Barth, and Sharon Vaughn Guided Reading: Is it Right for Struggling Readers & Dyslexia? A Teacher’s Perspective


What can WY Lit do for me?

There are Colleges of Education that have aligned their teacher prep programs with the Science of Reading and Evidence-Based Instruction and Intervention. We can share the open source information such as syllabi that these Colleges of Education have shared with us. We can connect you to the Colleges of Education that have made this difficult transition successfully. We can also connect you to the organizations that have supported these Colleges of Education in that process.