Annual Report – 2014

Children Reading

December 18, 2014

Dear Friends:

On July 8, 1981, two days after I was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve in the U.S. Department of Education I received a phone call from the Education Policy Director at the Heritage Foundation. That call began my journey to address the decline in literacy in America. Twelve years later, January 8, 1993 the National Right to Read Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the express purpose of providing educators, policy makers at all levels, and the general public, a solution to this seemingly intractable problem.

Since then, hundreds of you have volunteered your time and expertise to implement this vision. Thousands more of you have been encouraged to take specific action to change the way reading is taught to our children. You have stood with us as we have advanced the national research agenda on reading instruction; provided legislative remedies such as the Reading Excellence Act, where “scientifically based reading research” was first defined in law; and authored the Reading First Act, signed into law on January 8, 2002. It provided more then $6 billion in funding to help teachers in all fifty states to gain an understanding of the findings of evidence based research in reading instruction. We also insured that the U.S. Department of Education would distribute the Report of the National Reading Panel to every school in America.

These actions and many more have resulted in educators taking specific steps to implement these findings. What we mention in this short report is just an indication of what we hope will become a “sea change” in our schools, resulting in illiteracy being significantly reduced and ultimately eliminated. I hope this will be an encouragement to each of you who have faithfully stood with us over the past decades.

2014 has been a busy year for The National Right to Read Foundation. It began when we signed a contract with a three person team to upgrade the NRRF website, develop a brand for us, and help us in setting new goals and adding social media sites, including Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter! It took six months of hard work, and expert guidance by Team Leader Tamara Cramer (Colorado), assisted by Graphic Artist Amy Lane (Colorado), and Webmaster Aaron Brown (Hawaii) to complete the project. Adam Smith will be helping us expand our outreach through the worldwide web. Here is the result: Please check it out and let us know what you think.

February took us to Florida where we met with Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW) Author Sue Dickson who informed us that the city of Chicago had just notified her that 90 elementary schools in the city would be adopting her program, now owned by the Pearson Publishing Company. She then did online training with Skype for the consultants who would be overseeing this major project. (We just now heard that the entire city of Chicago has adopted SSRW!)

In March our West Virginia State Director asked us for help for his granddaughter, who is a struggling reader. As a result, we made contact with the State Curriculum Director who then met with the President of Logic of English who provided the opportunity for free professional development for all of the teachers in the state who wanted it.

South Carolina passed new “Read to Succeed” legislation in 2014 requiring professional development in reading, the hiring of 600 Reading Coaches, and Summer Reading Programs for struggling readers. Once again, we were able to provide guidance to the state leadership and support several conferences where “evidenced based reading” was emphasized. The President of Logic of English spoke at several statewide conferences and participated in the summer reading camps resulting in one school in the infamous “corridor of shame” adopting the LOE reading program. The response has been unanimously favorable. Governor Niki Haley supports reform programs that will reduce persistent illiteracy in South Carolina.

In May I was asked to be one of four speakers at the memorial service of Dr. Patrick Groff, Professor of Reading Education for 30 years, and also an NRRF Board Member for 19 of those years. As a result contact was made with a school in California, and the 2014 NRRF Teacher of the Year was selected. Ashlee Martin is a kindergarten teacher at the Murrieta Elementary School. Each year she has successfully taught ALL of her kindergarten students to read. She uses Open Court and Phonics Pathways as her text materials.

Throughout the year, projects were supported with other reading reformers in Nevada, New Hampshire, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Wisconsin, Utah, California, and New York, to name a few.

The NRRF website was launched in June, and in addition we were privileged to be asked to host the website for Dr. Reid Lyon, who oversaw much of the NICHD Federally funded research in reading over the past 30 years. The importance of his work cannot be overemphasized. As a result of his work at NICHD, educational periodicals and many books on reading pedagogy agree that there are five essential components of reading instruction that must be part of any effective instructional program. They are: direct, systematic, sequential instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, fluency, and comprehension. We call them THE BIG FIVE, and you will see them emphasized on our website.

One of the primary deficits that have been identified over the years is the lack of preparation of prospective reading teachers in the colleges of education. The current assessment of more than 600 colleges of education by the National Center for Teacher Quality has found that less then ten percent of colleges adequately prepare undergraduate teachers to teach reading effectively.

This is now being addressed. More than 60 colleges of education are now accessing online programs that provide instruction in the “Big Five.” More colleges are being added each month. This is one of the most encouraging signs yet that the decades of advocacy for evidence based reading instruction are paying off! Organizations like Reading Horizons, Sing, Spell, Read and Write, Wilson Language Training, Spalding Education, Super Kids Reading, Reading Rx, LETRS, Logic of English, Zoo Phonics, Alpha Phonics, Phonics Pathways, Corrective Reading and many more are leading the way.

In October NRRF was contacted by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and asked to participate in a national effort to encourage educators to adopt “structured reading programs” that include “The Big Five.” We have agreed to work with IDA and other organizations towards that common goal. Leaders in this initiative currently consult with Google, Facebook, and other large media organizations, and the plan is to reach the general public with the good news that a solution to illiteracy is now available. We will be working with IDA in developing the specifics of this initiative over the next few months.

Although we have not had the ability to widely solicit funds for the support of The National Right to Read Foundation, we are hoping that you will see our work as a way to rally ALL those who share a common goal. That is the elimination of illiteracy in America by restoring reading instruction that decades of research and common sense have proven to work. After all, for 3500 years language instruction has applied the “alphabetic principle” to teach reading. It is only in the past 75 years that the practice has been largely abandoned. We are now reaping the whirlwind of illiteracy, and it need not be. Will you continue to stand with us so that together we can proclaim the good news that there is a solution to illiteracy in America?

Thank you for your consideration.


Bob and Joy Sweet
President & Executive Director
P.O. Box 560
Strasburg, VA 22657

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