On Saturday, February 11th, 2023, the Special Education Department at the University of Southern Maine (USM) partnered with the International Dyslexia Association – Northern New England Alliance (IDA-NNEA) and Lexia Learning to screen the documentary The Truth About Reading. After enjoying refreshments, about 100 attendees interested in reading instruction from across Maine filled the seats at Hannaford Hall. The film tells the story of two men, John Corcoran and David Chalk, who did not learn to read until they were adults. The film explores why the men struggled to learn to read and how specific reading instruction practices can help or hinder reading success. In particular, the film described research about effective reading instruction that incorporates explicit and systematic teaching practices that incorporate learning phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The film noted that reading instruction in U.S. schools has used a variety of methods over time but that in the last decade a set of specific practices – known as the Science of Reading (SOR) – have been recognized and advocated by reading researchers.
After the film, John Corcoran and David Chalk joined the group via Zoom and answered questions about their experiences. Next, Cyr introduced a panel which consisted of Ellen Kaschuluk, Ed.D, Danielle Afari, Lisa Witis, J.D, USM Special Education faculty member Rachel Brown-Chidsey, Ph.D, and Brenda Peters. Cyr asked each panel member to suggest one action item to improve reading instruction in Maine schools. Panel members encouraged stakeholders to advocate for a requirement that all of Maine’s classroom teachers must complete coursework and practica using methods anchored in the science of reading. Panelists also noted the importance of making sure that classroom teachers have access to high quality instructional materials and professional learning to use them correctly. Dr. Kaschuluk ended the panel discussion by reminding the audience to be compassionate toward teachers who might not have learned about the SOR when they prepared to become educators.
For those looking to learn more about the film, you can go to this link
The USM Special Education Department and IDA-NNEA thank Lexia Learning and Wendy and Stephen Gaal for their financial support to make the movie screening possible.