Empowering Striving Readers for Academic Success

by Tyson Smith, CEO | Apr 4, 2023

Empowering Striving Readers for Academic Success

A Life-Changing Phone Call

I received a phone call 20 years ago from the parent of a striving reader in Centerville, Utah. I wasn’t available, so she left a voicemail that I wish to this day I had saved. Her son was just finishing fifth grade and had been reading at a second-grade level since finishing second grade. They read together every night but had been unable to close that gap in nearly three years. The reading specialist at their school had sought solutions to help and found Reading Horizons. She purchased the training and materials with her own money. She began tutoring the student in February of his fifth-grade year, and by May, he had closed that gap and won the school’s most improved reader award. 

The Impact of Effective Reading Instruction

That’s a story I’ve never forgotten because of the impact that was made in the life of a reading specialist, a parent, and a child. It wasn’t that the student was incapable of learning how to read, but it had not been presented in a way that made sense. Experiences like that convinced me that one day we would have educators lining up at our door to learn more. Getting people to recognize the value of explicit, systematic, sequential instruction in decoding strategies has been challenging. But it’s a battle we continue to fight because we recognize that it’s truly the way to give every student the best chance for academic success and a fulfilling life. 

Media Spotlight on Reading Challenges

The Right to Read documentary does a good job of explaining what’s happening in our country, as does the Sold a Story podcast by Emily Hanford. Watching the film and listening to the podcast feels vindicating on one hand while adding tremendous fuel to the fire. They also produce some frustration because I can’t believe so many years have gone by, and we’re still fighting this fight. We must use those feelings as motivation to get structured literacy in front of every educator who needs to teach a child how to read! This is a fight that we have to win. 

The Growing Influence of The Science of Reading

It’s such a unique time because the science of reading has gained so much traction in just the last decade. So much of the traction has been generated through the parent movement and pressing on legislators to pass laws forcing the education community to adopt better reading practices. The laws that have been passed require the science of reading to be taught in higher education and K–12. It’s important to make sure that those laws are implemented with fidelity. Talking about the science isn’t enough. Proper implementation across the education spectrum is requisite if we’re going to make a difference. 

Reading Horizons’ Commitment to Change

I wholeheartedly believe in the current direction and focus of Reading Horizons. We’re doing the work initiated so long ago by Charlotte Lockhart. There’s so much good to do and impact to be made. Never lose sight of the greater good and purpose behind our work to eradicate illiteracy. 

Go, fight, win!


Tyson Smith, CEO. Structured Literacy for Striving Readers

Tyson Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Reading Horizons
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