Revolutionizing K–3 Literacy

by Ryan Burwell, VP of User Experience | Jul 13, 2023

Revolutionizing K–3 Literacy

Collaborating with Educators to Overcome Classroom Challenges and Help All Students Achieve Reading Proficiency

The story of how teachers and education leaders helped shape the next generation of foundational literacy instruction.

Beginning with a Vision

Two years ago, we at Reading Horizons® embarked on a mission to revolutionize our K–3 foundational literacy program. Our curiosity pushed us to dig deeper into the latest research, investigating how tweaking the program’s scope and sequence could help hardworking educators more effectively teach their students. Knowledge of the science of reading was spreading across the country, but when it came to application in the classroom—well, that was a different story. We were determined to help teachers bridge this gap. It was clear to us that this journey would not be successful without earnestly “tuning in” to the voice and needs of educators—a principle we established as one of our “Reading Horizons Ways.” By bringing educators into the conversation and continually aligning to evidence-based practices, we’ve fostered a simple, effective program for teachers that helps all students build the crucial foundational literacy skills they need to be proficient readers.

Identifying Challenges

Implementing practices aligned with the science of reading is no small feat. We gathered data and feedback from market research, teacher surveys and focus groups, internal stakeholder review and feedback, and in-person visits to more than 20 districts across the United States. As we talked with educators, we identified some common challenges they faced. Maybe you can relate?

  • Trying to stay on top of each student’s mastery of skills is challenging.
  • Pulling resources to help students transfer their skills to text is a massive undertaking.
  • Compiling student data to inform small groups requires long hours and late nights.
  • Remembering the just-right thing from training at the just-right moment is difficult.
  • Running out of time at the end of the year always seems to be a problem.
  • Selecting supplemental reading programs is overwhelming—there are so many.

We listened, then set out to help.

Collaborating with Educators

In our quest to make a greater impact, educators in Hoke County School District, North Carolina, became our initial partners in innovation. They opened their doors to our team, allowing us to observe classes, interact with teachers and students, and interview administrators. This close collaboration led us to a pivotal decision: we would build a turnkey, tech-enabled experience to provide teachers and students with the best opportunity for reading success.

Seven months after our enlightening immersion in Hoke County, we returned to the classrooms of five teachers: Shamika Murphy, Jessica Gist, Ashley Saaristo, Heather Jackson, and Renita Jones. Like so many other teachers, these five were experiencing more challenges than ever before in understanding how to effectively fit high-quality instruction into their day with the demands to identify student proficiency on skills to differentiate and pace for different learners. All while incorporating technology in a helpful way and keeping up with their enormous workload in other subject areas. 

We presented a prototype that proposed a fresh vision for the teaching and learning experience.

Reading Horizons Discovery logo

Piloting the Prototype

Hoke County teachers trusted our commitment to helping them solve their challenges. They became the first in the country to pilot the new tech-enabled tool harnessing Reading Horizons’ science-based instructional method for teaching foundational literacy. They traded traditional manuals for tablets, used our newly-developed student software seamlessly aligned with their teaching, and introduced differentiated routines to better cater to individual student needs with real-time data and automatic grouping of students.

Refining through Feedback

Their feedback was invaluable. The educators in Hoke County gave us the insight to refine our solution, and we were eager to refine the experience even more. Five months later, we rolled out a brand-new tech-enabled tool for teachers in these districts to explore:

  • Hoke County, NC
  • Cleveland County, NC
  • Lauderdale County, AL
  • Tyler, TX

This pioneering group of educators became our alpha testers, using the new Reading Horizons Discovery® in 82 classrooms with 1,512 students during the 2022–23 school year.

Overcoming Challenges

As in any product development process, we faced our fair share of general issues and technical challenges. However, these hurdles were precisely what we needed to hone our solution. Every piece of feedback the educators provided was a valuable stepping stone, allowing us to improve and adapt to the needs of the teachers. Despite the challenges of implementing a product still under development, the feedback and results we received were overwhelmingly positive, which motivated and inspired us to keep going.

Quotes from Teachers

Every piece of feedback the educators provided was a valuable stepping stone, allowing us to improve and adapt to the needs of the teachers.

“My students are so engaged with the new Reading Horizons Discovery®, and their growth in foundational literacy skills has been remarkable this year.” —Cleveland County Schools, NC

“Going from teaching manuals to the new Reading Horizons Discovery® software has been a game changer in the classroom. My students came to class not knowing letters and sounds and are now doing a fantastic job.” —Lauderdale County Schools, AL

“The new scope and sequence, pace, and setup the new Reading Horizons Discovery® provides have helped my students tremendously! My students are reading like crazy because we’re getting to skills faster! I love it, and I am a firm believer in this program.” —Lauderdale County Schools, AL

Special Thanks

Educators deserve support, and we are thankful for education leaders who foster an environment of collaboration and innovation to overcome classroom challenges. We extend a special shout-out to the members of our Admin Focus Group, who supported us every step of the way:

  • Mandy Gillispie (Tyler ISD, TX)
  • Laura Beaver (Cleveland County Schools, NC)
  • Wanda Ussery (Hoke County Schools, NC)
  • Dan Wolfe (Woodridge School District 68, IL)
  • Katie Meersman (Rockford Public Schools 205, IL)
  • Connie Karthaus, Amy Lovelady, and Monique Belcher (Lauderdale County Schools, AL)

We also thank all the dedicated members of our Reading Horizons Literacy Forum. These individuals joined us monthly in numerous focus groups, interviews, and diary studies to provide crucial feedback that greatly influenced the prototypes and the final solution. Their commitment to improving literacy education and willingness to share their expertise and insights played an essential role in the success of the new, truly tech-enabled Reading Horizons Discovery®. We are immensely grateful for their invaluable contributions to this project.

A Product Built for Teachers by Teachers

You said…

“Manually trying to stay on top of each student’s mastery of skills is challenging.”
“Pulling resources to help students transfer their skills to text is a massive undertaking.”
“Compiling student data to inform small groups requires long hours and late nights.”
“Remembering the just-right thing from training at the just-right moment is difficult.”
“Running out of time at the end of the year always seems to be a problem.”
“Selecting supplemental reading programs is overwhelming—there are so many.”

So, we delivered…

Real-Time Student Tracking: Progress is automatically recorded for each student.
Coordinated Student Practice: Synced Skill Checks gauge student transfer of knowledge.
Relevant Data: Clear-cut, whole-class data is at your fingertips whenever you need it.
On-Demand Professional Learning: Short training videos accompany every lesson.
Pacing Recommendations: Always know where you are vs. where you want to be.
One All-Inclusive Tool: Phonological awareness, decoding and encoding, and sight recognition are in one place.
The unwavering dedication of the educators in Hoke County Schools, Cleveland County Schools, Lauderdale County Schools, Tyler ISD, and Rockford Public Schools enabled us to create a solution that genuinely solves the real literacy challenges all teachers face. For this, we thank you. The new Reading Horizons Discovery® is a foundational literacy solution built for teachers by teachers. It’s a testament to the power of collaboration and the commitment to improving literacy education.

Experience tech-enabled literacy instruction with the new Reading Horizons Discovery®. Schedule a call today!


Thank you to each teacher who helped revolutionize Reading Horizons Discovery® and is committed to supporting students with research-based literacy instruction so they become proficient readers! Our gratitude encompasses all educators involved, who are too numerous to list. Thank you, partner educators.

  • Alexis Merritt
  • Alissa Edwards
  • Ashleigh Greene
  • Barbara Olson
  • Breanna Cook
  • Brittany Green
  • Candice Beam
  • Crystal Champion
  • Diana McMillan
  • Elizabet Montoya
  • Elizabeth Greene
  • Elizabeth Manning
  • Emily Morgan
  • Emma Goforth
  • Erica King
  • Gracie Aguillard
  • Heather Henry
  • Jenna Webber
  • Jennifer Borneman
  • Jennifer Swink
  • Jenny Horton
  • Jessica Grace
  • Jessica Hamalainen
  • Jessica McDaniel
  • Jill Wesson
  • Julianne McDowell
  • Kaitlyn Moss
  • Karen Hartless
  • Karla Moran
  • Kayla Cook
  • Kelli Simmons
  • Kelly McSwain
  • Kristi Tapper
  • Kristin Kane
  • Lashonda Roberson
  • Laterrel Hackney
  • Leigh Ann West
  • Lindsay Izokovic
  • Lindsey Fortner
  • Lisa Smith
  • Lisa Spangler
  • Lyndsey Murphey
  • Madison Rowe
  • Mallory Noland
  • Mara Morita
  • Margaret Benton
  • Margaret Finley
  • Maricruz Diaz
  • Megan Richardson
  • Melanie Denton
  • Melia Lutz
  • Melody Childers
  • Michelle Ray
  • Monica Feaster
  • Nakia Hall
  • Nora Zavala
  • Oscar Rodriguez
  • Oviedo Jessica
  • Patricia Ford
  • Penisher Carter
  • Rachel March
  • Rebecca Padgett
  • Renita Jones
  • Robbie Ruppe
  • Sally Poynter
  • Sally Renninger
  • Sarah Wright
  • Savannah Butler
  • Savannah Richard
  • Shamika Murphy
  • Shelly Hoyle
  • Silvia Vazquez Rivas
  • Summer Sheehan
  • Trishia Barton
  • Virginia Peel
  • Vyisha Taylor
  • Whitney Millwood
  • YKeiah Lawrence
  • Yuliana Meza
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