My Journey to The Science of Reading

Science of Reading: The Beginning of my Journey

My journey to the science of reading really started before I went to Kindergarten.  I went to Kindergarten ready to read.  As long ago as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher.  When I graduated with my undergraduate degree in elementary education with a middle school endorsement in 1997 I couldn’t find a teaching job.  There were hundreds of applicants for every position.  I thought I wanted to teach middle school math.

Instead I got a tutoring position in an elementary school, which led to a Title I teaching position the following year and training as a Reading Recovery Teacher.  I fell in love with early literacy and have never looked back!

For my first five years of teaching I was a Title I and Reading Recovery Teacher.  Then I moved schools and was in what was called a model classroom.  I was in the first-grade classroom half the day and did Reading Recovery with four students the other half of the day.  I shared that position with another teacher.

Next I took a position where I was working with the Response to Intervention (RTI) program in a district with ten elementary schools.  At the time we were focused only on reading.  The RTI programs shifted to Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS).  We collected data, did staff development, and saw small to modest gains in our reading scores.  The training, reading instruction, and reading intervention was very much focused on the three-cueing system.

The Turning Point

It was a great 10 years in that position.  I learned so much. Budget cuts led me to the Reading position in one of the elementary schools in the district.

I had never been convinced I was doing everything I could for the children I worked with.  Many of them still struggled with learning to read.  I just knew something was missing.

With the step back from a district level position, I applied to the doctoral program at the University of South Dakota in 2014.  I started reading research and preparing to do my own research for my dissertation.  My dissertation was titled Eductor’s Knowledge, Use, and Perceptions of Research-Proven Reading Practices and Programs.

One thing I was shocked to find out was that the interventions that were used as a basis for the creation of the RTI process had all of the elements, but the interventions never made it into the implementation of RTI.  The incredible success wasn’t in the process, it was in the interventions!

Soon after starting my doctoral program, the district where I worked started working with the Nebraska MTSS Consortium and we began training in the Science of Reading as a district.

As I was finishing my doctoral work, Emily Hanford’s work was released.  I couldn’t stop reading and learning everything I could get my hands on even after completing my doctorate.

Know Better Do Better

I had been thinking about telling the story of my journey.  I wasn’t sure that anyone would be interested.  Then I heard something and realized that I needed to tell the story for me.

I was listening to an interview with Ernesto Ortiz on the Science of Reading Podcast.  He put into words what I had been feeling, but unable to put into words myself.  He found the Science of Reading in his 18th year of education.  I am not a numbers person, but when I realized that it was also in my 18th year of education that I became aware of the Science of Reading, his words meant even more.

It was difficult for me when I realized I wasn’t doing what was best for kids and not only that, the science had been there all along, I just wasn’t aware of all of it.  I COULD have been doing better all along.  That was tough.  He said, “I went through the stages of denial, anger, and ultimately acceptance…”

That was it.  I too was mourning what could have been.

Now, the best part of the journey is here and it is the increase in student success!  Once we started implementing the research we saw improvements in reading scores.  In the fall 2020 semester we had 100% of the kindergarten students in our building reach the benchmark.

When COVID-19 hit and schools closed, I had students that couldn’t wait to read with me, even if it was online.  They were just excited to read!  My little bright spot in the world during the pandemic was the smiling faces that greeted me as I signed in.

The Next Step

I am not sure what the future holds, but part of the next step for me is spreading the joy of reading!  That includes the joy of teaching reading.

I want to do my part to close the gap between research and practice.  I know teachers don’t all love reading research as I do.  There is this perception that reading research is inaccessible and not applicable to the real world of teaching.  I would like to change that perception.

We can all master teaching beginning reading by embracing and teaching with the Science of Reading.

Share the Joy of the science of reading

Share the joy of teaching and learning to read!  If you like this post, share it with a friend.  Find more beginning reading resources, early literacy resources, and information throughout my blog and website.

I am on a mission to help as many students learn to read as I possibly can.  The best way to do this is to help as many parents and educators that teach reading as possible.

I only post teaching and learning information that is research-proven.  I fully support and believe in the Science of Reading.


At a Loss for Words:  How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers by Emily Hanford

Ernesto Ortiz’s Blog:  Decoding Leadership

Science of Reading Podcast



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Hi, I'm Jenelle!

I help K-3 teachers teach with the science of reading so that all of their students learn to read.

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.  

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