Randy Yohe Published

W.Va. Teachers Learning To Teach Science Of Reading


Hundreds of southern West Virginia teachers gathered in Charleston this week, learning how to best improve student literacy by implementing the West Virginia Department of Education’s (WVDE) “Ready Read Write” initiative.   

Grade school teachers at the state’s Invest 2023 education symposium are getting back to the “science of reading” basics. The initiative comes from a body of research going back 40 years that incorporates five pillars, known as the “fab five” – phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, that prove how the brain learns to become a proficient reader and writer. The program focus will be initially on kindergarten through 3rd grade studies.

The effort comes from new legislation titled the Third Grade Success Act. House Bill 3035 was passed in answer to West Virginia reading and math test scores that were among the lowest in the country. Some educators, like Senate Education Committee Chair, and fourth grade teacher, Amy Grady, R-Mason, said it would take years for West Virginia teachers to learn a new method. Nearly all the teachers we talked to said the “Ready Write Read” science of reading initiative was already in place and just needed an across-the-board boost. The math initiative is called “Math4life, UNITe with numeracy.”

Webster County kindergarten teacher Jenny Cogar said the read and write program doesn’t reinvent the wheel but builds background knowledge and vocabulary for her rural students.

“They might not have the experiences that other students that might live in the cities might have,” Coger said. “I think it will help with not only reading scores but give them the skills that they’re going to need later on in life.”

Four women and a man sit side by side at a table listening.
A row of teachers in “Ready, Read, Write” class.  Randy Yohe/WVPB

Greenbrier County fourth grade teacher Todd Warnick said implementing the science of reading will raise instructional levels, similar to his previous North Carolina school’s reading and writing instruction.

“The program we used was exactly where we’re at today, five years later,” Warnick said. “I saw good results there. I’m glad to see the state moving that way because we saw students that were reading ahead of grade level. And it was a wonderful experience to see these developing readers become good readers with the science of reading that we were using at that time.”

Nicholas County fourth grade teacher Delia Tinney said the program will be easily implemented because it makes sense.

“Students need to write to be able to read,” Tinney said. “It’s something that a lot of teachers do. It just now has a name.”

West Virginia Department of Education “Ready Read Write” coordinator Kelly Griffith said the best practices initiative is in contrast to ineffective practices that may still be existing, because of remnants of other reading movements. She says there may be a learning curve for some teachers, but all teachers are getting the needed training.  

“The goal is to make sure that our teachers have the resources and the tools that they need for best and most effective practices with the science of reading,” she said.

Griffith said with three to five years of “fidelity” (to reproduce similar results) of 80 percent or higher, “Ready Read Write” will have an impact on students.