The Truth about Reading Part 2 – Why a literacy documentary?

In Part 2 of this series of guest blogs by Nora Chahbazi, literacy consultant (pro bono) via the John Corcoran foundation to The Truth About Reading documentary team and Founder of EBLI, looks at the reasons behind the decision to produce a critical documentary in light of the current national literacy crisis.


“US scores show only 34% of 4th and 8th graders read proficiently.”

According to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), reading proficiency means that “Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.” Children are usually tested at 4th, 8th and 12th grade to get these results.

As the headline suggests, many 4th and 8th grade children are failing to read at grade level and the US Department of Education reports that about 54%, or 130 million, adults read below the 6th grade level.

The majority of children and adults in the US and other English-speaking countries are sub-literate; they are reading below or well below their potential, which has a far-reaching negative impact. Children, educators, parents, and society all suffer significantly as a result of this plight.

Literacy lack and the fallout from it is an invisible crisis hiding in plain sight.

How The Truth About Reading documentary intends to address this crisis

This documentary will address the problem and the solution through fact-finding then storytelling, utilizing the experiences of educators, students, parents, researchers, and others. Many facets of the literacy issue will be examined and shared, including a variety of stories of those who have dramatically improved literacy outcomes, in some instances from the single digits to 100% proficiency. This will be conveyed through the success stories of schools, districts, and individuals and how they got there so others can replicate these successes.

With effective instruction, almost everyone can learn to read. This documentary is to be a catalyst to increase awareness and provide a roadmap to solutions. It will show and tell about the need, the negative outcomes for the teachers, parents, and learners immersed in this crisis, and how feasible it is to turn it around. The potential for healing is immense!

While numbers can be jarring, personal stories that everyone can relate to are the key to increasing awareness of the literacy crisis and develop the movement to rectify it.

How do sub-literate children and adults often experience the world?
  • Crippling and consistent anxiety
  • Feeling shame, anger, embarrassment, depression, inferiority
  • Expending extensive energy hiding their difficulties from everyone
  • Being bullied, ridiculed, punished
  • Limited educational choices and job opportunities
How will the documentary convey the problems and solutions?
  • Showcase schools and districts who reached 90% or higher literacy proficiency
  • Highlight stories of those who learned to read as adults
    • Include the PTSD they experienced along the way
  • Share teachers’ stories of their evolution in reading instruction
  • Lay out stories of moms who helped their own children then helped other
  • Target studies and talk to researchers with positive data and outcomes
  • Discuss different instructional approaches to teaching reading

The literacy crisis is rampant in every community across the country. Solving the crisis, with 95-100% student proficiency on state tests in reading, is happening in some places. However, neither of these things are common knowledge, in education circles or in society as a whole.

The Truth About Reading documentary can and will change that.

In the next installment of this fascinating blog, Nora gives us a ‘behind the scenes’ peek at the filming of ‘The Truth About Reading’ documentary.

#literacymatters, #literacycrisis #structuredapproach


Nora Chahbazi is the founder of Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (EBLI). She has presented at many education conferences and writes a bi-weekly blog, as well as hosting monthly webinars that aim to educate the public. Nora is the literacy consultant (pro bono) via the John Corcoran Foundation for The Truth About Reading documentary currently under production by 22 Emmy award-winning documentary director Nick Nanton. Passionate about providing a bridge from the research on reading, writing, and spelling to effective, efficient instructional practices that can be used in the classroom and remediation settings, Nora’s ultimate mission is to teach the world to read.


  1. I feel this every day in my district and at times feel helpless to the deficits I see. I know how to help students, but feel like I am holding myself back because not everyone is ready to embrace structured literacy practices.

    1. I am sad to say I see and feel the same; I would add that these ‘deficits’ are results of inadequate curriculum, instructional and RtI practices, not the fault of our emerging readers and writers. Let’s work together to facilitate change…

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