The making and success of the Truth About Reading Documentary

Nick nanton introduces the film

In this final instalment of a series of guest blogs Nora Chahbazi, literacy consultant (pro bono) via the John Corcoran foundation to The Truth About Reading documentary team and Founder of EBLI, talks about the impact of the documentary and offers insight into the making of the film. 

I was honored to be at the first private screening of The Truth About Reading in Beverly Hills in September 2022. Since then, it has been shown in screenings across the country and beyond. 

The film is currently being scoped for distribution to the public and the hope is for it to be available, possibly as soon as summer 2023. To inquire about hosting a screening email

So far, I have attended 5 screenings (and have been invited to 7 more!). No matter how many times I watch this documentary it is intense, powerful, emotional, and mind boggling!

In this blog, I want to answer some questions that have been asked about the film by those who have seen it:

  • Who funded the film?
    • The film was funded entirely by private donations with the exception of a large donation from GM. Everyone (including GM) was made aware from the start that they would have no say in what would be included in the film.
  • Who decided what would be included in the film? 
    • Nick Nanton, the director, made it clear to John Corcoran and myself that neither of us would have any say in what would or wouldn’t be in the film. Also, we would not be able to see it until it was finished. In other words, not before the first screening in Beverly Hills (that was stressful!). Nick, his editor Nick Ruff, and Story Producer Katie Tschopp were the only 3 who saw the film before the screening. 
  • Why was Paul Thomas in the film?
    • After several interviews, Nick asked for some people who were critics of the Science of Reading movement who would be willing to be interviewed for the film in order to have input from that perspective. Paul Thomas and Sam Bommarito were the only two who agreed to be filmed.
  • Is the instruction with David Chalk real?
    • Yes. Another condition Director Nick Nanton had for the film was to find an adult experiencing significant sub-literacy who would agree to be taught and have their instruction filmed. David received 11 hours of instruction between May 18th and May 23rd, and was brave enough to allow every minute of it to be filmed.  
  • What agenda was being pushed in the documentary?
    • The agenda was to increase awareness about the prevalence of sub-literacy, show the complexity of the literacy problem, and provide hope that the problem can be successfully addressed. Nick Nanton and his team knew little to nothing about the crisis of illiteracy and sub-literacy before taking on this project. They learned from the interviews they conducted for the film with over 100 experts and others as well as by personally researching the topics that were shared in the film.
  • How many of the over 100 people who were interviewed are in the film?
    • While everyone interviewed provided value in educating Nick and his team, less than half of those interviewed are in the film. This project ended up being much deeper, wider, and bigger than Nick had ever expected. His hope is to, at some point in the future, produce a series. Each episode would dive deeper into various topics from the film. This would also provide an opportunity to utilize more of the interview footage. 
  • Why did information on topics such as dyslexia and the reading wars seem to be muddled?
    • When Nick and his team found the information from the interviewers were conflicting and when their additional fact finding mission into these topics did not provide clarity, it was conveyed that way in the film.
  • Why did Nick decide to put what he did in the film?
    • Only Nick and his team know the answer to that!
Nora chahbazi and donna hejtmanek
Nora Chahbazi and Donna Hejtmanek

This film has already inspired numerous discussions about literacy instruction and has encouraged teachers, parents, community members, and adults experiencing sub-literacy to make their voices heard. Please continue to share the trailer for the film, ask questions, and keep the conversation going. Together, we can be part of the solution to improve literacy outcomes and have a tremendous positive impact on the lives of many! 

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. 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.

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