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Impact Award Winner Winner

“Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong”

Excellence in Audio Storytelling, honoring Jack R. Howard

American Public Media, 2023

Author(s): Emily Hanford, Christopher Peak, Catherine Winter and Chris Julin


Acclaimed education reporter Emily Hanford, her colleagues Christopher Peak, Catherine Winter, Chris Julin and the team at America Public Media, furthered their successful, groundbreaking investigative work exposing how a generation of children have been taught the wrong way to read.  

In the six-episode podcast, “Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong,” Hanford and team unmask how four influential authors and their publishers sustained the status quo, convincing teachers for decades to embrace a reading program that research has proven to be ineffective and damaging to students. The podcast continues five years of reporting on the topic by Hanford. It has prompted widespread change in how children are being taught to read. 

Hanford and team combined artful storytelling with diligent reporting. They interviewed credible reading science experts, juxtaposing the research with powerful personal accounts from children, their parents and teachers who provide compelling evidence that the methods broadly used to teach reading are flawed.  

The podcast’s impact has been far-reaching.  

Spread primarily by word of mouth as listeners shared with others, “Sold a Story” quickly became an Apple Top 10 podcast generating more than 3 million downloads.  

It has been cited by policy experts from The Education Trust, Brookings Institution, National Council on Teacher Quality, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, American Enterprise Institute and many more state-based organizations across the U.S.  

The podcast was listed as one of 2022’s most important education stories by leading educational journals and has become recommended listening for Arizona teachers, Georgia school leaders and Ohio Department of Education Staff. The work has also been cited in reporting in The Washington Post, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Louisville Courier-Journal, The Oregonian, WBEZ Chicago, WUWM Milwaukee, WFAE Charlotte, VPM News, EdSource, New Haven Independent, Voice of San Diego and The Washington Examiner.  

“Sold a Story,” audio storytelling and reporting at its finest, reveals an uncomfortable and shocking truth, opens the eyes of parents, educators and policymakers, and is prompting widespread change in how we teach our children to read.