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Al Roker

Empowering Parents

Getting support for your struggling reader. Learning to read is a challenge for almost 40 percent of kids — and a challenge for their parents. Hosted by Al Roker, the show visits schools in Huntingtown, Maryland, and Portland, Oregon, to see how families learn to identify early signs of reading problems and find ideas for getting their kids the help and support they need to succeed at reading.

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About the program

If you have a child who is a struggling reader, your family is not alone. Al Roker of NBC’s The Today Show is the host of Empowering Parents, a primer for parents whose child is having difficulty to read. We visit schools in Huntingtown, Maryland, and Portland, Oregon, to outline the warning signs that indicate a child may have difficulties and shows why early intervention is so important. The program features experts Rick Lavoie; Dr. Julie Washington, University of Michigan; Dr. Roland Good, University of Oregon; and Dr. Guinevere Eden, Georgetown Medical School.

This 30-minute program is the sixth episode of our award-winning PBS series, Launching Young Readers.

Fighting for your child

Jennifer Simpson is a mother on a mission. Unlike many parents who don’t realize when their child is behind the learning curve, Jennifer knows exactly where her daughter should be — and isn’t.

Warning signs

Bryana was waving a red flag for reading problems at eight months old. That’s when her mother found out Bryana was hearing impaired.

Understanding your child

Special education expert Rick Lavoie shows parents why it’s important to take action. “Parents sometimes worry that they’re overreacting when their child isn’t reading in first and second grade,” says Lavoie. “It’s really not possible to overreact to that. It’s a fairly serious thing.”

Good instruction

Watch as the folks at Metzger Elementary in Portland, Oregon, help struggling students like J.T. with extra doses of reading and one-on-one tutoring.

Reading and the brain

Find out how the brain of a kid with reading problems, like Jonathan, handles reading differently than the brain of a strong reader.

Emiliann’s IEP team

Jennifer Simpson participates in an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting with a team of seven people committed to making sure her daughter, Emiliann, becomes a good reader.

Watch the program

Reading advice from Al Roker

Q: As a father of three, what’s your best reading advice for parents?

A: Just do it. Read anything to your kids. Find books that you enjoyed as a kid. Chances are they will enjoy them too.

Q: Describe your family’s reading ritual.

A: We read an ongoing chapter book to Leila and a simpler book to Nicky. Since their bedtimes are about an hour and a half apart, we take turns reading the stories.

Q: Besides stories before bed, how do you encourage your own children to make reading a habit?

A: We try reading street signs, cereal boxes and anything we can get our hands on.

Q: Learning to read is a process and children often pass through phases of resistance to reading (“You read it; it’s too hard!”). How do (or would) you handle this reluctance?

A: Try and make it a game. And say, “Just one more word, and then I’ll do a word.”

Q: A friend tells you that their child has said, “Reading is stupid! I hate it!” What advice would you offer your friend?

A: Tell the child, “Mommy and Daddy like reading and we don’t think it’s stupid. Let’s try reading together.”

Q: As adults, we understand that reading is important. As if you were speaking to a six-year-old, explain the importance of reading.

A: Reading helps us meet cool people and go to neat places. Without reading we can’t figure out where we are or how to put things together. We need to be able to read to have fun and to do our best in school.

Q: What are your top three favorite children’s books?

A: “Green Eggs and Ham” (Dr. Seuss); “Raising Dragons” (Jerdine Nolen); and “Please, Baby, Please” (Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee)

Q: Your son is likely still in the age group that still demands repetition. How do you handle the “read it again!” dilemma that so many parents dread?

A: We read it twice, maybe three times and then Daddy says, “That’s enough for now, let’s try another book.”

Q: Describe some of the media “tricks of the trade” that you use to make reading more interesting for your children.

A: Making sound effects, using different voices, and asking them to say the words if it’s a story they know.


  • CINE Golden Eagle Award
  • New York Festivals TV Finalist
  • 2006 IRA Broadcast Media Award for Television
  • Telly Awards Bronze Medal Winner


Introduction: Empowering Parents

Al Roker: Raising kids is a hard job, but does it have to be this hard?

Debbie Gaw: I said, “Tyler, what’s the matter?” And he said, “Mom, I’m stupid. I can’t read.”

Al: For any parent, it’s heartbreaking to see your child struggle at school.

J.T.: R- a-, real? Teams?

Al: But not knowing how to help might be even worse.

Jennifer Simpson: I should have been the one saying, “Hey, you need to do more for my son. You’re not giving him what he deserves.”

Al: For almost 40% of our kids, learning to read is a real challenge. Most parents wait too long to get help.

Dr. Julie Washington: If you have a child who is having trouble, early intervention is critical because children will be left behind.

Al: We’ll show you how to identify some early signs of reading problems and we’ll offer ideas for getting your kids the help and support they need.

Jennifer Young: Every kid’s gotta make it. Whether it’s my kid or your kid, they gotta make it.

Al: Empowering Parents, a Reading Rockets special, is funded by the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education programs.

Al: Hi. I’m Al Roker. By day, I’m a weatherman, but at night, I’m a big red dog, a star-belly sneetch, even Pippi Longstocking. In other words, I’m a dad. And I love reading to my kids. I’d like to think they enjoy it, too.

Al: But what happens when it comes time for children to learn to read for themselves? If reading comes easily, then the joy continues. But if it’s a struggle, reading can turn into a nightmare.

Al: Today, we’ll look at what you can do to help the struggling reader in your life.

Fighting For Your Child

Emiliann: (reading) One day, the man down the hall called us. His dog had puppies.

Al: Seems pretty unremarkable, right? A mom and a dad listen to their daughter read. Happens all the time! But this moment was a long time coming for Jennifer Simpson.

Al: Emiliann is in the second grade, and she’s finally starting to enjoy reading.

Jennifer: The happiest moment of my life is watching Emiliann read to her sister or to me or her dad.

Al: But the feeling is bittersweet. Emiliann’s success hasn’t come easily. Jennifer struggled with Emiliann’s first school and even moved her family to a new district before she found what Emiliann needed.

Al: And how did she know what to look for in a school? That’s the bittersweet part of the story.

Keith: I don’t like reading at all. Just cause I…It frustrates me to read. And I choose not to read anything.

Al: She’s been through this before — with her 19-year old son, Keith.

Jennifer: When I put him in kindergarten, he still couldn’t learn his alphabet. So, we said, “Okay. Let’s put him in first grade and see what happens.” And he repeated the first grade because he had such a difficult time even grasping what first grade was all about.

Al: Jennifer talked with Keith’s teachers, and — like a lot of parents — she thought the school would take care of him.

Jennifer: I thought they were doing exactly, you know, what they told me they were going to do. Didn’t always happen, and wasn’t very smart in finding out that it wasn’t going on, ‘cause you tend to trust your teachers and the vice principal and the people that, you know, you give your child to teach.

Al: Keith never got the help he needed. He finished high school, and he’s hoping to become a chef one day, but he’s never become a truly fluent reader.

Jennifer: Is he embarrassed by it? Yes. Is he mad at himself? Yes, ‘cause he thinks he could’ve done something more. And it shouldn’t have been on him. He was the child. I was the parent. I should’ve fought for him, and I didn’t know I could.

Al: So when Jennifer noticed Emiliann having speech problems in preschool, she took action immediately.

Jennifer: I got her tested. I wasn’t gonna fail this one like I failed my first.

Al: Jennifer Simpson was finally on the right track. While older readers like Keith can get help, one of the best things a parent can do is recognize signs of trouble early.

Warning Signs

Al: Bryana Hargrow was waving a red flag for reading problems at eight months old. That’s when her mother found out Bryanna was hearing impaired.

Carlotta Gore: Bryana was born prematurely, so they took a hearing test at birth, and she passed the test. So, we did a follow-up when she was about eight or nine months, and that’s when I found out that she had a hearing loss.

Al: From the moment they’re born, our kids send us signals about how hard reading may be for them — in the way they speak, the way they listen, the way they respond to us. It’s our job as parents to watch for warning signs, like these.

Dr. Julie Washington: Speech and hearing impairments are of critical concern when children are learning to read because, of course, we teach reading using sound.

Al: Carlotta is meeting with Dr. Julie Washington, a researcher at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Washington: Will she read easily? No. It’s gonna be work. It’s gonna to be work for you. It’s gonna to be work for her, and it’s gonna to require the cooperation of a lot of professionals.

Al: Carlotta got help for Bryana right away. The decision was tough, but she decided that Bryana would have surgery to receive a cochlear hearing implant. Then, she took advantage of every available early learning opportunity — from Head Start to summer programs at the university. And she’s watched Bryana carefully for problems.

Dr. Washington: There are a number of possible signs as a child is entering kindergarten that may signal that they’re gonna have some difficulty in reading: a child who comes to school with a poor vocabulary, who doesn’t really seem to comprehend directions, a child who can’t follow the classroom routine. A child who doesn’t seem to be able to interact with peers — those are all signs that a child may have difficulty.

Al: If Bryana has difficulty learning her numbers, her letters, and her sounds — or with rhyming — Carlotta would be right to be concerned.

Dr. Washington: Children who are having difficulty in kindergarten are very likely to still be having difficulty in third grade, so that indicators like being able to recognize all the letters of the alphabet is a strong predictor of reading ability. And so if you have a child who knows half of the letters at the end of kindergarten, I don’t think that the appropriate response is, “He’ll learn the other 13 in first grade,” — that’s one of those red flags — that a child who is having difficulty even identifying the letters will be a child who is going to have difficulty with the next level.

Al: As your child moves up in to first and second grade, there are some new things to watch for.

Dr. Washington: You start seeing some trouble with some of those kids with remembering things that they’ve learned. And so every time we sit down, it seems like we’ve never done this before. That’s a real red flag that you have a child who is having difficulty learning, and that child almost a hundred percent of the time is gonna have trouble with reading.

Al: Once your child’s class begins reading, watch carefully. Is your child in the lowest reading group? Does he hate to read aloud? Does he struggle to sound out words? These are all signs that your child might have a real problem learning to read.

Al: But how worried should a mom or a dad really be when their six- or seven-year-old is a little behind? What’s the big deal?

Dr. Washington: Early intervention is key. We don’t want parents to think that if your child is identified at nine or ten, that they’re doomed, because they’re not. There’s a lot that we can do at those ages, but the job of the professional, the parent, and the child is made easier by early intervention.

Al: Once you’ve realized your child is struggling, it’s time to look for help. But sometimes that can be hard. Schools can be intimidating, even for parents.

Understanding Your Child

Rick Lavoie: This is a pair of what? What are these?

Al: Rick Lavoie has worked with kids with reading problems for more than 30 years. But today he’s working with their parents.

Al: He wants to help them understand what it feels like to be a struggling reader…to understand what their kids go through everyday. In this exercise, they’re trying to read jumbled text.

Leslie Bachman: That’s been on the floor.

Rick: We have to what? C’mon, Leslie.

Leslie: Pick up…

Rick: Pick up what?

Leslie: This corn? We?

Rick: There’s no question mark on my page.

Rick: Imagine how you’d feel if you had a job where you couldn’t do most of what you were asked to do, you didn’t particularly like the people you worked for, you didn’t particularly get along with the people you worked with, and you had to go and do that every day, six hours a day. You’d be pretty unhappy by the end of the day, too. And kids go to school for a living, and this child is failing at his job.

Al: It sounds pretty serious. And it is.

Rick: Parents sometimes worry that they’re overreacting when their child isn’t reading at first — in first or second grade. There’s really — it’s really not possible to overreact to that. It’s a fairly serious thing from the child’s point of view.

Al: Parent Carmen Reynolds…

Carmen Reynolds: It’s heartbreaking. And once they fall through the cracks, it’s really hard to get them back on the right track.

Rick: You see a disproportionate number of kids with learning problems and reading problems in populations of kids with suicidal behavior, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, self-destructive behavior. So, if we don’t get on it and begin this process early, with early identification and early remediation when they get into school, that’s the price you pay later on down the line.

Al: Of course, the situation is though for parents, as well.

Rick: And parents go through this whole series of emotions that consist of things like anger and isolation and guilt and many of the same stages, frankly, that you go through when you’re dealing with a death.

Al: Many days, just getting your child dressed and off to school can be overwhelming.

Al: Parent Debbie Gaw…

Debbie Gaw: He was very anxious one morning, and I said to him, he’s getting ready for school, putting on his coat, and I said, “Tyler, what’s the matter?” And he said, “Mom, I’m stupid. I can’t read.” So that’s when I really felt like, you know, “I have to do something for him.” It just affects their whole life.

Rick: The reality is you need to stand up for your child. He’s not old enough or capable at this point to advocate for himself. You do need to stand up. It is uncomfortable sometimes, but you’ve got a right to ask questions. You’ve got a right to receive those answers. And so I - my advice to parents is you need to sorta toughen up and recognize that your child needs you.

Al: There’s one more thing you need to know before you step up to help your child, and that’s this: what exactly do you want for your child? What does good reading instruction actually look like?

Good Instruction

Ms. Darby: Let’s do the next letter. Draven, you gonna tell me the middle letter?

Al: We found one good example in Portland, Oregon.

Ms. Darby: “Z.” What sound does “z” make?

Kids: /z/.

Al: Meet Ms. Darby. She’s a Kindergarten teacher here at Metzger Elementary.

Ms. Darby: So we have “g,” “o,” “z.”

Al: Kindergarten is a critical time for developing early reading skills, sometimes by using nonsense words.

Ms. Darby: If you change the last letter, how can you turn it into a real word?

Kid: A “t”! “Got”!

Al: One of the hard parts about teaching Kindergarten is that kids come in at all different levels. Metzger handles that by assessing each student on a regular basis.

Julie: The name of this letter is “q.” Say the name with me. Ready?

Kids: “Q.”

Julie: What is the name of this letter? Ready?

Al: Some kids are already at risk. Kids who don’t know their letters have trouble with rhyming or who may speak a language other than English. They get an extra dose of small group instruction everyday.

Julie: Everyone find the letter “x”…

Al: The instruction is very explicit. Ms. Retzlaff helps the kids break the 26-letter code of our alphabet by being very clear with them about what each letter looks and sounds like.

Julie: And I’m gonna go left around the queen and way down her staff. Now you guys are gonna trace the letter “q.”

Al: So when you’re trying to figure out if a school is doing a good job, here are two questions to start with: one, do they assess all students regularly? And two, is the instruction explicit?

Al: In first grade, Metzger continues to teach the five elements of good reading instruction. They teach phonemic awareness, helping children understand that the language we speak is made up of individual sounds.

Marizah: y - e - t

Ms. Zinn: Lock.

Marizah: l - o - k

Al: They teach phonics, the concept that letters represent sounds.

Kids: Ch - i - r - ped.

Ms. Pulver: Say it fast.

Kids: Chirped.

Al: They teach fluency, how to read smoothly and with expression. They teach vocabulary. And they teach comprehension, the ability to understand and interpret what you read.

Teacher: Brooke, what else do you know about Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Brooke: He…um…was a minister.

Al: These are all stills that parents, with practice, can reinforce at home.

Father: What’s this word?

Marizah: S — so the…

Father: So…

Al: At Metzger, the first job is to divide the kids into flexible groups based on their reading level. That way, they’re challenged and also achieve some success every day. Mrs. Pulver’s students are working to catch up with their first grade peers.

Ms. Pulver: Marizah, what does “fond” mean?

Marizah: It means you really like somethin’ a lot.

Ms. Pulver: You really like something…

Al: For kids who struggle, even in Ms. Pulver’s group, teacher assistant Marilyn Peterson uses a much more basic curriculum, with more opportunities to practice basic skills.

Ms. Peterson: Go.

Kid: “Kite.” “Hope.” “Hop.”

Ms. Peterson: Start all over.

Kid: “Kite.” “Hop.” “Hope.” “Kit.”

Ms. Peterson: Perfect. Alright!

Al: For kids who are being, like J.T. Richardson, Metzger throws in an extra dose of reading, with one-on-one tutoring.

Al: While the rest of the class works on science or social studies, J.T. gets to review the lesson for the day. This book is at a good level for J.T., so the more he practices, the more comfortable he gets. Being able to read fluidly and automatically is critical to comprehension.

Ms. Peterson: Ready, set, go!

J.T.: Dina said, “Let’s bake cupcakes.” Jack said, “I hate to bake.” “Have you ever baked cupcakes, Jack?” asked Fran. “Grandad, can you help us?”

Beep. Beep.

J.T.: We bake.

Ms. Peterson: Wow! Oh my gosh. And you got in the word “bake” right at the time. Wow! Fifteen more words. High five. High five. On the side. Down low. Way to goooo, J.T.

Al: J.T. charts his progress every day, but while they continue to give him positive feedback, his teachers are concerned.

Teacher: …things are going.

Ms. Peterson: He’s a concern because there’s a marginal growth but it’s just totally not consistent.

Teacher: Okay.

Al: Every three months, Metzger’s school district comes in to do its own assessment of each child. That’s in addition to the weekly or biweekly assessments that the school does.

Ms. Zinn: Built.

J.T.: Built.

Pam Zinn: J.T. is a student that I would be concerned about. It’s the end of first grade. He still needs to sound all of his words out. He has a few words memorized, the basic sight words, but he still has a ways to go there.

Ms. Zinn: We are finished. Thank you very much.

Al: Dr. Roland Good of the University of Oregon worked to develop the assessment that Metzger uses.

Dr. Good: His progress is telling us that we have not yet found the level of support that he needs. And the child is always right. So, if the child is telling you, “I’m not getting enough support,” they’re right. And then we need to find a way to provide more support to him.

Al: At Metzger, they use flexible grouping, small groups, a variety of research-based teaching methods, a variety of interventions for struggling readers, and regular, ongoing assessment.

Al: But what happens when you’ve tried all that? What happens to a kid like J.T.?

Al: When the teacher’s assessment over time shows that a child is not responding to intervention, the school has a legal obligation to consider testing by a professional team to figure out what’s going on — why a child isn’t learning to read.

Teacher: Do you have any questions about what I’ve just talked to you about?

Teacher: Okay.

Al: As a parent, you have several options for testing. You can ask that the school perform the tests. You can pay to have it privately done. But one thing is constant: you have to educate yourself about the process. Jennifer Simpson brought in a parent advocate to help her understand.

Jennifer: I found out that I could get someone to help me decipher what the heck they were talking about, because when they brought in they were doing this test and this test and — I had no clue what these tests actually said.

Al: Diane Chesley is a parent advocate for the Learning Disabilities Association. She made a real difference in Jennifer’s discussions with Emiliann’s school.

Al: A lot of parents, however, aren’t able to find such support. That’s one reason informing yourself is so important. J.T.’s mother, Jennifer Richardson, is on her own. She meets with the Metzger team to hear J.T.’s results.

Leonetti: In J.T.’s case, I mean he got really nice scores — solid, average scores — yet we see a student that is struggling. His data that we’ve collected during the year, um, indicates that he is struggling.

Al: Together the team decides that the testing they’ve done isn’t comprehensive enough. His test results haven’t yet pinpointed the source of the problem — why J.T. continues to struggle with reading.

Special Ed Director: He’s had really good instruction and really intensive intervention, and he hasn’t responded to that.

Al: If your child goes through a round of testing, and the school doesn’t see a problem, you have the right to ask for further testing. If your child isn’t learning how to read, the school needs to try something different.

Al: Don’t accept explanations like, “He’s lazy,” “She’ll catch on eventually,” or “It’s just a developmental delay.”

Dr. Good: It’s not, “What are the reasons why we can’t do it?” but, “What more could we do?” The truth is we have the knowledge, we have the skills, we have the intervention to teach these skills to an extremely broad range of children. And we should not accept a reason why we are not teaching them. We should make sure that we teach them.

Reading and the Brain

Al: A lot of parents like J.T.’s mom wonder, “Why is this so hard for my child?” The answers aren’t clear, but scientists have discovered that the brain of a kid with reading problems handles reading differently than the brain of a strong reader.

Al: Nine-year-old Jonathan Brown-Berkey was a struggling and frustrated reader.

Brown-Berkey: Jonathan hated school. He had really good friends who were really smart and could really read and every morning we were getting ready for the school…”Do I have to?”

Al: Testing revealed the cause of Jonathan’s frustration — dyslexia, something his mother knows all too well…

Brown-Berkey: Growing up in Jamaica, nobody knew anything about dyslexia. It’s just that you were dumb. I didn’t believe I was dumb. I knew I was smart. I just couldn’t read.

Al: Enter Dr. Guinevere Eden, a researcher at Georgetown Medical School who is studying the biological signs of dyslexia.

Dr. Eden: Several studies have determined the differences in the brains of people with and without dyslexia. So the message there is we know it’s biologically based.

Al: By using MRI scans to map Jonathan’s brain activity, Dr. Eden and her colleagues can show how different areas of the brain react in struggling readers, like Jonathan.

Technician: Can you press that for me?

Dr. Eden: When typical readers do a phonological task, the left hemisphere activity is much more impressive than what we see in the right hemisphere. Then we compare that to people who have a history of dyslexia, and we find that they don’t activate those areas as strongly.

Al: Dr. Eden sees the potential for, one day, using MRIs to diagnose dyslexia very early in young children, but there’s more to these brain scans that just gathering data for the future.

Dr. Eden: One of the things about the brain research that I think actually helps these children is they come in for these studies. They get to see their brain, and we explain to them, “The reason you have struggled with the reading is because of something that’s a little bit different about your brain,” and we’re hoping that through reading interventions we’re going to make up for that difficulty.

Al: Jonathan understands that now. He received good intervention in time and it’s made a world of difference.

Brown-Berkey: Now, Jonathan loves school. Jonathan actually said to me one weekend — he can’t wait for Monday to come. I’m like, “Why?” He said, “So I can go to school.” I’m like, “Wow!” [laughter]

Emiliann’s IEP Team

Al: Back in Maryland, at Huntingtown Elementary, Emiliann Simpson finally got what she needed — a team of people committed to making sure she becomes a good reader.

Al: Here’s the lineup. At mom, we have…mom. Jennifer Simpson, who knows Emiliann better than anyone else. We have her parent advocate, Emilann’s homeroom teacher, her speech/language pathologist, and her special ed teacher. The assistant principal coordinates the team, and the head coach, overseeing all the players, is principal Ramona Crowley.

Al: Seven people may seem like a lot, but that’s what it takes to carry out a plan that meets all of Emiliann’s needs now that she’s been formally identified as a special education student.

Al: Today, assistant principal Jennifer Young has convened Emiliann’s year-end IEP meeting. An IEP is an individualized education plan required by law for any child in special education.

Jennifer Young: Okay, the first thing we’re going to do this morning is we’re going to review Emiliann’s progress.

Al: This meeting is a time to review her work for the year, talk about areas where she’s still struggling, and make plans for next year.

Jennifer Simpson: She still has problems when she reads a book to me, or to her sister. And I’m like, “Well, who was the one who went to the store?” And she has to actually physically go back and look at the pictures.

Voice: That’s what we’re working on. That’s the comprehension. I mean that is —

Jennifer Simpson: Right.

Voice: — the major part of the reading. We’re workin’ on that comprehension.

Al: In an IEP meeting you, as a parent, have the right to ask any question you want.

Jennifer Young: If the parent is not viewed as a true member of the IEP committee, then the IEP really is not servicing the full child. Schools can make decisions about educational programs, but the school is not the expert on the child. That’s the parent, and that input is critical and valued, and needs to be a part of the IEP team.

Al: Jennifer says she’s finally found people who can help Emiliann — and who will do whatever it takes to teach her to read.

Ms. Manley: Is there another one?

Emiliann: Everyone.

Ms. Manley: Everyone. Excellent, Emili. There’s another one.

Al: In her homeroom with Ms. Manley, Emiliann and her classmates work on learning new words.

Jennifer Young: One of the things we talked about with Emily Ann was that she really needs a double dose. She needs the thinking and processing skills that are provided in a general-education classroom setting, but she also needs work on her weaknesses.

Al: During her special ed time with Mrs. Scher, Emiliann gets extra practice in the basics like sounding out vowel dipthongs.

Ms. Scher: What does “a-w” say?

Emiliann: Ooo.

Ms. Scher: A-w.

Emiliann: Aw.

Ms. Scher: Good. Let’s try “e-w.”

Al: With Ms. Sayles, Emiliann gets concentrated attention on her language skills. Today she’s working on descriptive language.

Emiliann: She’s holding an umbrella. It is purple and the handle was brown.

Ms. Sayles: I heard some colors.

Al: Everyone’s happy to see Emiliann’s progress.

Ms. Sayles: Her overall goal was to improve her expressive language. And I must say that Emiliann is doing very well.

Jennifer Simpson: Yeah, her spelling has been phenomenal, because before, she couldn’t get — outta ten words, she’d get three. 7 But now, she’s doing — she’s bringing home, “Look, Mom. I got a hundred percent,” you know? And I’m like, “Woo-hoo!”

Al: The school will continue to monitor Emiliann regularly and adjust her instruction when they need to. And it looks like Emiliann is on her way.

Ms. Sayles: Super. Okay.

Jennifer Simpson: She still has an issue. She still has problems. They still have an IEP, but she likes to read now. She reads to her sister. They read things on the signs. She reads things on cereal boxes. Just things she would never even try, she does. That alone, makes me do cartwheels.

Al: In many schools, pulling together a team like Emiliann may be different. But your job is to keep searching for help — either inside the school or out — because so much is at stake.

Emiliann: (reading) But I love that little puppy.

Close & Credits

Al: I hope we’ve given you some tools to help make reading happen for your child.

Al: And, remember, one of the most important things we can do for your children is to instill a love of reading. Read engaging stories with them everyday, even if you’ve said goodnight to the moon a thousand and one times. Let them see you reading for pleasure. And with the right help, one day your children will feel that love of reading all on their own.

Debbie Gaw: He was so excited about the story. He loved the story, and you could see the look on his face and I said to him, “Excuse me, are you reading for pleasure?” And he laughed and he gave me a hug. And we finally got to that point.

Al: For more information about getting your kids help with reading, please visit us on the web at

Al: Launching Young Readers: Empowering Parents is funded by the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education programs.