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NH offering free training on teaching kids to read, in hopes of improving childhood literacy

Bookshelves cover a wall. Above the shelves to the top left of the picture is a sign that says "teen reads."
Olivia Richardson
The Goffstown Public Library teen reads section.

New Hampshire parents and educators can sign up for free training on the science of reading, part of an ongoing effort to address growing concerns about literacy levels among the state's elementary students.

The Department of Education says over 3,300 people are already participating in the courses, offered through Lexia LETRS, and registration is open for new cohorts in 2024.

The training comes as parents, lawmakers and others raise concerns over the state’s declining reading scores and the use of outdated teaching methods. Some of these methods have been popularized by Portsmouth-based Heinemann Publishing and are common in schools throughout the U.S., including in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire students’ reading and math scores peaked in 2013 and have been sinking for most grades since then. The latest standardized test scores show about half of the state’s fourth graders are not proficient in reading.

New Hampshire is one of about 30 states that is offering Lexia LETRS training on the science of reading, according to Carol Tolman, who helped to develop the LETRS co-authors. The training includes different tracks for early childhood educators, elementary educators and administrators, and it covers topics including phonics, phonology (patterns and units of sound), and the science of how kids learn to read.

Tolman says New Hampshire’s free course offerings are reaching a wider variety of people than in most states, because they’re open to all adults working with kids, including parents, guardians and homeschool instructors.

“It's the information and knowledge that we need our teachers, educators, administrators to understand in order to best teach how to read, how to write, and how to deal with students when they don't respond well to that great instruction,” she says.

The courses are being paid for with federal COVID relief funds aimed at addressing learning loss during the pandemic. According to state education officials, over 80 school districts are participating in the programs, with Manchester, Nashua, Salem, Merrimack, and Derry each sending over a hundred staff.

The link to sign up for cohorts in 2024 can be found here.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.