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Gov. DeWine's 'Science of Reading' program begins roll out to Ohio schools

Governor Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) announces the ReadOhio program at a school in Columbus.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) announces the ReadOhio program at a school in Columbus.

Some Ohioans might remember learning to read by "sounding out" letters, as phonics used to be widely taught in schools. But that approach lost favor during the 1980s, giving way to “whole language” teaching, “balanced literacy” and other reading techniques that involve recognition of words themselves and their placement in context.

But what’s old is new again.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is praising the statewide launch of ReadOhio, a new statewide literacy initiative designed to improve reading skills for all ages. It uses the Science of Reading, an approach to literacy based on scientific testing that includes phonics and phonetical awareness but is taught in a more dynamic way.

“The Science of Reading refers to the research that has been conducted for decades by scientists and reading researchers that shows there is an actual science to reading. And certain reading skills need to be taught and that certainly includes phonics,” DeWine said.

The Ohio Department of Education’s statistics show 40% percent of Ohio’s third graders are not proficient in reading. DeWine said many older students and adults struggle with reading too so the initiative will provide online resources that anyone can access on the Read Ohio website.

“It’s not going to be done overnight but we are going to be pushing it because we understand the importance of it,” DeWine said.

More than 30 states have implemented the Science of Reading into their literacy curricula, starting with Mississippi in 2013. That state, which had some of the lowest literacy test results in the nation, saw dramatic improvements in reading scores.

The new state budget includes $26 million to pay for materials associated with the Science of Reading. Some schools are already using that program. The state will pay for literacy coaches who will train teachers in the method. There will also be programming online for families and adults who need to improve their literacy skills.

DeWine said his office will continue to focus on getting children enrolled in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Ohio. Enrolled children get one free book a month from birth to 5 years old. Currently, more than 85% of eligible Ohio kids are participating in the program.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.