A Tale of Two Schools Bearden Elementary Walton Elementary
The Documentary The Challenge Get Involved
About Reading Rockets

Our Mission

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia project that looks at how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help them. Reading Rockets includes:

The National Institutes of Health estimates that one in five children has serious difficulties learning how to read. These children are potentially among the most troubled kids in society. With early identification and a lot of help, however, children who struggle to read can flourish; without it they are at risk for failure in school and in life.

Since 1965, the federal government has invested more than $100 million to find out why so many children have problems learning to read and what can be done. Thanks to that research, we now know how to identify children at risk and how to help them before they fail.

Now the challenge is to spread the word — to parents, teachers, tutors, Head Start providers, school administrators, and everyone else who touches the life of a child.

Reading Rockets is a service of WETA, the public television station of Washington, D.C. It is funded by a major grant from the US Department of Education. To download a two-page flyer describing the project, click here .

About the Project

The Reading Rockets project is a national initiative that disseminates research-based information helping children learn to read. The project includes:

  • A five-part PBS television series called Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers

    Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers is a series of five half-hour television programs that began airing on public television stations nationwide in October 2002. See the About the Television Series page to read the series overview, to download the free print guides, or to find videotape and DVD pricing and ordering information.

  • A one-hour documentary for public television called A Tale of Two Schools

    A Tale of Two Schools is an intimate, "Hoop Dreams"-style documentary produced for public television for fall 2003. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the program looks closely at how two schools — and two dedicated teachers — are taking on the challenge of teaching young kids to read. We filmed for a school year at Walton Elementary, an inner city school in Fort Worth, Texas and Bearden Elementary, a rural school in the Mississippi Delta.

  • An extensive Web site that is updated daily

    The Reading Rockets Web site (www.readingrockets.org) is updated daily and offers comprehensive information on helping young children learn to read. The site is for parents, teachers, and other caring adults. It contains research-based articles on teaching kids to read and helping those who struggle; daily news headlines about reading; monthly recommended children's books; exclusive interviews with top children's book authors and illustrators; forums for sharing ideas and thoughts about kids and reading; and links to national and local literacy organizations and resources.

    Reading Rockets also has a "home away from home" on pbs.org, one of the most visited Web sites on the Internet. The "Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers" (www.pbs.org/launchingreaders/) Web site is a companion to our five-part television series. It provides parents with easy information on how children learn to read including an overview of the stages of reading and interviews with some of the nation's top reading experts; free e-cards — with artwork by famous children's book authors and illustrators — that parents and teachers can send to motivate kids with messages like, "I can't wait to read with you again"; and Parent Tips, divided by grade level.

    Our Web sites have won numerous awards. The Reading Rockets site has been given an A++ rating from Education World. The Launching Young Readers site has been named Site of the Week by School Library Journal and eSchool News, and was also a Cool Site of the Day.

  • A national outreach campaign in partnership with some of the country's foremost education associations

    "Take Me to Your Reader" is the name of our extensive, national outreach effort. It aims to spread the word about research-based reading strategies through partnerships with major educational organizations. Among our partners are the following:

    • American Association of School Administrators
    • American Federation of Teachers
    • American Library Association
    • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
    • Council for Exceptional Children
    • Council for Learning Disabilities
    • Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children
    • International Dyslexia Association
    • International Reading Association
    • Learning Disabilities Association of America
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children
    • National Association of School Psychologists
    • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
    • National Black Child Development Institute
    • National Center for Family Literacy
    • National Center for Latinos with Disabilities
    • National Center for Learning Disabilities
    • National Education Association
    • National PTA
    • Reading Is Fundamental
    • Schwab Learning
    • Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers, A Project of the PACER Center
    • The National Easter Seal Society
    • Urban Special Education Collaborative
    • Zero to Three (National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families)

  • A new mentoring project called "First Year Teacher"

    Reading Rockets will launch a new project in August 2003 called "First Year Teacher" that will provide teachers with some of the tools they need to survive their first year of teaching. The service will be offered primarily to inexperienced teachers of kindergarten through second grade and will focus on providing new teachers with training in teaching reading. It will include video programs, an e-mail newsletter, and Web support. In the Washington, D.C. area, it will also include workshops and one-on-one consultation. See the About First Year Teacher page to find out how you can become a part of this effort.

  • A teleconference series for teacher professional development

    Reading Rockets will produce three new teleconferences for teachers for the 2003-04 school year. The teleconferences will cover strategies for teaching reading to English Language Learners, how parents can assess their child's needs and work collaboratively with teachers and school administrators to address their child's difficulties with reading, and how to establish an effective reading program. See the About the Teleconferences page for more information as we finalize details about dates, panelists, and topics.

    Reading Rockets' first three teleconferences were broadcast in the 2001-02 school year in collaboration with the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE). Videotapes from the taping of these teleconferences are now available for purchase. The 90-minute programs provide teachers with concrete strategies for improving reading skills in young children in grades K-3. They feature some of the country's most renowned reading experts, including Marilyn Jager Adams, Maryanne Wolf, Sharon Vaughn, Michael Pressley, Anne Marie Palincsar, John T. Guthrie, Phyllis Hunter, and Peggy McCardle. The programs are: Individual Strategies for Reading Instruction, Small Group Strategies for Reading Instruction, and Whole Class Strategies for Reading Instruction. See the About the Teleconferences page for program descriptions and videotape ordering information.

  • Print guides for viewers, educators, and families

    Reading Rockets has published three print guides that anyone is welcome to download from our Web site at no charge. The three publications include a Viewers' Guide (which accompanies our five-part television series), a Family Guide (in both Spanish and English), and a Teachers' Guide. The guides provide parents and teachers with friendly and sound information on helping kids learn to read at home and at school.

Advisory Panel

Reading Rockets is advised by some of the top reading experts in the country.

  • Dr. Lynn Fuchs
    Vanderbilt University, Department of Special Education
  • Dr. Edward Kame'enui
    University of Oregon, College of Education
  • Dr. Louisa Moats
    Former Director, NICHD Early Interventions Project
  • Dr. Annemarie Palincsar
    University of Michigan, Educational Studies
  • Dr. Louise Spear-Swerling
    Southern Connecticut State University, Department of Special Education and Reading
  • Dr. Lee Swanson
    University of California, Riverside, School of Education
  • Dr. Joanna Williams
    Columbia University, Teachers College


Reading Rockets is funded by a major grant from the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. We are seeking both corporate and private support to expand and maximize its reach and impact.

About WETA

WETA is the flagship public broadcasting station in the nation's capital. Its productions and co-productions include The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Washington Week, the On Stage performance series, and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including The Civil War and Baseball. WETA TV 26 and 90.9 FM serve Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia with educational, informational, cultural, and public affairs programming and related services. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO of WETA, which is the third-largest producing station in the public broadcasting system. See the WETA Web site at www.weta.org for more information.

The founder of WETA, Elizabeth Campbell, has said that there are three great educational institutions in this country: public schools, public libraries, and public television. Of these, only public television has the power to send educational messages quickly and efficiently to millions of people. WETA has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to addressing the needs of children, particularly children at risk. Forty-two percent of our television schedule is dedicated to high quality, non-commercial, educational programming for children and we carry out an extensive local literacy outreach program, Ready to Learn.

Our sister site, LD OnLine (www.ldonline.org), is the foremost Web site in the field of learning disabilities, recording more than one million page views every month. LD OnLine has received major awards and national press attention. USA Today, for example, called the site "a very nicely organized, information-packed resource for parents and teachers of children with learning disabilities — and for the kids themselves."

Project Staff

  • Noel Gunther
    Executive Director
  • Latrice Seals
    Research Director
  • Susan Petroff
    Director, National Partner Relations
  • Pamela McKeta
    Director, Reading Rockets Web Site
  • Christian Lindstrom
    Producer, A Tale of Two Schools
  • Keisha Dyson
    Associate Producer, A Tale of Two Schools
  • B. Dwight Perry
    Senior Advisor
  • Jessica Snyder
    Web Associate
  • David Meissner
    Content Associate
  • Jessica Burkhalter
    Reading Mentor
  • Thanh Bui
    Project Associate, Graphic Designer
  • Erika Robinson
    Production Coordinator
  • Bonnie Massimino
    Educational Consultant

Biographical Information

Noel Gunther is the executive director of Reading Rockets, and has overseen the project since its inception. He comes to the project with broad experience in radio, television, print, and the Internet. He has co-written and co-produced five documentaries distributed by National Public Radio and Public Radio International. Those programs won many national awards, including: "Good Morning Vietnam with Adrian Cronauer" (Gold Award, Best Culture/ Arts Program, Intl Radio Festival of New York; Ohio State Award); "American Voices: Norman Corwin with Charles Kuralt" (Grand Award, Best Documentary Program, International Radio Festival of New York); "Gray Matters: Depression with Mike Wallace" (Gold Award, International Radio Festival of New York); "Drugs, Alcohol and the Brain with Pat Summerall" (Gold Cindy Award, best documentary, International CINDY Competition; Grand Award, Best Informational Program, International Radio Festival of New York).

For television, Gunther served as executive producer and segment producer of "Exploring Your Brain with Garrick Utley," a five-part series distributed by APT that won a Freddie Award at the International Health and Medical film Competition and a Silver Cindy Award. For the Internet, Gunther created and developed the LD OnLine Web site, which since 1996 has been the leading Web site in the field of learning disabilities. LD OnLine won a Clarion Award in 1998 as the best non-profit Web site in the country. Gunther is co-author of "Beyond Boardwalk and Park Place"(Bantam Books), which was named by the New York Public Library as one of the best young adult books of the year. He has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice, Washingtonian, American Journalism Review and many other publications.

Latrice M. Seals is the research director of Reading Rockets. Prior to joining Reading Rockets, Latrice was with the University of Texas' Center for Academic and Reading Skills in Houston, which is headed by Dr. Barbara R. Foorman. She was lead researcher on a secondary study ( The Vocabulary Enrichment Program ) within the NIH-funded grant entitled, Early Interventions for Children with Reading Problems . She was also responsible for conducting pre-service and in-service teacher training, as well as providing in-classroom support and mentoring to teachers at research sites in Houston, Texas and Washington, D.C.

Latrice is primary author of the curricula: The Vocabulary Enrichment Program: Grade 3 and The Vocabulary Enrichment Program: Grade 4 . She has written several manuscripts and co-authored a book chapter entitled "Language Development and Emergent Literacy in Preschool," which can be found in Ian Butler's Language Development & Disorders in Childhood , a special issue of Seminars in Pediatric Neurology . In addition, Latrice has co-authored a chapter entitled "Vocabulary Enrichment Program for Third and Fourth Grade African-American Students: Description, Implementation, and Impact" which will appear in the upcoming book, Preventing and Remediating Reading Difficulties: Bringing Science to Scale .

Latrice has extensive experience working with school administrators, teachers, tutors, and, of course, young readers.

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Photo Credit for Bearden Elementary: Maude Schuyler Clay
Photo Credit for Walton Elementary: Chris Hamilton

Produced by WETA Reading Rockets