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The People Teaching People Podcast Episode 25: Unlocking the Power of Reading with Dr. Marnie Ginsberg

025: Unlocking the Power of Reading with Dr. Marnie Ginsberg

In this episode, join Dr. Marnie Ginsberg and I for a dynamic discussion. We’ll delve into her inspiring journey that led to her impactful work and explore collaborative approaches for parents and educators to support students who are learning to read. Discover innovative strategies to make reading more engaging and enjoyable, bridging the gap between traditional teaching methods and modern, captivating approaches.

Dr. Marnie Ginsberg is the founder of Reading Simplified, whose mission is to support busy, overwhelmed teachers learn a research-based system of effective and efficient instruction that accelerates all students’ reading achievement. Marnie’s surprise at finding so many of the middle school students in her classroom reading well below their grade, spurred a passion for finding and disseminating solutions. What followed included private tutoring, university research, the creation of an evidence-based reading program, and ultimately the development of Reading Simplified.


Listen in as we talk about:

[2:30] The journey that led Marnie into her work

[10:20] How parents and educators can help students who are learning to read

[15:50] Innovative and practical ways to make reading more fun and engaging

[21:10] How educators and parents can improve their own teaching practices

[26:35] Effective strategies to support struggling readers and help them to thrive

[32:15] Reading as both an art and a science

[37:05] Marnie’s favourite teacher

[41:25] Marnie answers some rapid fire questions


Connect with Dr. Marnie:


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Dr. Marnie Ginsberg, of Reading Simplified,  working with a student on their reading.

The main factors contributing to students’ struggles with learning to read in the English-speaking world stem from flawed instructional choices made by adults over the past four decades. Research has increasingly shown how the brain learns to read and the importance of phonemic awareness – the ability to recognize individual sounds in spoken language. Effective reading instruction should connect these sounds to written symbols (letters), such as associating “c” with the word “cat.” It’s a gradual process of building neural processes on top of existing language knowledge.

Understanding that letters represent sounds allows beginners to decode words like “show” by recognizing that “sh” represents the “sh” sound, and “o” represents the “ow” sound. Once this connection is established, reading becomes more fluent, and students rapidly recognize and comprehend words, leading to a lifelong reading ability. However, many English-speaking countries’ educational systems have failed to align with this scientifically validated approach, leading to debates on how children should be taught to read. The “science of reading” movement, catalyzed by figures like Emily Hanford, aims to bridge the gap between scientific research and reading instruction, emphasizing the importance of sound-based decoding in early reading development.


Quote by Dr. Marnie Ginsberg: "Reading is an essential and expansive part of our lives."


“Reading is an essential and expansive part of our lives.”

One effective approach to making reading instruction engaging and successful for students is to focus on their rapid success in reading. This involves changing activities frequently during the more laborious stages of reading instruction to prevent boredom and maintain engagement. One practical and engaging activity mentioned is “Switch It,” which involves using a dry erase board with lines representing sounds at the bottom and letter sound cards at the top. Students manipulate these cards to create and change words, helping them tune into the differences in sounds and letters within words. This activity promotes phonemic awareness and the understanding of how sounds and symbols align in words. It’s a game-like approach that makes learning enjoyable while effectively teaching the foundational skills needed for reading.

Additionally, incorporating highly educational activities that students perceive as games can be a winning strategy. The goal is to offer engaging activities that inspire students while also introducing teachers to a different approach, especially if they come from educational backgrounds where the importance of phonics and decoding was minimized. By showing quick progress through fun and interactive activities, students are more likely to stay engaged and motivated in their reading instruction.


Dr. Marnie Ginsberg speaking to an audience about her program, Reading Simplified


There is both an art and a science when it comes to reading. The art really comes down to getting to know our kids and students and building relationships with them. Then, the scientifically researched strategies can be implemented in a way that best meets each individual’s child’s needs and where they are at on their own learning journey. 

Educators and parents can significantly enhance their teaching practices and, in turn, improve student outcomes by focusing on two key areas. First, it’s essential to align teaching methods with reading science, particularly in teaching children how to decode words and develop fluency. This involves helping students connect sounds with print, practice decoding, and receiving constructive feedback. Utilizing effective strategies, like the “Switch It” game, can make learning enjoyable and efficient during the initial stages of reading instruction.

Secondly, there needs to be a paradigm shift regarding reading comprehension. Instead of viewing reading solely as a skill or strategy to be practiced in isolation, educators and parents should prioritize systematically building knowledge. Reading comprehension is closely tied to the reader’s existing knowledge base, so fostering a broad range of knowledge on various topics is crucial. This approach involves creating coherence in the curriculum and ensuring that students acquire both knowledge and reading strategies simultaneously. By immersing students in themed units of study and connecting concepts, vocabulary, and people within these units, educators and parents can empower students to comprehend and engage with a wide array of texts effectively.



Supporting struggling readers, including those with dyslexia, requires effective strategies and early intervention. Research shows that even significantly challenged readers with dyslexia can catch up to grade level with intensive instruction. The key is to identify struggling readers early, ideally in kindergarten, and provide targeted intervention based on their specific needs.

Many struggling readers, especially those with dyslexia, have difficulties with sound-based decoding. Addressing this issue requires specialized instruction that focuses on developing strong sound-symbol relationships. Programs like Reading Simplified excel in improving sound-based decoding skills, although it may take longer for students with dyslexia to achieve proficiency. Additionally, some struggling readers may face language comprehension challenges due to limited vocabulary or language processing issues. Educators and parents can help by engaging students in rich language experiences, vocabulary-building activities, intellectual conversations, and exposure to challenging books. For those with more severe language processing difficulties, involving a speech and language pathologist can be highly beneficial. Reading challenging books to children and discussing them can also enhance their language skills and comprehension.


  • What is something that you would love to learn about or something that you would love to learn how to do? Crocheting
  • What is a place that is at the top of your travel bucket list? An Alaskan cruise

  • What is a book, podcast, or TV show that you have enjoyed recently?

    • TV Show: Extraordinary Attorney Woo (on Netflix)
    • Podcast: Sold a Story – How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong with Emily Hanford
  • If you could sit down and have a conversation with someone that you would love to learn from, who would it be? Keith Stanovich and David Share

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