The Literacy Imperative: How Research-Informed Literacy Instruction Can Engender Democracy & Civic Participation

Share this post:

David Abel talks with Dr. Timothy Shanahan about the state of literacy in US schools and what the research is telling us to do differently.

While listening to this episode, you’ll learn about:

  • What surprised Dr. Shanahan about the way teachers reacted to the Common Core State Standards
  • Why using a standards-aligned curriculum doesn’t take away teacher autonomy
  • The idea of literacy and how Dr. Shanahan defines it
  • How ensuring all students are literate is critical to a democracy
  • The myths that prevail in teaching literacy despite research that suggests otherwise
  • What “tastes” good in literacy instruction even though we know (through research) it doesn’t get good results
  • The story behind the idea of teaching a student at their “instructional level” and why it doesn’t work as well as other methods

Dr. Timothy Shanahan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and former director of reading for the Chicago Public Schools. He is author/editor of more than 200 publications, and served on the author team of the Common Core State Standards. Professor Shanahan is past president of the International Literacy Association. He was inducted to the Reading Hall of Fame in 2007, and is a former first-grade teacher. For more information, visit his blog:

Listen to the Podcast



Something to Reflect on from the Episode

  • “In Chicago, we lose something like 5-7% of the ballots every election due to people just making reading mistakes. You know, it says mark two candidates and they mark three – just doing things that don’t follow the rules because they can’t understand what is put before them. They’re losing their franchise.”


If you enjoyed this episode of the UnboundEd Podcast and want to hear more, please follow us on Soundcloud. And let us know what you think by adding a review on iTunes.