Hello, I am Carolyn Brown, the co-founder of Foundations in Learning and the Chief Academic Officer of the company. WordFlight was developed by Foundations in Learning. I’m also an adjunct professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Iowa. Like so many others, I am committed to improving literacy for all students.

This commitment started for me as a young girl growing up in a farming community in rural New Mexico. It was obvious to me as an elementary student that access to language and literacy was not equal. With my mother as a model, I came to understand that reading was the critical gateway to educational equity for all children.

My work’s focus has been on developing robust early foundational skills that allow children to gain access to the wonderful world of words, language, and learning—through both oral and written language. Over the past several decades, I have been extraordinarily lucky to create and collaborate with co-founder (and husband) Jerry Zimmermann, along with world-class scientists and researchers from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa, and hundreds of students, teachers, and administrators.

A key difference in our work is understanding how students learn – not just what must be taught or learned. It both complements and expands the science of reading instruction. We also incorporate the science of learning—decades of research in multiple disciplines. The science of learning holds compelling findings that directly impact the process of learning to read. By applying these same learning principles to reading development, we can evaluate how they drive development of critical brain pathways for memory storage, retrieval, and generalization.

What we’ve learned over a decade of development and testing is we can use technology to test and implement these findings. We can provide structured practice that gives children targeted and individualized practice on exactly the foundational skills they need to build these pathways. This allows us to reach children who struggle because of specific reading difficulties, those who are learning English, or those who come to school without the foundational experiences in language and literacy available to some children. We have used this same framework to develop and validate a diagnostic tool (WordFlight) that shows teachers what children know and how they can use their knowledge to read.

This blog series will start with a discussion of the transition from foundational reading skills to fluency—highlighting how structured practice at the right time helps students move from acquisition of knowledge to automatic and fluent use. We will share science that focuses on the essential importance of automatic word recognition, a precursor to fluency. And we’ll examine how the science of reading and the science of learning work together to impact more students. WordFlight allows visibility into each student’s reading development journey from decoding to automatic word recognition to fluency. I’m eager to share with you the research that underpins WordFlight along with student results.

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