Louisa Moats

Louisa Moats earned a bachelor’s degree at Wellesley College in 1966, her master’s degree at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1969, and her Ed.D. from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1982, while working as a teacher and education consultant in neuropsychology at the New England Medical Center. After her doctorate she spent 13 years in private practice as a Licensed Psychologist in Vermont.

In 1996 she advised the California Reading Initiative for one year and in 1997 she became Co-Principal Investigator and the site director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Interventions Project in Washington, D.C. This included a longitudinal, large-scale project investigating the causes and remedies for reading failure in high-poverty urban schools working through the University of Texas at Houston.

In 2000, she published the first edition of her textbook, Speech to Print. In 2001, based on her experiences as an instructor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, St. Michael’s College in Vermont, the Dartmouth Medical School Department of Psychiatry, and the University of Texas, Houston, she developed LETRS, a collaboration between Sopris West Publishing, where she is Consulting Advisor for Literacy Research and Professional Development Sopris West Educational Services, and Lexia.

In 2008 Moats published a short report on Whole Language for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation entitled "Whole Language Lives On: The Illusion of Balanced Literacy."

Almost every premise advanced by whole language about how reading is learned has been contradicted by scientific investigations that have established the following facts:
· Learning to read is not a “natural” process. Most children must be taught to read through a structured and protracted process in which they are made aware of sounds and the symbols that represent them, and then learn to apply these skills automatically and attend to meaning.
· Our alphabetic writing system is not learned simply from exposure to print. Phonological awareness is primarily responsible for the ability to sound words out. The ability to use phonics and to sound words out, in turn, is primarily responsible for the development of context-free word-recognition ability, which in turn is primarily responsible for the development of the ability to read and comprehend connected text.
· Spoken language and written language are very different; mastery of each requires unique skills.
· The most important skill in early reading is the ability to read single words completely, accurately, and fluently.
· Context is not the primary factor in word recognition.

Despite overwhelming evidence, the reading field rushed to embrace unfounded whole-language practices between 1975 and 1995. The effects have been far-reaching, particularly for those students who are most dependent on effective instruction within the classroom.

Download the Report on Balanced Literacy

The LETRS professional development package and its phonics instruction was behind improvement in Mississippi literacy from near the bottom to the top third states in the US.