Back to School '23, Interlude Episode 2 (Part 1)

Embracing the complexity of learning to read (Part 1), with Reid Lyon

Dr. Reid Lyon is one of the leading experts in reading research. After years working for and with the highest levels of the U.S. government, Dr. Lyon stepped away from his reading research. But in May 2023, Dr. Lyon released his “Ten Maxims: What We’ve Learned So Far About How Children Learn To Read.” And of course Susan jumped at the chance to invite him onto the podcast. In a wide-reaching interview, Dr. Lyon traces his life story from the Vietnam War to the National Institutes of Health. He also offers an expansive overview of what we know about teaching reading, how children learn—including a discussion of whole language vs. phonics—and his response to educators wondering what reading actually is and what methodology of teaching students to read is most effective.

Meet our guest(s):

Reid Lyon

Dr. Reid Lyon is a neuroscientist and specialist in learning disorders. In 1980, he joined the faculty of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern, where he also directed the neuropsychology laboratory. He later joined the Stern Center for Language and Learning as the director of research, and the University of Vermont Medical School as a clinical associate professor of neurology. From 1992 to 2005, he served as a research neuropsychologist and chief of the Child Development and Behavior branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.

After leaving the NIH, Lyon held distinguished scientist and professorships at the University of Texas (neuroscience) and Southern Methodist University (educational leadership). Dr. Lyon is the author or co-author of over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and book chapters addressing developmental neuroscience, learning and reading disorders/dyslexia, and the translation of science into practice and policy. He also co-authored the definition of dyslexia used at the NIH and worldwide, and was a two-time recipient of the NIH Director’s Award.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Susan is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Susan is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


“Phonics—that is, looking at letters, letter patterns, learning how to bring sound to associate to those letters—is absolutely essential, non-negotiable. It has to be learned. But it in no way is sufficient to be able to comprehend, which is the goal of reading.” —Dr. Reid Lyon
“Reading is a complex behavior subserved by multiple systems in the brain that integrate and inform each other.” —Dr. Reid Lyon