Stephen Dykstra, PhD

clinical psychologist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Speaking at

researchED Washington


Reading Science, Trauma, Resilience, and Hope from a Perspective Far Outside the Classroom

Blending powerful stories, potent metaphors, a sensibility rooted in child development, big data no one is talking about, and a shocking review of almost 50 years of history, Dr. Dykstra makes the argument that the senseless way we teach children to read is failing them, their teachers, and their communities.  Like every other failure, some children, some communities, pay a higher price but everyone, everywhere, pays.  The good news is there are solutions, and the solutions are the same everywhere, with every child.  We won’t win this argument and get the change we need by building an ever more impressive mountain of research.  We need to apply different pressure, ask different questions, and pick different fights.  Our children, our teachers, and our communities can’t wait forever.


Dr. Dykstra has worked in public sector, community mental health for more than 25 years. He is a founding member of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, and Vice President of the Coalition for Reading Excellence, but he has never tutored or taught a child to read. Except for parts of one or two courses in graduate school, he has no formal training on the topic. Instead, through the course of his work and life, he has come to see the role of reading, reading struggles, and reading failure in the lives of the thousands of children he has served, as well as in their families, schools, and communities. He tries to bring together the science of reading he has discovered, with the lessons he has learned from the children he serves, and what he knows about people to understand how we got to where we are, and how we might change that.