What is LETRS anyway?


LETRS, an acronym for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, is a unique professional development initiative by Dr. Louisa Moats and Carol Tolman. It addresses the widespread issue of low reading proficiency by providing teachers with comprehensive training over two years. The program covers crucial aspects of reading instruction, including phonics, oral language, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing. Central Rivers AEA has introduced LETRS training, emphasizing a mix of in-person sessions, online modules, and on-site coaching.

LETRS facilitator providing literacy learning to educators

LETRS is an acronym that stands for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. It is a comprehensive professional development opportunity developed by Dr. Louisa Moats and Carol Tolman in an effort to provide deep literacy and language knowledge to educators. LETRS is not a reading program or a boxed curriculum, it is teacher learning.


Nationwide, the majority of our learners are not reading proficiently. National Achievement Results in the area of reading show that only 33% of the nation’s fourth graders performed at or above NAEP proficiency in 2022. This number has remained consistent for decades, despite research from the National Health Institute indicating that 95% of children can learn to read by the end of first grade

Teaching children to read requires a deep understanding of how the brain learns to read, as well as a deep knowledge of the alphabetic writing system and literacy acquisition. LETRS bridges the research-to-practice gap by helping teachers build a solid foundation in the “why,” “what,” “when,” and “how” of reading instruction.

LETRS Training Opportunities

The LETRS training consists of two volumes, each with four units, that are intended to be learned over two years. In the training, teachers build understanding of the following:

  • The challenges of learning to read
  • The speech sounds of English
  • Beginning and advanced phonics and spelling
  • Oral language and vocabulary
  • Reading comprehension
  • Writing

LETRS for early childhood educators is a one-year professional development opportunity for teachers of pre-K and Kindergarten. This training provides educators with deep literacy and language knowledge for our youngest learners.

LETRS at Central Rivers AEA

Central Rivers AEA literacy and early childhood consultants began offering LETRS professional development to local districts in August 2023. Districts engaged in this learning receive in-person training, online module learning, asynchronous reading of research, and bridge-to-practice application of learning. Central Rivers consultants also provide on-site coaching to leaders, coaches, and educators to support the implementation of LETRS learning in school systems and classroom instruction. Although this initiative is new to our agency, local school leaders have already experienced positive change as a result of the LETRS learning.


“We had some teachers who were already interested in LETRS and the Science of Reading, so when we learned that the AEA was offering this course it was an easy decision for us. Teacher buy-in is so important when beginning a new initiative. That buy-in paired with their eagerness to learn and the amazing support from Jama and Janelle has made LETRS training a wonderful experience.  It is a big commitment, but when it is meaningful and directly related to helping students it is all well worth it!”

Mary Sherwood– BGM Community School

“LETRS has provided our teachers with the knowledge of how students learn to read and write, how to support students when they struggle, and how to increase student achievement. It has increased the level of collaboration among teachers, coaches, and administrators and provided a framework for teachers to learn the necessary skills to improve their instructional practices.”

Alyson Forsyth and Holly Myers– Wapsie Valley Community School District