Terry Bowman ’85: As emergency designation lifts for COVID-19, learning losses deepen for kids

Blog | May 12, 2023

I advocate for the science of reading at a time when America’s reading comprehension levels are in crisis.

While COVID-19 is no longer designated a ‘global health emergency,’ the repercussions of the pandemic on our country’s education system will be felt for years to come.

Morehead-Cain taught me that developing a strong moral character and serving the public are lifelong endeavors. In my current role as executive director of ReadWorks, I get to tap into those values every day.

At ReadWorks, we seek to increase awareness of the learning inequities the pandemic exacerbated, as well as provide solutions for increasing access to quality reading instruction. Our team of educators, engineers, researchers, marketers, and fundraisers work to improve reading outcomes for K–12 students through an instruction and curriculum supplement platform.

As a Morehead-Cain Scholar, I participated in internships that opened my eyes to societal problems I’d previously only read about. Receiving the scholarship in the first place, and recognizing that someone identified promise in me that I couldn’t see in myself at the time, has made me eternally grateful for the gift of a top-notch education.

Attending UNC–Chapel Hill opened up the world for me, and I want to help open the world for others, too. So, I’ve stayed involved in education policy and practice issues for my entire career. At ReadWorks, we believe that reading is the fundamental building block to a good education, so we seek to make reading a possibility for as many students as we can.

Lifelong connection as a Morehead-Cain

Something I’ve come to better appreciate as an alumnus is that Morehead-Cain is a lifelong program. It’s been the source of countless contacts, idea-generation, and joy.

As just one example, I’m proud to be colleagues with Annie Kiyonaga ’19, the content and curriculum specialist at ReadWorks. We met at the 2018 Morehead-Cain Alumni Forum, sparking a conversation that would turn into a multi-year partnership.

Since 2020, Annie has supported the quality of the ReadWorks library by sensitivity-reviewing texts, helping to implement vocabulary aids, and working with our international community of educators to better understand the impact of our curricula in the classroom. Her work in writing, editing, and testing curriculum has supported the more than one million students and teachers who log on to our platform every year.

To my “cousins” who are current scholars: if you’re interested in learning more about our mission, please reach out! I’ve worked with close to a dozen Morehead-Cains through internships we’ve provided, many of which have turned into full-time colleagues and lifelong friends.

Whenever I meet Morehead-Cains, I’m reminded of what’s possible when brilliant, kind, and creative minds get together. The path toward recovery from the COVID-19 learning delay is a long one, but I believe in our ability to make progress, together.

—Terry Bowman ’85

“Being a part of ReadWorks’ mission and community of educators inspired me to pursue graduate work in education to learn more about the intricacies, challenges, and possibilities of reading comprehension work.”
  • Annie Kiyonaga ’19
  • MEd Candidate in Human Development and Education, Harvard University