Articles on the Science of Reading - Lexercise

Reading Instruction Reconsidered

books, apple, and ABC cube on teachers table

When it comes to teaching kids to read – especially children with dyslexia and other language processing disorders – are we on the right track? An approach that works for some-of-the-children some-of-the-time leaves out a lot of potential readers.

As APM journalist, Emily Hanford, points out, “Research shows that children who don’t learn to read by the end of third grade are likely to remain poor readers for the rest of their lives, and they’re likely to fall behind in other academic areas, too.”

Traditionally, reading has been taught as a printed-word skill.  Show the child a page of text again and again until the letters magically take shape as words that can be connected with meaning.  At best, reading has been taught as a print-to-speech (phonics) skill. But the science of reading is clear:  Reading is most effectively taught the other way around – from speech-to-print.

The term speech-to-print doesn’t just mean teaching speech sounds and the letters that spell them.  Rather, it suggests that instruction should include every domain of language structure, beginning with speech (phonology) and moving step by step to discourse. There’s solid research evidence, including a lot of neuroscience, for including every language domain as part of a interwoven curriculum. The curricula that interweave all the domains of language are referred to as structured literacy methods.  

Alas, the traditional methods, “the way we’ve always done it,” are turning out to be less effective than an approach that begins with speech sounds: phonemic awareness (“the ability to segment words into their component sounds, which are called phonemes” and connect speech sounds to spelling patterns).

Rather than looking at a printed word and trying to puzzle out its sound and meaning, a speech-to-print approach begins with hearing the word, isolating the sounds within the word (phonemic awareness), learning the relationship between the sounds and letters (sound-symbol association), and manipulating the sounds and letters sequentially in order to read and spell new words. When taught this way, decoding and spelling instruction is a logical and orderly sequence of steps. It is systematic, cumulative and explicit.

However, it is not a one-size-fits-all process. Children have varying processing abilities that may impact their progress. Research demonstrates that core (phonological) weaknesses can be significantly and permanently improved with direct instruction and practice for all students, even for students with cognitive impairments.  Of course, parents can help by playing speech sound games, linking speech sounds to print and reading aloud to their children.

Still, most of the responsibility for teaching reading and spelling falls on classroom teachers. In our next article on reading instruction, we’ll look at systems that support a speech-to-print literacy approach.

Systems vs. Goals: Is it time to toss out the resolutions?

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, many of us put the same things on our list year after year: lose weight, exercise more, travel, and so on. You probably have your own familiar favorites.

New Year’s resolutions are goals. Putting them on our list makes us feel like we’ve taken the first important step toward achievement. But the fact that they show up year after year suggests that having a goal is not enough. What’s more, having a goal may not be as important as we think.

A goal doesn’t explain how we do what we hope to accomplish. That’s the role of systems. Systems spell out the steps and track our progress.

Let’s look at this in terms of education and, specifically, teaching students to read, spell and write.


Teachers often set learning goals for students. Passing a standardized test is a goal. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a list of goals. IEPs are the backbone of special education programs.

IEPs offer some systems guidance, such as the number of lessons per week and how progress will be measured. But they rarely track what matters most: the direct instruction of specific concepts and the frequency and number of practice challenges provided to the student. What is tracked, if anything, is seat-time. And, alas, seat-time is not practice.

Over many decades, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has shown that students who read at a below-basic level in 4th grade rarely become proficient readers by 8th grade. Even if they show up for classroom seat-time, the system doesn’t provide the necessary steps to move them toward literacy.

Could a tighter system approach change that? At Lexercise, we think it could.


Lexercise’s System Approach: Structured Literacy

Lexercise is a systems approach: one structured literacy lesson a week followed by at least 15 minutes a day of structured practice, four days a week. Our data over the last 10 years shows that students who actually use this system (not just aspire to it) make at least a year of reading gain in the first eight weeks!

Note the absence of a goal in the Lexercise approach. We don’t say that the student will be able to read a certain book, or will be able to read or write at a certain grade level. Those are goals. What we say is that if the student actually does the lesson and the practice, they will make significant progress.

James Clear writes about habits and human potential. In Chapter 1 of his book Atomic Habits, he writes about goals and systems. Again and again, he emphasizes the importance of process and actions over goals. “Systems-based thinking is never about hitting a particular number, it’s about sticking to the process and not missing workouts.” “Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process.”

Clear also emphasizes the importance of feedback as a way of tracking progress. At Lexercise, feedback is built into our ongoing testing system, so that the student sees and hears their progress as they move through the practice.

Can the systems approach work for your student? We think so. We’d also be very interested to see how the systems approach might change your New Year’s resolutions!

Whatever approach you take, we wish you the very best for 2019 and look forward to sharing our understanding of learning and to answering any questions you may have about dyslexia and other language-processing disorders.


If you’d like to learn more about our services, click here.

From all of us at Lexercise: a very happy holiday season!

picture of dog on the field

Over the holidays, families often have a little more time together at home, and we hope that if you have a young reader in your home you will spend some of that time reading and talking together. 

Here’s a little fill-in-the-blanks poem that we hope you and your young reader will enjoy together.  Read the poem aloud to your student and when you come to a blank – stop and ask your student to fill it in.  Poems don’t have to rhyme, but rhyming can be fun. 

After each blank, we have suggested a rhyming word. Maybe your student will come up with a different one. The sillier the better! 

Happy Holidays from your friends at Lexercise!


Fill in the Blanks Poem

The Neighbors’ Dog

Just as night was growing dark

I heard the neighbors’ poodle _______ [bark].

Like every night, he’s standing guard

outside the door in their back_____ [yard].

He doesn’t wonder, doesn’t roam,

just waits and waits ‘til they come ________ [home].

And then they take him for a stroll.

He likes to run. He likes to ________ [roll].

His tail is up, his neck is bent,

his nose attends to every _______ [scent],

and when he’s had a good long roam,

he pulls his leash to hurry _______ [home].

I like that dog, his bark, his whine.

Sometimes I wish that he was _______ [mine].


For book ideas to enjoy during the holiday break, click here.

Simplifying the Simple View of Reading

decoding and comprehending the simple view of reading

For many parents, and even for some educators, the Simple View of Reading is not so simple.

The Simple View of Reading is an academic paper and a theoretical model in which the authors, Wesley Hoover and Philip Gough, proposed that there are two critical activities involved in learning to read. One is understanding the printed word (decoding and spelling); the other is understanding spoken language (listening comprehension). The two parts must work individually and together. Difficulties with either of these components mean that learning to read will be very challenging.

In fact, deficits in either of the two areas are so significant that they have names of their own. We refer to listening comprehension deficits as Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and we refer to word reading deficits as Dyslexia. These problems may exist on their own, in a “pure” form, as well as mixed together in varying degrees.

While dyslexia is today a familiar part of our vocabulary, specific language impairment is a term that many parents hear for the first time when their child receives a diagnosis. SLI, also known as Listening Comprehension Disorder, is the second most common cause of reading problems after dyslexia. While 15% – 20% of individuals are on the dyslexia spectrum, only 5% – 7% of students are classified as SLI. According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, both SLI and dyslexia have strong genetic links, with 40% or more of students with these conditions having a parent or sibling with similar difficulties.

After nearly 30 years of testing the model, language scientists generally agree that Hoover and Gough were correct. Ongoing research has added to the depth of the definitions, but their Simple View is now used as a basis for structured literacy approaches, such as the Orton-Gillingham method, to improve the reading and spelling skills of students with dyslexia and specific language impairment. Where once children with reading challenges were drilled on word recognition and rote memorization, regardless of the nature of their difficulty, the Simple View highlighted the unique elements of learning and the need for specific and explicit treatment for deficits in each of those areas.

What the Simple View put forth is that students with both diagnoses benefit from a treatment approach that is individual, specific, and structured. Furthermore, early intervention works best. As the Lexercise Clinician’s Manual says, “Recent research (Alt, et al., 2017; Peyrin, et al., 2012) suggests that the underlying deficit(s) in dyslexia may be different for different individuals, highlighting the importance of treatment that is focused on individual patterns as opposed to one-size-fits-all programs.”

If you notice your student is struggling with reading and spelling but you aren’t sure where the trouble lies, have a look at the free Lexercise online learning disability tests. They are designed to help you sort out how much of the trouble might be due to weak listening comprehension and how much due to weak decoding and spelling. This is a vital first step in securing the kind of help that will turn a word-challenged child into a reader.

If you have questions about dyslexia or specific language impairment, please contact us to discuss your child’s options.

In Response to Hard Words

illustration of a maze and a character about to enter it

As a speech-language pathologist, I follow carefully both the scientific research and the articles on language learning that appear in the media. Among the latter, it’s gratifying to find journalists who ask hard questions and publish articles that are both accessible and well-informed.

Emily Hanford is such a journalist. A Senior Producer and Correspondent for American Public Media (APM), she has written before on the subject of dyslexia and just released another great report, “Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read?

Hanford’s article offers some discouraging figures: “More than 60 percent of American fourth-graders are not proficient readers.” This is not good news. “Research shows that children who don’t learn to read by the end of third grade are likely to remain poor readers for the rest of their lives, and they’re likely to fall behind in other academic areas, too.”

Where does the reading problem lie?

This is not a problem that can be blamed on poverty, Hanford explains. It has to do with how children are taught – and how teachers are taught to teach them. This is important because “learning to read is not a natural process. We are not born wired to read.” In fact, “structures in our brain that were designed for things such as object recognition have to get rewired a bit” and “the starting point for reading is sound.” The bottom line? “According to all the research, phonics is crucial when it comes to learning how to read,” but it’s not enough on its own.

Unfortunately, parents are still struggling to get access to effective services for their children and many children with language-processing disorders are not learning to read, even with multitudes of private schools, private practitioners, and published “programs” that cater to students with dyslexia.

I have come to view the lack of dyslexia services in public schools as an unintended consequence of 1) the way education is administered in this country and 2) the way the federal special education law is written.

In the U.S., primary and secondary education is administered locally by about 17,900 local education agencies. The effect of this decentralization on education policy is illustrated by the struggle to implement the Common Core State Standards, as well as the state-by-state efforts to pass dyslexia screening laws. Most state dyslexia screening laws in the U.S. have not included any funding to develop a screener, carry out annual screening, track data, etc.

Contrast this to England, where all students are screened for phonics knowledge in June of the year in which they turn 6. The government funded the research, as well as the construction and administration of their screener. Since England started using their screener in 2011, fewer and fewer students have failed the screener each year, suggesting that screening for phonics knowledge has had the effect of improving the way young children are taught to read.

Emily Hanford suggests that parents are not finding easy solutions but are asking the same hard questions. Below, I suggest some answers:

  • How can I figure out how my child’s school teaches reading? How do I know if their approach is backed up by science?

    Be sure the approach has all three “legs.
    For dyslexia, a structured literacy approach is supported by research.

  • What do I do if my child’s school is not teaching reading in the right way?
    Early intervention is so important. Parents can spend months or years trying to get a school to improve their instructional approach, losing precious time for their struggling readers. In this case, for the child’s sake, the best advice is don’t wait. Seek help outside the school.

  • I want to do some phonics and phonemic awareness activities with my child at home? What do I do?
    There is no shortage of free information and advice about how to do these activities (Reading Rockets,, etc.). A Google search returns 2,070,000 results!! But students with language processing difficulties may resist doing these activities and parents may need help adjusting them to their student’s needs. Consult a qualified specialist, someone with experience using structured literacy methods. An analogy: Parents should provide a healthy diet for their child, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables; but if their child develops diabetes, parents should get professional help.

  • I think my kid is struggling with reading. How do I know? What do I do? If my school won’t help, what do I look for in a private tutor or a private school, or a commercial program?
    Here is the free, online Lexercise screener for students ages 6 and older. Intervention should produce noticeable results pretty quickly, certainly within the first eight weeks. Parents should look for professionals who welcome their active participation in their student’s intervention. Parents who learn structured literacy methods along with their child can support their child; that will speed up their child’s progress and will help parents judge their child’s progress more accurately.

  • I want to do something to help change the way reading is taught in schools. What do I do? Who do I contact?
    Decoding Dyslexia is a good place to start.

I am extremely grateful to Emily Hanford for her thoughtful treatment of this difficult and complex subject. I encourage you to read her insightful article and to contact us at Lexercise with your concerns about your child’s progress or challenges with reading.

Addendum:  See all three of Emily Hanford’s APM audio documentaries about how reading is taught in the USA:

My Brain Is A Wordbox? How Your Brain Learns To Read

diagnosing dyslexia (5) “Did you know that a human brain has an area nicknamed “the word box” that is used to help us learn to read?  Have you ever thought about how a brain begins to figure out the difference between the letter b and the letter d? Or the letter q and the letter p?   In this article in Frontiers for Young Minds,  Kassuba and Kastner explain how our brains learn that letters are special in that they are a code we can use to read.  How does the brain learn, for example, that the letter o in not like other round objects like basketballs or oranges?figure-5

Kids and parents who use Lexercise learn the best ways to train their brain’s “letter boxes”!






Kassuba T and Kastner S (2015) The Reading Brain. Front Young Minds. 3:5. doi: 10.3389/frym.2015.00005

The Problem(s) With Reading Recovery

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (30)Reading Recovery® is a strategy that has been praised by schools around the world and is currently being used in 10,000 elementary schools in the United States. Reading Recovery® is an early intervention program developed in New Zealand by Marie Clay in 1985. It was targeted towards children who perform at or below the 20th percentile in reading after a year of formal instruction.

Children who are selected for the program are provided with 30 to 40 minutes of daily one-on-one practice during the school day over a period of between 12 and 20 weeks.

But more recently, information has been coming out to discredit the reliability of results for the program.

Two scholars, William E. Tumner and James W. Chapman, have written a paper contesting the validity of the program– calling it “Reading Recovery®: Distinguishing Myth from Reality.”

teacher and student review reading instruction on an ipadThey concluded that about 30 percent of students who begin Reading Recovery® do not complete the program and do not perform significantly better than control students. Tumner and Chapman say that results reported in favor of the program are probably inflated due to the careful selection of the students used in the study. Another possibility as to why the original study was deemed “successful” was because the one-on-one instruction is going to be more successful than group learning no matter what the subject.

The researchers also pointed out that the program encourages students to use context when trying to figure out a word. For example, using pictures or the words around it to guess what the desired word says. As you can gather, guessing is not an effective way to improve a child’s literacy skills.

The main problem with this program is that they pull the children out of their normal classroom environment during the day to teach the material the same way as if they stayed within the classroom. If children are not understanding the way the material is taught the first time, teaching them the same way in a more intimate setting is not going to change their comprehension.

Lexercise, on the other hand, effectively tweaks the teaching curriculum and method to fit each student’s needs. This customization is one reason we guarantee a grade-level reading improvement after two months of therapy.

If you are interested to learn more about why our program works, give us a call or schedule a free consultation with one of our therapy partners.

Five Must-Read Books for Dyslexics and Their Parents

must-read books for dyslexics and parentsEveryone needs a role model who shares similar struggles, even if they are fictional characters. The following five books revolve around a dyslexic character who faces his or her disability head-on. They are designed to be relatable and give young dyslexics the courage to try new things and believe in themselves.

1. The Lightning Thief  by Rick Riordan

the lightning thief book coverThis book is about a dyslexic, ADHD boy who thinks he is simply average but discovers he is a demigod. His triumphs will remind your child that anything is possible even when you have a learning disability. This series follows Percy Jackson through his adventures. The series even has a few box-office movies that may pique your child’s interest.




2. It’s Called Dyslexia by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

it's called dyslexia book coverThis children’s book packs a sweet and intricate story into 36 pages. This author does similar books on multiple types of disorders. The story features a young student who knows the alphabet but can’t quite put the letters together to form words and sentences. She gets increasingly frustrated until her teacher explains that she has dyslexia and gets her the help she needs.



3. Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

tacky the penguin book coverTacky is a penguin that doesn’t always do everything right. His perfect friends pick on him for being different, but it is his outlier personality that ends up saving the day. This is a cute story driving home the message to simply be yourself no matter what.





4. Author A True Story by Helen Lester

author a true story book coverThis book is by the same author as Tacky the Penguin, but this time, her story is about her. She struggled to write as a young girl because she had reading disabilities but ended up becoming a successful author. In the book, she even gives tips on how to write when it is frustrating for you to do so.




5. What is Dyslexia by Alan M. Hultquist

what is dyslexia book coverThis book is unique in the sense that it is specifically written for parents to read with their children. It is informative but does not talk down to the children accompanying their parents in reading. It also includes activities for parents and children to do together.

All photos are credited to

What Should My Child Read?

Hi!Dyslexia Therapist, Tori Whaley, gives her advice on what your child should read depending on their needs.

Since I was a child in elementary school, libraries have been a favorite, nearly sacred place. Books filled with information I hadn’t learned and adventures I hadn’t taken inspired me to read more and more. For many children and their families, libraries are daunting. Parents are told that children should read a certain number of minutes per day, which turns into a frequent homework assignment. As a result, choosing books for a struggling reader can be confusing for a parent and stressful for a child.

What may surprise these parents is that the answer is often just as elusive for parents of good readers. What books are best for my child? To that end, I share the answer I find myself giving to any parent who asks.

It depends.


Don’t worry about grade level or what they are “supposed to be able to read” at their age. Instead think, “What is the purpose of reading?” and choose an appropriate selection accordingly. There are generally a few purposes for reading as follows:

Option 1: To Get Better at Reading

file4501243625430 (1)Once children begin to acquire independent word reading skills, practice is the key to improvement. However, not all books are appropriate for this type of practice. Books read to improve decoding skills should be largely decodable, where students can read at least 90% of the words correctly without support. Rather than rely on any leveling system to choose this book, ask the child to read the first page or two aloud. If he or she can do this successfully, the book is a good choice!

At some stages, there are few or no books that are appropriate for this goal! Other content can then be used to improve reading, including flashcards, word lists, and decodable text. These may not be the most interesting activities in the world, but will support reading improvement for the child. This type of practice should be use in brief bursts (1-5 min.) and with the clearly expressed goal of accurate word reading and expressive oral reading fluency.

Option 2: To Learn New Information

ID-100254313Having mastered learning to read, students transition to reading to learn. Typically, this shift begins around age 9 for developing readers. The purpose of most classroom assignments at this age is to acquire knowledge, improve vocabulary, and develop comprehension. Again, students should be able to read these passages with high accuracy and, when reading aloud, their reading should sound like their fluid speech.

For students with dyslexia, this can be challenging. This is a clear opportunity to add accommodations to the child’s treatment plan in addition to getting them reading therapy. If a student is not yet able to independently read the content with his or her eyes, “ear reading,” using recorded text or read aloud, can support student success until adequate accuracy and fluency is mastered.

Interventions to improve decoding should not replace vital comprehension activities but be used in addition to them until the student can read unfamiliar text with at least 95 % accuracy.

Option 3: To Have Fun!

ID-100179956In the struggle to learn to read, we sometimes lose sight of the joy of reading! When reading for entertainment, students should be allowed to read whatever interests them. Parents and teachers can help children decide whether a book or magazine is something they can read independently, with an adult’s support, or with technology. If students have a hard time finding things that interest them, treat it like a treasure hunt! Talk with them about what they love, and help them find books related to it. Even topics that seem silly to adults can help cultivate a love and interest of reading in children. (I personally would not be interested in a biopic of boy band members, but would never discourage a child from reading it, if it got them reading!)

Ask your local librarian to recommend books on the topics that interest you child. Be open to all genres! Librarians know what books are popular with kids!

Photo Credit David Castillo Dominici, 2nix, AKARAKINGDOMS.

How to Encourage Reading Practice!

Practice Makes Perfect

We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect”, and in life we’ve all seen it’s truth. Neuroscience confirms that regular practice is a crucial component in learning a new skill. Lexercise uses online daily games and table-top activities to reinforce and master skills taught by a child’s clinical educator during their weekly 1 to 1 sessions.

By the time the majority of our students have started working with Lexercise they have experienced great obstacles and frustration in learning how to read. This can lead children to believe that their efforts are hopeless or that they aren’t smart, since their prior work did not give them the results they wanted. Lexercise Clinicians work with parents to re-motivate their child using our unique approach to practice, a critical components in learning how to read and write. Here are a few tips we’ve found in making ongoing practice more successful:

Explain to your child why practice is important

Look at this as brain training, NOT Lex_prescribed-practice_child-solo_illustrationhomework! First, the Lexercise program looks and feels different. We are not telling your child to read more, longer, faster…. this won’t work for a child with a language-based learning disability. The Structured Literacy method we use emphasizes mastery of skills where lessons AND practice are delivered systemically and intensively. This approach has been tested by the National Institutes for Health and is proven to work. What we are doing through our explicit instruction and practice is making connections in our brain’s language and literacy centers that were not as activated before. To “rewire” the brain, it takes a lot of deliberate practice, approximately 100 response challenges per day. Our customized online games and table-top activities give a child more than 100 response challenges a day.

Set a goal for daily/weekly practice- Plan for smaller more frequent practice!

Working with your child to set clear goals and expectations for practice help get their “buy in” since they are involved in the process. growthBy setting goals you and your child can work as a team to accomplish the goal, while modeling a very important skill, having a growth mindset. Working towards a jointly-set goal shifts the child’s thinking to a growth mindset where s/he thinks “I am going to practice so I can reach my practice goal which will help me become a stronger reader and writer,” instead of “Someone is making me do this.” Tracking practice using an incentive chart can help the child see his/her progress towards their goal. Plan for shorter, more frequent sessions (minimum of 4 times per week), versus longer sessions. This helps a child maintain attention, and get in the optimal “learning zone” (70%-90% accuracy).

Create a set time and space for practice to occur

Having a routine helps practice become a habit! Decide what time during the week works best for your child and family. Communicate this to everyone in the family so they are aware and can be supportive. It is important that there be a dedicated space for practice that is conducive to learning (quiet and distraction-free). Also, by having others know this set time, they can help give gentle reminders that it’s practice time when needed. It is also a good idea to figure out a system for table-top activities the parent leads. When will this occur? Who in the family will do the activities? Planning in advance for practice helps to make sure that it becomes a habit.

Immediately following practice, let the child do a preferred activity

Having a child complete practice first –before a preferred activity– gives a natural incentive. This could be before something that is regular occurrence such as: a meal, playing outside with friends, etc. Using a “first-then” statement can be helpful when communicating this. For example: “First complete your Lexercise games and 5 minutes of Whiteboard Spelling, then you can go outside and play with your friends.” It is important that immediately after the “first” task is completed they earn their preferred “then” activity. For younger students having a visual and setting a time can help to communicate these expectations.

Motivate your child during practice

hand-writing-mdVerbal praise and specific error correction goes a long way! Motivating with the end goal in mind is always helpful; we want to get to the point where your child is able to read and write with proficiency. Giving specific praise and feedback, helps them understand what it takes to train their brain to get there! When you see your child using the strategies taught in the session let them know by being very specific about what you saw (e.g. “I noticed when you got to that longer word, you broke the word down by its syllable type which made it more manageable.”). This reinforces the fact that looking at the structure of the word is more reliable than guessing. When a mistake is made, it is also important to give specific error correction so that they understand exactly why something is incorrect. During your weekly sessions your clinician will teach you exactly how to do this. Remember, verbal praise and specific and immediate feedback goes a long way!

Motivate your child after practice

star2Make time to review and celebrate the progress your child makes! It is so very important to celebrate your child’s success however large or small it may seem. Each portion of the deliberate practice we assign is one more step towards the goal of becoming and independent lifelong reader and writer. During our sessions you’ll see your clinician give online high-fives, count points for sentence dictation, and more! Our online game practice also tracks progress, through point goals. Each time a child plays they are able to see that progress is being made by watching their points increase. This point system is a means of encouraging repeated practice, with an emphasis on having an increase in accuracy and response time. You also may want to build in a specific individual motivation for your child. It could be a sticker chart for practicing games, rewards for reaching a point goal, etc.

Lexercise clinicians strive to help make each child’s practice as productive as possible. The best incentive to practice is when a child sees the progress he or she is making. This most often occurs when a child feels confident with their newly developed skills to pick up a book and read (without being told to!). Moments like that show us that all of the hard work and practice really is worthwhile.

Other Helpful Articles:

Daily practice: Won’t it get boring?

How to Encourage Daily, Structured Practice

How long should a child practice each day?

Parents Need To Know: Practice Works Wonders!

The Limits of Reading Accommodations

A Story About Reading Accommodations

One day, a bit more than a month after we’d started therapy, I noticed that one of my clients started coming to our sessions very tired. When I asked her mother she explained that the girl was up all night, reading under the covers, with her recorded books. This girl, who previously had wanted nothing to do with books and was falling behind in her vocabulary, now considered herself a reader. This, I thought is what every parent wants (even though my own had complained much about my own late-night reading habits, I know they were secretly proud of me!) This is an example of a successful accommodation.

Reading accommodations allow students to access the knowledge and information that is available to their peers, despite their challenges with reading. They allow students to express themselves and share their stories without anxiety about spelling or handwriting. Accommodations are about access. For a student with mobility impairment, it may look like a ramp instead of stairs, allowing access to the same school other students attend. For a student with dyslexia, it comes in the form of dictation software, speech to text, or recorded text among others. I am so glad that the technology of our present-day has made these accommodations not only easy to access but is constantly improving their quality!

However, accommodations alone are not the best solution for many children. While this girl was enjoying and benefiting from her accommodations, we were relentless in our pursuit of improving her reading. Research tells us that the optimal age to learn to read is before the age of twelve. So, even though schools in the United States switch from “learning to read” to focusing on “reading to learn” when children are eight to nine years old, students that age who are behind can still make rapid progress!

And improving literacy skills beyond the age of twelve is still very possible! Research-based, structured literacy instruction has proven effective with people of all ages and is even used in adult education programs.

I’ve seen this meme on social media so many times: “A child who reads will be an adult who thinks”

reading meme

And I understand why parents and educators would have a strong response to it. Reading is not the only way to learn.

Students who struggle with eye reading can still do amazing work reading. But I still believe that reading should be the goal. While students are learning to read and write, or if their best efforts at reading and writing still leave them falling short of their potential, accommodations are vital in bridging the gap.



But those accommodations will not teach a child to read or write. Contact us to begin the literacy instruction that will.

How NOT to Teach Reading: Get Your Mouth Ready to Say the Word

I Guess Not!

Part Nine of a 12-part video series showing the flaws of common word reading strategies taught in schools– Moral: Do not teach struggling readers to guess!

Get Your Mouth Ready to Say the Word – Lips the Fish

Prompting a child to, “get their lips ready” when encountering an unknown word is another guessing strategy.  It assumes that the child knows the first letter sound and can say it accurately so that, after whispering the sound, the child will be able to figure out the rest of the word. Research has shown that this is rarely the case.

Eye gaze reading research proves that skilled readers read every letter sound in words, not just the first one.  In Structured Literacy, the only words that the reader is asked to read and practice are those with letter sounds they have seen explicitly taught.  So, readers have confidence that they can say every sound in every word, not just the first one.


Watch the video below for more information on this technique and the explanation as to why this strategy does not work, as well as the correct alternative to this method: structured literacy.

If you would like to learn more about our services and how we utilize the structured literacy approach, you can do so by clicking here.