“Flatter me, and I may not believe you.
Criticize me, and I may not like you
Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.
Encourage me, and I may not forget you."
Wm. Arthur Ward


The premise for this exposition is to convince educators that no child needs to fail to learn. Failure-proofing reading instruction can be achieved by reading teachers not allowing any student to fail in the first place. Persuading today’s reading teachers to consider this construct as viable is based upon every teacher being willing to prove that all students in their reading program understand every developmental reading concept being taught.

If my methodology is to be considered a pathway toward functional literacy, it must follow all precepts dedicated toward the psycholinguistic-phonological decoding formations that subprocesses each phonological encoding concept. In other words, I offer a science-based program of essential systematic learning skills all children must master if they are to understand and remember reading instruction. Every reading skill is cognitive in design. Since all children learn according to their strongest learning modality, I recommend that reading instruction begin by strengthening each student’s attention threshold, visual memory and auditory discrimination skills. Mastering these skills is paramount if the student is to understand what their reading teachers are explaining to them.

Children Can’t Learn if They Don’t Understand the Language of Their Instructors

From the day a child is born to the age of six, a child’s learning curve resembles that of a ladder leaning at a forty-five-degree angle. From infancy, children learn to figure out language and how to communicate. They learn to feed themselves while learning to creep, crawl, stand and walk. Eventually, they use the toilet, tie their shoes and begin to learn how to play with others. Then by the age of six their learning curve starts to flatten-out. Six happens to be the age when most children begin school and every cognitive skill they’ve acquired up until now remains on hold. Grade one students in today’s reading classes are required to be still. If the critical period for language development begins about age five and ends around puberty, it is vital that all learning modalities be cognitively strengthened as soon as children begin school. Any delay in the acquisition of these skills will inhibit their ability to understand reading instruction. If cognitive learning activities reinforces language development skills through active play, it stands to reason that a failure-proof learning environment would encourage running, jumping, wrestling, playing tag or playing Hide and Go Seek. No more being still! Allow children to play and develop every expressive language skill that is required to achieve reading success.

Children will learn if their brains are taught to understand. Research in the science of reading informs us that children who struggle to understand reading instruction haven't acquired sufficient attention skills to listen to, or follow their reading program. Every child’s intellectual and social development depends upon their acquiring these skills, as will their self-esteem and mental wellness.

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Road Will Get You There

Most traditional teaching methods used by primary reading teachers today epitomize the problem Alice had when asking the Cheshire Cat what path to take to leave Wonderland. Since Alice was lost and had no idea where she was going, the Cheshire Cat told her, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” All children who struggle to learn need direction to find the road. Preferably a road that is free of congestion and confusion. This is the road every reading student must travel to achieve reading literacy.

Students who struggle to understand instruction will be denied travel on this road. They will require a learner’s permit if they wish access to travel this road. To obtain a permit requires mastery of the skills of paying attention and knowing how to listen to follow directions. With these skills, they can now begin receiving instructions to learn how to drive. It will be the instructor’s responsibility to provide basic driving instruction to reduce confusion and strengthen their skills that will allow them to get their driver’s license.

They will be tested for their ability to attend and their ability to listen to follow instruction in order to obtain a beginner’s license. Until there is a standard required to teach beginning learners, children will struggle to learn. These are the same skills reading teachers are required to teach if they are to prevent students from struggling to learn. The most effective path toward enabling children to understand reading instruction would be to replace traditional teaching styles with strategies from the science of reading. Failure to provide instruction that all students will be able to understand often results in children never getting a license to drive.

Current teaching methodologies have been responsible for 75 percent of primary reading students being phonologically impaired (S. Hall, 2009). Recent studies have shown that 90 percent of these same students would read at grade level if they were instructed with learning strategies derived from the science of reading. Logic dictates that if what you are doing isn’t working, then try methods that will. Phonological awareness is crucial toward helping beginning readers to learn to read, yet reading teachers continue resisting change, clinging to yesterday’s antiquated, redundant reading methodologies simply to maintain the “status quo.”

“Meaningful, lasting change only happens when the pain of the status quo finally outstrips the fear of anticipated pain of the change we seek.” (David Taylor-Klaus.)

When every student is helped to understand reading instruction using reading strategies to meet their learning needs, children will begin to achieve reading success. Today’s learning environment has been compromised by an unfair and uneven learning field. Student class placement remains the same as it did during your grandmother’s schooling. Schools use the convenience of the Bell Curve to decide who will be their grade school reading teacher. An obsolete method of student placement that ignores the learning abilities of the student. Teachers do nothing to alter the recklessness of Bell Curve class placement. Students are taught content at the learning levels of the largest student population, those in the middle. This is unfair to those students at the top of the curve that need enrichment and creates a problem for students with weak learning skills who are unable to understand instruction at the bottom of the Bell Curve.

“Warning!” Do Not Go On with this Reading Without an Open Mind.

The most effective way to solve the Bell Curve fiasco is to terminate it. If the goal is to provide achievable learning outcomes for every student in all classrooms, I recommend that instruction be taught at learning levels of the weakest students in every class. This must begin in grade one. For example, if there are more than one grade one reading classes, screen those children with weak learning skills and place them in a classroom with students with similar reading deficits. Any courageous and informed principal might add those grade two students struggling to learn to read.

What is the point of teaching any lesson when 25 percent of the students do not have the skill levels to learn? Teach to the learning levels of all the students in the reading class. My ‘teach to the weakest’ student construct is not only for subjects like reading and for only North American students, it’s a world-wide learning problem that’s in need of change. My suggestion will not interfere with previously established learning outcomes and if provided with instruction at their achievement levels, those students once considered to be ‘weakest’ might surpass students assessed from the middle of the Bell Curve.

What Learning Skills Are Essential Toward Understanding Reading Instruction?

If the objective is to prevent children from struggling to learn to read, it is essential that all primary grade reading students be screened to determine their ability to attend and their ability to listen to follow reading instruction. Children who are unable to attend cannot remember. Children who cannot remember will not learn. A student’s preschool history may help explain why they struggle with reading instruction but all orthographic mapping suggests that the road that leads to correcting the problem of the struggling reader requires methods that follow the guidelines and strategies found in the science of reading. Until all reading students are taught to strengthen their ability to attend and have acquired the ability to listen to understand reading instruction, they will remain phonologically impaired.

I have read most reviews by proponents of the science of reading and I am perplexed as to why no reading expert has alerted primary reading teachers that paying attention is a prerequisite for learning to read.

Learning Life-Jackets

Sarah Schwartz states in her April 21, 2022 article, what do school systems mean when they say the “science of reading”? She explains that, “Written English is a code. For students to be able to understand words on the page, they need to crack that code: They need to know which letters make which sounds. Decades of research has shown that explicitly teaching students to recognize the sounds in words and to match those sounds to letters—teaching phonemic awareness and phonics—is the most effective way to ensure that kids are able to read words.” Unfortunately, children are not taught to read in a way that employs their strongest learning modality. This results in their failure to understand reading instruction, resulting in their continuing to struggle to understand how to learn to read.

Ms. Schwartz has just identified methodologies used in the Thorne Reading Method, with the possibility of a few additions which I will reveal in My Journey Toward Learning, all children will be capable of achieving reading success.

Reading Life-Jackets

For the struggling reader, there is little or no difference between providing instruction for reading students lacking the ability to attend and to follow reading instruction than there would be in allowing a child who never learned to swim to canoe without a life-jacket. Those strategies mentioned above? They contain every essential decipherment skill children require in order to begin decoding skill development. These are strategies that make it possible for all children to learn. Every proven learning strategy is embedded in these reading life-jackets. Without understanding these strategies, they are likely to drown in a sea of confusion brought on by the obsolescence of yesterday’s traditional reading methodologies. It is every parent’s right to ask if there are sufficient reading life-jackets to help their children to understand reading instruction.

Reading teachers using traditional reading instruction methodologies wouldn’t know where to look for a reading life-jacket because they believe their reading students already wear them. Every student is entitled to a learning environment that meets their learning needs. They will need a learning environment designed to allow them to move forward in order to achieve reading success.
“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.” (Dr. David Burns)

Children Will Learn If They Are Taught at Their Learning Level

In her article in APM reports, August 22,2019, Emily Hanford, a reporter for America Public Media, came to the conclusion that, “For decades, reading instruction in American schools has been rooted in a flawed theory about how reading works, a theory that was debunked decades ago by cognitive scientists, yet remains deeply embedded in teaching practices and curriculum materials. As a result, the strategies that struggling readers use to get by — memorizing words, using context to guess words, skipping words they don't know — are the strategies that many beginning readers are taught in school. This makes it harder for many kids to learn how to read, and children who don't get off to a good start in reading find it difficult to ever master the process."

Jacquie Millar supports the fact that teacher training could improve learning to read achievement levels. She states in her March 1, 2022, Ottawa Citizen article, that “Ontario schools need sweeping changes to help children learn to read.” She exposes the fact that most primary reading teachers have no training in the sciences of reading and are responsible for their students struggling to comprehend the world’s most complex language, the English language.

Children learn best in a learning environment that uses cognitive learning strategies designed to develop brain growth and memory for reading skill development. Children benefit from many of the cognitive learning activities used in Mnemonic Instruction. Mnemonics strengthens the learner’s memory for viewing, listening to and remembering letters and words. Mnemonic instruction is helpful but beginning reading students require a variety of cognitive reading activities to help make sense of and remember every reading lesson. It is up to each reading teacher to provide a learning environment that makes it possible for children to achieve reading success according to their learning style. I will discuss this further in the chapter, What Is the Most Effective Learning Laboratory in Any School?

Educators who continue to perpetuate redundant reading methodologies that produce unacceptable learning outcomes must be held accountable for the consequences their neglect has imposed upon millions of curriculum casualties and stressed students the world over. Any intransigence toward improving the understanding of reading instruction will result in children being set up to fail to learn to read.

We Can’t Get the Science of Reading Past the Schoolhouse Door

Even though their research has been well-established for these many years, teachers resist change and continue with reading instruction that is at odds with how children learn. This must be corrected, now!

Claudio Sanchez of NPR fame and advocate for all struggling readers comments in his 2017 book, The Gap Between Science On Kids and Reading, “I've reviewed the science of reading and documented how little impact it has had on educational practice, and I think this is bad. Success in reading depends on linking print to speech. It’s about teaching kids the correspondence between the letters on a page and the sounds of words. It has put kids at risk for failure. Reading scientists have been studying the problem of the struggling reader for years and tried to communicate with educators and failed. Learning theorists have been providing teachers with learning strategies to help children learn for years. To this day, we have not been able to get the science of reading past the schoolhouse door.”

Emily Hanford recognizes in her Oct. 26, 2018 New York Times article, “How do we know that a big part of the problem is how children are being taught? Reading researchers have done studies in classrooms and clinics, and they’ve shown over and over that virtually all kids can learn to read – if they’re taught with approaches that use what scientists have discovered about how the brain does the work of reading.”

Every reading skill I suggest is cognitively designed to help children remember and only deviates slightly from those recommended in the science of reading. It is how and where I initiate reading instruction that separates the Science of Reading and my well-researched and experimental reading methods.

Reading Is Hard, Learning to Read Is Harder

It is beyond me why so many parents and teachers are willing to accept the latest statistics that 25 percent of struggling readers end up failing to learn to read. Would you employ a roofer known to fail to fix 25% of leaky roofs or a dentist, doctor or lawyer who fails 25% of clients or patients asking to be fixed? Children are our clients and require the most effective strategies to help them learn to read.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” (John F. Kennedy).

The future of every child will depend upon how well they have learned to read and how well they understand.

Barack Obama had a sign in his office that stated, “Hard things are hard.” For students struggling to learn, reading goes beyond "hard.” We have the reading sciences that will allow children to achieve a better understanding of reading instruction. Educational neuropsychologist Mark Seidenburg agrees that children who struggle to learn to read find reading difficult to understand, “What we have learned from brain science is that picking up the mechanics of how children learn isn’t easy, it requires an understanding of cognitive processing and how the brain learns."

How the Brain Learns

Everyone is born able to pick up spoken language; no one is born ready to read. Reading has to be taught. There is anxiety toward the unknown for those children trying to make sense of reading instruction. Without the skills to understand reading lessons, their anxiety is likely to escalate. The secret is to teach reading instruction that makes it possible for all children to understand every reading lesson. This is accomplished by strengthening the circulatory path in the brain with cognitive learning experiences reinforced by auditory repetition until each reading concept is committed to memory. These kinds of learning experiences make learning to read less difficult, possibly failure-proof.

In her October 26, 2018 New York Times article, Emily Hanford asks, “Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way?" She believes that, “Our children aren’t being taught to read in ways that line up with what scientists have discovered about how people actually learn. It’s a problem that has been hiding in plain sight for decades. According to the National Assessment of Educational Assessment of Educational Progress, more than six in ten fourth graders aren’t proficient readers. It has been this way since testing began. A third of kids can’t read at a basic level.” This is a solvable problem that teachers have within their ability to change but as mentioned earlier, no change is possible without the wish to do so. There is little difference between anyone seeking help for mental health therapy or teachers clinging to yesterday’s reading methods. Ms. Hanford from APMreports, August 22, 2019, reveals, “How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers.” She exposes that schools using, “Current reading methodologies have been debunked repeatedly by cognitive scientists and many teachers are unaware there’s anything wrong with it.” Teachers need to re-examine the methods they use in reading instruction. If there are children who struggle to learn, then ‘change’ what you are doing and adjust your methods to help struggling readers to understand.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” (Wm. Arthur Ward).

Now is the time to discard yesterday’s redundant reading methods and use more effective learning strategies, learning strategies that result in effective learning outcomes. Failure to assess the learning abilities of each student before beginning reading instruction would be similar to giving the keys of the car to your child before they have been taught how to drive and expecting things to go well. Before we move forward with how the learning field is set up to make children fail to understand instruction, ask your child to pronounce all short vowels in alphabetical order. “Do not be stressed by the result.”

A Solution!

The solution I recommended earlier to solve the problems created by teaching on a Bell Curve, is solvable by extracting some of the learning strategies found in the Joplin Plan. While I wouldn’t go so far as to assemble students from grades two to grade eight in the same class because of learning levels, I would suggest that students be assessed before they are assigned to various classrooms. Send the brightest students to a different teacher than students who are likely to struggle to learn. The results showed a huge gain in arithmetic skills when grade eight arithmetic students were placed in a learning environment with students at the same basic understanding of numeration. They took students lacking basic arithmetic skills and taught each class, regardless the student's grade, at the learning levels of the weakest student in each class. Good idea! The only problem will be getting past teachers maintaining the “status quo” who fear change.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop and look fear in the face.”(Eleanor Roosevelt).

Today’s Redundant Reading Instruction verses the Science of Reading

The Science of Reading isn’t always easy to teach but it is a proven way for struggling readers to learn to read. Every reading teacher needs to realize the truth and begin using teaching strategies that help students achieve reading success.

“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” (Robert Schuller). When will educators learn to do the right thing?

Liana Loewus, a Master in Special Education, reveals in her December 3, 2019 exposition in Education Week, that 75 percent of teachers lack any understanding of the values of reading sciences or use methods that would help their students learn to read. Nor are they aware of the phonological impairment problem facing struggling readers or how to remediate the problem. Most K-2 teachers are using instructional methods that are unsupported by cognitive science.

Ms. Loewus conducted a survey of universities offering teacher education in the sciences of learning to read. There was a 35 percent increase of USA universities offering teacher training in the science of reading and nearly half of universities offered studies in the science of reading. What scares me the most isn’t that teachers are not being provided with good teaching methodologies but educators accepting the fact it’s OK that half the nation’s reading teachers are not being trained in the Science of Reading.

All instruction must be taught to this standard. For those skeptical readers, it is ‘where’ I begin instruction and ‘how’ I am able to help all students remember every lesson. Some may find my methods too fantastic! I know from years of successful learning outcomes that my methods work for me. I’m aware that my colleagues thought my teaching methods were over the line. A line they were afraid to cross.

“You can waste your life drawing lines. Or you can live life crossing them.” (Meredith Grey).

Very few of my colleagues were supportive of the methods I used to help my students learn to read and spell, even when I produced evidence that my students were out performing their students. They dismissed my methodologies as unconventional and rejected all my theories. To them, I was crossing too many lines. I will discuss why I was a line-crosser on My Journey Toward A Failure-Proof Reading Program.

How Many Times Must You Fail Before Achieving Success?

"There is no such thing as going back to square one. Even if you feel like you’re having to start over, you are trying again with more knowledge, strength and power than you had before. Your journey was never over, it was just waiting for you to find it again.”

I know what it’s like to fail. My life’s journey from early childhood into my mid-twenties was a struggle to overcome failure. As a dyslexic six-year-old, word-blind student, understanding reading and arithmetic operations eluded me until I was transfered from my grade five class to a class for “low-grade morons.” The only thing I had going for me was I didn’t think of myself as stupid and didn’t know I lived in poverty. Up to the age of twelve I attended eight different schools in Edmonton before moving to Vancouver unable to read, spell and with no concept of numeration. My memories of those early struggles were to help me later to understand how every student felt about learning to read. Unfortunately, understanding how they felt didn’t make me a more effective teacher. Those first few years teaching can best be explained by the idiom, “The blind leading the blind." I promise you that this story has a happy ending.

All those years of failing to understand almost every school subject only made me stronger. Being word-blind made it necessary to find alternate ways to understand and remember. First of all, I began to attend and listen to what my teachers were saying. I discovered that lip reading helped me to understand what my teachers were explaining. To this day, I still look at a person’s lips when in conversation and do the same thing when watching TV.

Those childhood experiences of not giving in to obstacles such as hunger and poverty provided me with sufficient coping mechanisms to deal with just surviving; failing to understand how to read or understand numeration never entered my mind. As time went by, I became a better student and my refusal to accept failure made me a better athlete. But family issues kept interfering with my intellectual development. I ended up failing high school and it would be almost ten years before I had the courage to attend university. For whatever the reason, I found university courses easy to understand and obtained a degree in Physical Education and Recreation from the University of British Columbia and a Masters Degree in Continuing Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, ten years later.

How I Became A Teacher Who Helped Children Learn

As fate would have it, after graduating with my professional year at Brock University, my last class assignment was two weeks teaching special education to senior students with special needs. While I had no understanding of how to teach this class, the teacher who would later evaluate my ability to teach showed me her lesson plans and would evaluate me on how well I could follow her routine. Call it fate but my being placed in this particular class not only led to a job as a special education teacher but provided me with teaching strategies of how to help children unable to learn. Interestingly, my first year was teaching senior remediation students in the same age group of 13 to 14 year-old students I worked with those last two weeks of practice teaching. While discipline was never a problem, helping my students to understand reading and arithmetic was beyond my ability to make a difference. I had no illusions of what to do next. There was no program of studies for me to follow. No one in the Special Education Department had a clue about how children learn. All I could do was try my best to help my students learn to read. That first week of teaching I evaluated every student’s answers to every reading lesson. I did this everyday for the rest of my teaching career. I would then write a different but similar lesson to help reinforce what concept I wanted them to learn. The first day I evaluated my students for reading, spelling and arithmetic levels, they scored at a beginning grade one. Not one student could read. I repeated the same evaluation routine with trial and error attempts to help them read.

By the end of the year, despite hundreds of hours of evaluations and experimenting, the class gained about a half year improvement. I would continue this time-consuming procedure for the next twenty odd years. I would be in my classroom reading learning theory or experimenting with innovations that could improve my reading program. By the time I left my classroom, my primary colleagues were ready to serve supper for their families.

Before coming to Vancouver at twelve years old, it was a challenge for me to just survive. For whatever reasons, I had it within me to cope. The only two choices for me were to confront any obstacle or give up. I chose the former. Seventy-five years later, Colin Powell came up with a quote that pretty-well summed up what kind of teacher I would become:

"A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work." I had a poster behind my desk with a comical gold miner standing in a tunnel searching for gold. The caption was, “The harder I work the luckier I get.”

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." (Unknown).
"Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment." (Oprah Winfrey) "Hard work beats talent if talent doesn't work hard." (Kevin Durant)

The successful person doesn’t depend upon dreams and magic to find an easy answer for accomplishing what they have worked so hard and long to achieve. Success is best achieved through hard work and ignoring failure until the goal has been fulfilled. They keep searching all avenues for answers until they discover that eureka moment. Mine came six years into my teaching career, after my fifteenth reading conference. This was the one conference I’m grateful to have attended since it would lead me toward becoming an effective reading teacher.

The Genesis of A Failure Proof Reading Methodology.

I attended a reading conference one summer at York University in Toronto. Three young lecturers discussed the value of teaching short sounds with blends and digraphs. They introduced us to Fat Ed Is Not Up. Their lecture was to show us the value of Short Vowel Sounds and how they made learning to read easier to understand. Their concept was of value but it was when they explained the easiest sound for the human voice to produce that I understood how I would begin teaching children to learn to read and spell.

I am unaware of any reading program initiated with the first lesson of the reading program beginning with the blending of consonants and digraphs with Short O. This is my own methodology of a systematic construct of streaming phonological awareness skills to help children to understand.

Toward A Program of Learning Word Attack Skills

Before starting reading instruction, it is required that no formal instruction begin before the student has mastered the ability to pay attention. Until children can attend, they must first be taught how to listen, how to follow instructions and remember what was explained to them.

For your child to learn, “do not alter” the order of instruction which I offer for reading skill development.

The First Steps Toward Learning to Read

Once I had a reading program that children could understand, the first lesson was teaching them the easiest sound for the human voice to produce: the Short Sound of O or as the teachers call it, “The Doctor Sound.”

Before beginning my word attack skill program, I went over every consonant sound until every student could verbalize any consonant I pointed to. Using only the Short Sound of O, combined with initial and final consonants my students were able to put letters together to make words. Words such as:

tot, hot, not, hop, top, pot, rot, rod, sod, cob, cod, cop, sop, pop, mop, lop, lob, bog, log, hog, nog, jog, jot, job, fob, bob, gob, sob, bot, got, box, fox, etc.

Words without meaning are of little value. Every student is expected to read, spell and provide at least one word meaning for every word learned.

Teaching Triple Blends and Digraphs with Short O

Using the same process, I taught all initial double and triple consonants and digraphs with Short O and all combinations of final consonant word endings and digraphs. Every student read, spelled and provided the meanings of words such as:

lock, locks, clock, clocks, stock, stocks, shop, chop, long, strong, thong, throng, flock, flocks, yon, yond, frog, from, lost, crossed, moth, cloth, froth, frost, prop, prong, sloth, zonk, zonked, etc.

Not only were my students able to read and spell sloth, they could identify a picture of a sloth and tell me the continent and jungle where they lived.

Not one of my students could print legibly, so I introduced them to cursive writing. You will find how to teach cursive writing on the menu. No one can truly say they know a word until they are able to read it, provide its meaning, spell it verbally and be able to write it correctly.

My spelling program wasn’t a random selection of boring spelling words. I used words from previous lessons, words from reading exercises or words from the current spelling program. My students looked forward to the fun they had as I sang spelling dictation. By the way, every student received an A+ on their report card.

Teaching the Rest of the Short Short Vowels with Blends and Digraphs

To complete the entire Short Vowel decoding program, I simply repeated the same procedure as described above but inserted Short I, followed by Short U, Short A and Short E. The process reinforced every student’s word attack skills to decode all blends, digraphs and consonant word endings until they recognized words such as:

yes, yet, yell, yip, yips, zip zed, zig zag, zest, west, zing, zonk, swing, swung, swell, bulb, club, runt, blunt, inch, pinch, jump, dump, champ, chimp, chomp, chump, clump, skull, struck, strength, strict, skid, slid, squid, squib, squinch, squint, squish, quest, guest, quilt, guilt, sting, string, cling, clung, clang, brush, crush, stung, strung, strong, stunk, skunk, thrust, ranch, branch, brunch, finch, swish, swift, lunch, flash, flush, crash, brash, flint, flinch, splint, brick, trick, strict, prom, prompt, squelch, etc.

It goes without saying that every word was easily recognized and could be spelled complete with word meanings. I used pictures I found in comic books, dictionaries and cartoon pictures that the students found on Google.

To prove my theory was effective I would write nonsense words on a blackboard and ask different students to read them to the class. Not only did they decode every word correctly, they enjoyed the challenge. Nonsense words such as:

squonk, squont, thrung, swolk, prampt, skilch, squench, sleng, skelch, blinsh, blansh, quach, squatch, stronsh, scrild, squong.

I found it amusing that my primary colleagues frowned upon my teaching Short Vowels before Long Vowels and my short vowel program wasn’t taught in alphabetical order. They obviously never heard of Fat Ed. Fat Ed showed me how to teach children to learn to recognize words.

The Easy Transition from Short Regular Vowels to Long Vowels Final E

To introduce Long Vowels, Final E, I used many of the short vowel words they had mastered in previous lessons: words such as cut, cub, mad, rid, rod, dam, skat, stat, shin, spin, strip, etc. and added a Final E.

The concept of the Final E making the first vowel long was easily understood and made spelling words ending Final E by dropping the e and adding ing easy to understand:

mad becomes made, rod-rode, fat-fate, cut-cute, shin-shine, spin-spine, strip-stripe, slop-slope, hat-hate, slat-slate, but-bute, shut-shute, mat-mate, Sam-same, pip-pipe, hop-hope, slim-slime, flam-flame, lit-lite, bit-bite, Tim-time, dim-dime, quit-quite, grim-grime, skat-skate, shamshame, etc.

I am unaware of any systematic reading instruction that uses the same process as that which I teach all beginning reading students.

Two Vowels Together (TVT) became the Easiest Lesson to be learned.
With all the previous consonant blends, digraphs and word ending, Two Vowels Together became the most successful program I’d taught. Every student could recognized words such as:

reach, leach, teach, speech, speak, squeak, squeal, quail, steam, stream, bleach, screech, streak, gloat, train, strain, dream, preen, screen, scream.

I kept all irregular words with vowel sounds that broke rules out of my lessons. I did this because irregular pattern words tend to confuse or discourage some beginning readers. When they were ready, I would teach them words such as: lost, post, cold, none, chief, great, call, fall and vowels with R.

To prepare my students to understand my instruction and master every skill mentioned above took about six weeks. Every grade one student improved their word recognition, spelling performance and vocabulary skills to a mid grade two. After two months of instruction they were ready to begin reading simple stories that were at their word recognition levels. Time for them to learn to read!

I wrote my own stories with words I knew the class could recognize or decode. While I had introduced them to words with irregular vowel patterns (ie. one, two, have, give, great, grief, etc), I tried to keep my stories failure-proof. I’d use the names of my students in my stories and some adventures or places my students may have experienced.

Up until now, I hadn’t begun to teach syllabication, prefixes, suffixes or plurals. When they had to spell words with ed or ings, they knew ‘why’.

I go into great detail with how to recognize and verbalize all of the above.

Curriclum Casualities

Learning scientists indicate that 90% of what we view is encoded by the brain and is responsible for our ability to recognize, categorize and remember what we just viewed. How the brain assimilates what it sees and remembers is extremely important to the cognitive development of children trying to learn to read. If this is interrupted for any reason, learning is slowed down and children will end up as Educational Researcher Jane Fell Green puts it, "curriculum casualties."

Children who are ‘word-blind’ as is the dyslexic child, will never learn to read from what they view. This is the first mistake primary teachers make with reading programs that are visual in content. This may explain why 75 percent of primary children are phonologically impaired. The potential curriculum casualty is easily recognized, especially children entering grade one who come from a restricted learning environment who have the ability to learn to read but require remediation to strengthen all the above mentioned learning deficits. Some indicators would be an inability to pay attention, fidgeting, an inability to sit still and easy distraction. There is little chance for these students to learn to read, yet here they are, and as Dr. Green states, “This is not because these students failed school but in recognition of how schools failed to help these students learn to read.”

Few educators understand the relevance of spatiality/directionality as being fundamental to the development of reading comprehension. To prevent any further curriculum casualties, children need to strengthen all learning modalities before formal teaching lessons begin. I recommend that students engage in learning games the first day school begins; games that will strengthen their verbal expressive language skills, memory for what they see and hear, and games that challenge their ability in problem solving. Playing games like Pick-Up Sticks, Chinese Checkers and Concentration not only enhance fine motor development but require a great deal of problem solving if they are to achieve success. These are cognitive learning games that train the brain to acquire every essential neurodevelopmental skill that will facilitate learning to read.

Poor concepts of directionality affect up to at least twenty percent of the general population who are otherwise neurologically normal. Accvording to Dr. Gerard Gormley, an academic general practitioner at Queen’s University Belfast, research found that “poor directionality concepts” restrict neuropsychological processes involving several higher functions, including memory for, and the ability to process visual information. To all parents and teachers who believe the child will grow out of this condition; you’re wrong and fix the problem immediately. My friend who was driving me home the other night struggled to understand my directions to turn left at the next intersection. It seems that remediating children who read b as d or d as p, may never mature from their disability unless the problem can be solved before it’s too late.

Here is a quick test to see if there is really such a thing as Dr. Gormley suggests, “a neuropsychological process.” First, lift your right foot from the floor and make ‘clock-clockwise’ circles, now draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand. Notice anything? This kind of neuropsychological confusion interrupts the learning process for students with cognitive learning issues. This is a neurocognitive problem and has nothing to do with intelligence but unless it is corrected, it will hinder many students in their quest to find success in learning to read.

Children With Weak Listening Skills Will Struggle to Learn to Read

Dr. Ralph Nichols, the ‘Father of Listening’ believes, “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” This is a generation of children who are entering a learning environment to which they are totally unprepared. The challenge for teachers is to be absolute in their belief that all their students will have the facility to see and hear in order to understand and remember. All learning begins with strong listening skills. When this is not a priority in our efforts to help students learn, then as Dr. Nichols states, “If we fail in this, then future listeners will listen like past listeners and that will not be good enough.”

Statistics show that the average adult understands only 25% of what is spoken to them. The one common deficit that PhD graduates bring into job interviews, only to find themselves looking elsewhere for employment, is their inability to listen to follow instructions. “How many beginning readers must be denied achievable learning experiences because of redundant reading programs and teachers who never taught them how to listen?” — Byron Thorne.

Synthetic Phonics

Phonics taught incorrectly will both frustrate and confuse children trying to learn to read. A Thorne Synthetic Phonics lesson can’t frustrate anyone since it always begins at the student’s learning level. Before I ever start a phonics lesson, I make certain that every student has the capability to understand everything that I explain to them.

For every student to remember what I am about to teach requires that I use "reinforcement learning." This method produces 100% learning mastery. After a word has been decoded, I present the word visually, then provide as many episodes of auditory reinforcement as needed until the word is mastered. "Mastered" includes the ability to recognize the word, spell it and to be able to provide at least one definition for the word. I do this with each student.

But it is where I start my synthetic phonics program that differs from every reading program that is currently being taught. To save you time, scroll to Where I Start the First Reading Lesson and see if any of my theories are of value to you.

Learning scientists Watson & Johnston, as well as Siegel and Metsala, indicate that well planned synthetic phonics is the recommended curriculum to introduce reading in primary grades. Some learning scientists disagree with my findings that synthetic phonics taught to fruition, along with developmental reading strategies, will enable students beyond the primary grades to gain reading skills. This includes children at all grade levels. These can be children with learning deficits, grade retention students, children with language barriers, children with medical issues, as well as children from low income families. All children can learn, but they all need to start at their own square one in order to learn to read.

The War on Phonics has many naysayers trying to hold on to outmoded ‘look and say’ methodologies combined with explicit, systematic phonics programs. If they look at the science, they will find learning theorists have exposed these reading curricula as being detrimental to the learning process. Students need learning strategies that make sense and will motivate them to learn. Not one Educational Ministry in Canada has endorsed SP, in spite of the evidence that students are able to learn more readily using this methodology. The only countries with government approval for Synthetic Phonics are Australia and the United Kingdom. The UK has government approval for Synthetic Phonics but the teacher’s union won’t be told by the Ministry how reading must be taught. It should be noted that the UK has one of the lowest literacy levels in the English speaking world.

As educators, we need discover what is prohibiting the acquisition of basic language skills in English speaking countries, especially in North America. Why are literacy levels in all major English speaking countries dropping, while Asian, Russian and Nordic countries have high literacy levels?

The English language has too many inconsistencies, contradictions and lacks logical congruities to make for the easy acquisition of literacy. Our ‘future functionally illiterates’ see only chaos in the instructional strategies that are offered to help them learn. Steve Sinnot, from the American National Union of Teachers, states that, “Teachers need the flexibility and trust in their professional judgment to respond to children’s individual needs.” This would work in a school environment that didn’t include overcrowded classrooms, students with language barriers, as well as, an influx of children from low-income families with motivational and learning issues.

All teachers want to encourage their students to learn to read but they will need science-driven instructional strategies from their language superintendents and a willingness to change to new reading methods. There is a need to use methodologies that make learning more easily understood. The learning environment is already at the threshold of becoming overwhelmed by students with reading problems, and teachers must have the tools to adapt or there will be consequences.