Over my 20 years of homeschooling kids with dyslexia, I’ve tried and failed with many reading curricula. There was nothing inherently wrong with those programs. They would have worked for 80% of kids learning to read. But not with my kids. For my kids, and 20% of the population with dyslexia, it doesn’t matter how many songs, games or brightly colored readers accompany a reading program – they just won’t work. The goal of this post is to point you in the right direction to find reading curricula for teaching reading to kids with dyslexia that really work.
To begin with, you need to know a few things:
1. All dyslexics can learn to read with the right methods.
2. You don’t need to be intimidated by the thought of teaching your dyslexic kids to read.
3. Teaching them to read can take a lot of time – even with the right methods.
In the 1930s, Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham did studies with different methods of reading on people with ‘word blindness’ as dyslexia was commonly known back then. Their approach consisted of an intensive, sequential phonics-based system that used the three learning modalities, or pathways, through which people learn—visual, auditory and kinesthetic. In the past nearly 100 years, these methods are still proven to work. When I went through my Orton-Gillingham training, we learned these methods and techniques and how to use them in a tutoring situation. You don’t need to be a certified tutor to teach with these methods. Keep reading. On this site, you will hear me refer to the Orton-Gillingham method and also research-based teaching methods. These terms are interchangeable.
Qualities of a Research-based Reading Curriculum
Remember as you are reading this next section, that the purpose of this site is to educate you, the parents. If you begin to feel overwhelmed by the descriptions below, be mindful that you do not need to reinvent the wheel. There are reading curricula that have been developed, for homeschoolers, that meet these criteria.
I am providing this information to you for two reasons:
1. If you hire a tutor, they should be using these methods so you will need to know what they are.
2. If you are teaching your own kids to read at home, you will want a reading curriculum that meets these requirements.
A reading program that will be effective with the dyslexic learner will teach:
Phonemic Awareness: How to listen to a single word or syllable and break it into its individual sounds. Students should be able to change sounds, remove sounds and compare sounds all in their head. All curricula will need modifications of some sort.
Sound-Symbol Association: The knowledge of the various sounds in our language and their corresponding letter or combination of letters that represent those sounds. This includes blending sounds together into words and segmenting or taking whole words apart into individual sounds.
Syllabication Instruction: Instruction of the six (some people say 7) basic syllable types.
Morphology: The study of base words, roots, prefixes and suffixes. This becomes very helpful when decoding longer words. There is a logic behind reading and spelling that can be known.
Semantics: Instruction in reading comprehension strategies.
A reading program that will be effective with the dyslexic learner will teach in this way:
Simultaneous and Multisensory: Research has shown that dyslexics using all of their senses as they learn (visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic) are better able to store and retrieve information. Simultaneous simply means that using as many of these senses as possible at once (simultaneously) is best.
Systematic and Cumulative: Good instruction should be organized in a logical order. This basically means that the sequence of instruction that you follow must begin with the easiest and most basic elements and progress methodically to more difficult concepts. In addition, these lessons must be taught systematically to strengthen memory. So for example, when you teach a syllable type and it’s rules – you would follow the same procedure for every syllable as it is introduced. The method is the same and predictable and frees up brain space for remembering and applying the rule. Cumulative means, for example, after introducing a rule, practice until is is mastered, and do lots of review. This is where a lot of traditional teaching curricula fall short. Dyslexics need to over learn material until it becomes automatic and in many cases, this takes a lot of review , more than traditional learners.
Direct instruction: Every rule must be taught directly and practiced until mastered. Dyslexic learners do not naturally pick up the rules of written language. Can’t assume that they’ll pick things up automatically like a traditional learner. The penny usually won’t drop by itself!
Diagnostic Teaching: Teaching must be individualized and the student’s needs and progress must be constantly reassessed. This is why it is difficult to find a program that works out of the box. All curricula that is used with the dyslexic learner will need a certain amount of tweaking or rearranging of the lesson plans. This may mean either adding more practice or taking longer to teach what would be contained in a single lesson.
Programs that we love
Many reading curricula have some of these elements but if they don’t have ALL of them, the information will not stick or progress will be very slow. We have tried with success the following Orton-Gillingham programs:
All About Reading
All About Reading has contains all of the elements of a research-based reading program. It is an open and go curriculum which means that you can gather the materials, open the book and start teaching. This is a serious program that kids still enjoy. We start in Pre-Level 1 which has excellent instruction in Phonemic Awareness and Sound Symbol Association. The multi-sensory instruction keeps kids interested while causing the information to stick. All About Reading was developed for homeschooling families and has a fantastic web site with lots of resources for parents. There customer support is also very good. The program comes with a 60 day money back guarantee. Read my full review of All About Reading here.
Logic of English
Logic of English: A very thorough, easy-to-use reading program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading. Foundations level for children ages 4-7 has many highly multi-sensory teaching ideas and includes instruction in cursive or manuscript (whichever you prefer). Essentials level for children 8+ contains 3 levels so that instruction can be tailored to your child’s needs. Can be used for several years in a row using the higher levels. Includes study of Greek and Latin roots, prefixes and suffixes. An excellent, well-rounded program.
Reading Horizons At Home
Reading Horizons has been writing Orton-Gillingham based reading curricula for use in schools for over 20 years. They recently developed some programs for at home use. In particular, the program for older struggling readers has had huge success. It has none of the cute cartoons and childish story lines of most early phonics instruction yet starts at the beginning and strengthens and builds a solid foundation in kids 10 and older. Mastery-based (you don’t move on until you have mastered something) and completed on the computer, it is an excellent tool for teaching the older student who is still struggling to read. Read my full review of Reading Horizons here.
Take a Course
If you are looking to get educated about dyslexia and how to educate, encourage and empower your kids with dyslexia, you have come to the right place.
For more information on getting started homeschooling your child with dyslexia, consider downloading my free e-book, Homeschooling With Dyslexia 101, that covers things like understanding learning styles and teaching methods, how to create a positive learning environment and schedule, or how to set goals and get it all done.
For more information on specific strategies to teach your dyslexic child the way he or she learns, consider taking one of our Parent Dyslexia Classes.
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