“Reading at a Cost of $6.46”

Quote from Dr. Jack Fletcher, U. of Houston neuropsychologist:  “…the average cost of the testing for special education eligibility was $800 to $8,000, and the median was $4,000. You can do a really good intervention program for $4,000.”  (I have posted Dr. Fletcher’s interesting Q&A article from the Houston Chronicle further on down the page.)

I have even better news: If schools would teach Phono-Graphix by Carmen McGuinness, it would cost $6.46 ( for an entire classroom of children to learn to read.  If schools would teach reading correctly, the $8,000 per child for special education testing and the $4,000 for reading intervention would not be necessary! 

 My husband’s father could not read nor write.  My husband struggled with dyslexia problems.  Our two sons were diagnosed early-on with learning disabilities. Here came our five grandchildren, the oldest of whom had severe ear infections that delayed his speech abilities. He could not hear the sounds of the English language well enough to emulate them.  He was doomed to become a poor reader if he learned to read at all. 

 Fortunately, a neurologist introduced our family to Phono-Graphix (i.e., Reading Reflex) by Carmen McGuinness. Our daughter-in-law who had had no teacher training whatsoever followed the explicit directions given in this book and taught our oldest grandson to read/write/spell.  

 Not only is our oldest grandson (now a high-school senior) an “A” student, but our other four grandchildren (all taught to read using Phono-Graphix) are “A” students also. All five are fluent readers.

 The key to good reading instruction is to help a child “crack the code” where he hears an English sub-sound (phoneme) and is able to map that sound to a letter.  Once that momentous “epiphany” occurs, then Phono-Graphix leads the student through direct, systematic, sound-to-letter acquisition until he is able to read, write, and spell to the automaticity level.  The child learns to hear individual phonemes, segment, and then blend them into words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and then text.

When a child’s brain is able to respond almost automatically to what the words themselves are, then his brain is freed up enough to concentrate on comprehension.  If he is still struggling to figure out what the words are, his brain cannot focus on comprehending the meaning of the text.   

The reading approach (sound-to-letter) that is used by Phono-Graphix is backed up by a great deal of documented research. The cognitive eye instrumentation research has shown that good readers read almost every single word, going from the part to the whole; this finding completely discredits whole language instruction which moves erroneously from the whole to the part. 

Research done with MRI’s has tracked the brain and how it reacts when exposed to sound-to-letter reading instruction. One of these research reports was published in Science Daily on 8.5.08 although there are many other reports that confirm the same thing: 

Remedial Instruction Rewires Dyslexic Brains, Provides Lasting Results, Study Shows – “The most common cause, accounting for more than 70 percent of dyslexia, is a difficulty in relating the visual form of a letter to its sound…”

 When I think of “what might have been” with our familial and genetic problems, I get teary-eyed.  This is part of the reason that I have spent so much of my life fighting the “reading wars.” 

If schools would throw out their discredited whole language approach (e.g., Guided Reading, holistic scoring of essays, invented spelling, etc.) and teach all children to “crack the code” (sound-to-letter acquisition of phonemes), we would see a society that would be able to read proficiently; and this would lead to a prosperous and well-educated America in all areas of our culture. This could cost as little as $6.46 per classroom (a far cry from $8,000 to $4,000 per student for special education testing and intervention).

One more thing:  Phono-Graphix is non-consumable which means one book could be used year after year!  

All it takes is for a person to follow the directions in the book, cut apart pieces of paper with phonemes written on them (manipulatives), place them in envelopes in a shoebox, give each child a little writing slate along with a marker, and proceed systematically through the steps in the book.  

Parent volunteers could be brought in to help individualize the instruction because anyone and everyone can learn how to present the instruction by reading through several chapters at the beginning of the book. This approach would free up the classroom teacher to be able to work with those children who need specialized instruction.  

As a secondary classroom teacher for 33 years, I myself have used Phono-Graphix to help struggling readers and have shared this book with numerous grandparents who have been worried about their grandchildren’s lack of reading acquisition. Not long ago a proud grandmother with whom I had shared this book some years ago told me what a difference Phono-Graphix had made in her grandson’s life.

Several years ago, a middle-school English teacher told me that she used Phono-Graphix with all her students, taking them back to the point where she made sure they had learned how to “crack the code” before proceeding to teach them more sophisticated reading selections.

I know of various tutors and private coaches (some in the prison system where poor readers are rampant) who are making a living teaching poor readers to take that all-important leap “to crack the code.”  Professional athletes who are non-readers have been taught to read through programs such as Phono-Graphix.  A local tutoring company that uses Phono-Graphix is continuously hiring more employees to handle the growing number of students who are coming to them to learn to read.  A friend of mine teaches in a private school during the day where he teaches sound-to-letter and “cracking the code” but works at a second job where he tutors poor readers from the public schools who are reading failures. Invariably, these children are products of whole language and Guided Reading strategies that are still being utilized by misguided public school teachers.

Once that leap of “cracking the code” is accomplished, the whole world of reading will unfold before students; and doors of opportunity will open. Good reading leads to good writing and good spelling.  Throw in a healthy dose of grammar and correct usage, and the student is on his way to academic success that extends to his other classes.

Outside of helping a child to grow spiritually, I cannot think of a greater gift that a person could give a student than to help him to learn to read, write, and spell well.

 Donna Garner

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