Archive for Dolores

Teaching Tips from Two Special Teachers


A recent study by highly-respected researchers reported on  the first large-scale oral reading testing that has been done in close to a century, in which the scores on this important test date have established once and for all that the sight word “meaning” method which has been omnipresent in American schools has succeeded in producing exceedingly grave reading disabilities in an entire group of adult readers.

But  these renowned researchers have their own explanation for this phenomenon: They call it the “New Science of Dyslexia.” They conclude that dyslexia is inborn, and that dyslexic’s brains function in different ways, and that it is separate from other reading disabilities. They say there is wide scientific proof that people with dyslexia have a different neurological makeup, easily identifiable through brain scans and diagnostic testing. Their conclusion is that dyslexia cannot be “cured.” They seek to build in other ways on the immense creativity they say is inherent in dyslexics.


The reading text these researchers recommend, features many of the very same techniques that the earlier part of the book said were inappropriate for dyslexics. In one section the author points out the difficulty of rote learning for dyslexics; but then she recommends using flash cards for drill and memorization of common sight words. But these folks are RESEARCHERS, not TEACHERS!

Ever since the pioneering work of Samuel Orton, educators have known that dyslexics learn best by multisensory methods, but this book does not mention the importance of such teaching.

The authors further states that parents of children in California have nothing to worry about because California has adopted their recommended curriculum. Needless to say, California test scores are among the lowest in the nation and do not bear out their contention.


Mercks Manual defines dyslexia as: “Failure to see or hear similarities or differences in letters or words . . . Inability to work out pronunciation of unfamiliar words. . .Tendency to substitute words for those he cannot see. . .”

Since whole language programs do not teach students individual letter/sounds at first, how can they hear the sounds comprising the word? And if children are encouraged in first grade to substitute words for those they cannot read, do not these programs actually train children to do the very thing that journals define as dyslexic?

While it is true that brain scans from “dyslexic” students are different from those of good readers, the amazing thing is that once a student learns how to read correctly these scans clearly show brains that have gone back to being like those of normal students! Most dyslexia is just a result of improper teaching methods. The simple fact is, that most children labeled dyslexia CAN be cured!  The following two examples are cases in point:


Ann Edwards was a first-grade teacher at Litel Elementary School in Chino, CA. She has had twenty-four years experience teaching everything from kindergarten through ninth grade, and says while her mission in life is teaching, her passion in life is teaching reading.

Ann was chosen as 2004 National Right to Read Foundation’s “Teacher of The Year.” We were invited to the special ceremony for her that was held in Chino Hills, CA. This beautiful ceremony was attended by a wide variety of state and national dignitaries there to honor this very special teacher.

The highlight of the evening for us was when her entire first-grade class proudly got up on the stage and took turns reading selections from William Bennett’s Book of Virtues. ALL of her students were fluent readers! Amazing!


Ann began teaching her students to sound out the letters right away. She also taught them penmanship using graph paper — they see, say, hear, and write each letter in their “Little Book of Dictation.”

She met with the parents at the beginning of the school year to explain what she is doing and tell them what she expects of them as well. Every child gets a packet of homework to take home, which has the same pages from Phonics Pathways that she is using in class. Parents reinforce what Ann is doing in, and record what they have done in their child’s homework log sheet.

Students began using Reading Pathways as soon as they can read a sentence, and these pages were sent home as well. Ann told the students they can build interesting sentences as well — “the more words we can read the more interesting sentences and stories we can build.”

Ann tested the students four or five times a year with the Slossen Oral Reading test, and she kept a running record of the results. Most of her first graders were reading well into second or third grade by the end of the year.

Congratulations Ann — it was a great pleasure meeting you and being part of this wonderful ceremony!


Pam Barrett was a first-grade elementary school teacher at Tovashal School in Murrietta, CA. We first met Pam when we were invited to attend the surprise “Teacher of The Year” award she received in 1998 from the National Right to Read Association. We were invited because Pam uses “Phonics Pathways” and “Reading Pathways” in her classroom.

After using “Phonics Pathways” for only 4 months, Pam had put on a “Literature Evening for Parents.” Her students poured hot chocolate for them and put on classical music. Then all of her eager little first-graders went up on stage and read selections from William Bennett’s “Book of Virtues” to the astonishment and delight of everyone in the audience.

Then it was Pam’s turn to be astonished — she was presented with the National Right to Read Foundation’s “Teacher of the Year” award. It was a surprise to her, and was followed by many testimonials from those who know, love, and respect her for all she has accomplished and her great love for children. It was a tearful, joyous, and very special occasion!

While I observed her first-grade class, Pam sent several students up to read to me from Phonics Pathways, each choosing what they wanted to read. I was thrilled to listen to these literate young ones! Tiny little Emily turned to the back of the book and flawlessly read a sentence from the R-controlled section of the book. I asked her if she understood what she was reading, and she then very patiently explained it to me in her very own words!


At the beginning of the year Pam had her students sit on a rug with the first page in Phonics Pathways, and they learn that letter. She wrote it on the chalkboard and showed the page on an overhead as well. She sent the page home with the students so parents can reinforce that day’s classwork. Parents had to “sign off” that the work was done.

She handed out tickets for things well done: trying hard, improvement, being on time, reading first sentence, etc. At some predetermined time tickets are traded for prizes, frequently donated by local merchants: food, crayons, pencils, drinks, bowling, etc.

After students know the short-vowel sounds they peel off and begin working in small groups. They frequently practice round robin reading, and Pam liked to use “Collections for Young Scholars” for the kindergarteners once they are reading. (She used SRA Open Court Anthology 2002 for her first graders.) She paired good readers with mediocre ones.

Pam felt nonsense words are a great aid to reading accuracy and blending automaticity. Her students practiced with nonsense words on a regular basis, sometimes having relay races. Another game was to see how many words they can read in 30 seconds.

Pam uses a portable microphone to great advantage — students turned to the same page in Phonics Pathways, and she took turns handing the microphone to students randomly, saying “You’re on the air!” As they read the passage out loud, the others must follow with their fingers on the page. Great fun for all!


We soon learned that after seeing these spectacular results, all kindergarten and first grade teachers at Tovashal School decided to use Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways. ALL kindergartners are reading three-letter words, and a few of them have actually finished the entire book.


Isn’t it time to stop digging the hole we are in and just say “THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES ON” and simply go with what clearly has worked well for so many students for so many years? When will we ever learn?


Dyslexia Revisited

What is dyslexia?

Most experts agree that, in general, dyslexia is the result of an inability to distinguish and/or process the sounds that make up speech, for whatever reason. When trying to define dyslexia, it’s difficult to find any one group that totally agrees with another–in either its definition, diagnosis or treatment.

What can we do about it?

Some experts feel that dyslexia is inborn and can never be cured, while others believe there is no such thing as dyslexia, and it is just a result of improper teaching methods. It is at this point where opinions begin to diverge. Merck’s Manual defined dyslexia as:

“Failure to see or hear similarities or differences in letters or words…Inability to work out pronunciation of unfamiliar words…Tendency to substitute words for those he cannot see. . .”

Since whole language programs do not teach students individual letter/sounds at first, how can they hear the sounds comprising the word? And if children are encouraged in first grade to substitute words for those they cannot read, do not these programs actually train children to do the very thing that medical journals define as dyslexic?

My own experience is that while true dyslexia is much rarer than is commonly thought, it indeed can be an inborn organic phenomenon. Our own son has it.

Although he was taught how to read with explicit phonics, he still struggled with learning. Although he is now over 50 years old, has graduated with honors in Microbiology from the University of California, and frequently reads a book in one sitting, he still needs to think twice before writing “b” and “d” in order not to reverse them!

Children exhibiting dyslexic symptoms who were taught with whole-language methods have what I term “whole-word dyslexia” and no longer exhibit any signs of reversals or confusion once they learn how to read properly. It can be impossible to differentiate from true organic dyslexia.

How can we tell the difference?

What difference does it make? Whether dyslexia is organic or educationally-induced, treatment still consists of good phonics remediation. Whether irregular eye movement patterns are a cause or consequence of poor decoding skills, the remediation is still the same!

When phonemes are individually learned, slowly blended into syllables and words, and then built into sentences, eyes are being patterned to move together smoothly from left to right across the page. It is eye training at its simplest, most basic level.

It is my experience that if bad training can be a cause of dyslexia, then good training can help overcome it! We are not born with the ability to automatically move our eyes from left to right-it is an acquired skill that is absolutely necessary in the earliest stages of reading. Without it, irregular eye movements, reversals, etc., can become established that result in slow and/or inaccurate reading. Eye-tracking skills must be well-established before real learning can take place.

Some students get over this hurdle quickly once they learn how to read correctly, others need more time and training to correct irregular eye movements. Sporadic and irregular eye movements have become so firmly entrenched that specific convergent eye exercises are needed to help them get over this difficulty.

Do exercises really help?

This process actually can be painful for some students! Don Potter, a resource specialist, once wrote to me:

“This 4th-grade girl put her head down when she started the long vowel sections of Phonics Pathways because she said it made her hurt all over. Previously there had been heavy use of context, requiring a lot of self correction to get through a passage. Decoding had been mostly by context and configurational clues.

“Comprehension was seriously impaired because of lack of attentional capacity, and she had often exhausted herself with the decoding, and frequently inserted words that weren’t there.

“She experienced a great deal of mental anguish when she had to read the long-vowel endings in Phonics Pathways Rewiring the brain is no fun, but what a tremendous difference it has made in her reading!”

If a child must concentrate so hard just to decide the phonemes correctly, he cannot focus on meaning at the same time. It’s not that eye convergence and tracking exercises will teach reading per se, but rather it will set the stage for allowing learning to happen.

“Eye training” is not new or unique to America–it has been part of Chinese and Tibetan medicine for many thousands of years. No doubt there are false and overblown claims made by many practitioners.

But it is my experience that “dyslexic” students who were taught how to read incorrectly have benefited greatly from vision/motor training, which in its simplest form should be embodied in any good phonics reading programs. It’s certainly an important component of Dorbooks products!

One mother recently wrote,

“My son is 9 and this is our second year of homeschooling. In October our local library included your book. I was the first to take it out and I now have our own copy. I read in the back about the activities to help hand and eye coordination. These were the same exercises we did for Perceptual Vision Dysfunction Therapy.

“What a difference it made! My son loves it so much that it is one subject I get “Great Mom, I love doing Phonics Pathways!Reading Pathways has been a tremendous boost in our family to reinforce blending. My 5 year old read the very first pyramid story last week and it really made her day!”

Whole-language programs frequently claim they do teach phonics. But the question is, what do they mean by “phonics”?

So  B E W A R E !! As Mark Twain said:

“There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech to fuddle the mental apparatus and upset the convictions and debauch the emotions of an audience not practiced in the tricks and delusions of oratory!”                                                                  ~My very best, Dolores


What’s New? Are both books needed?

Many customers have asked me what’s new in the 10th edition of Phonics Pathways. It has the same content it had before, but is enhanced with:

1—More practice pages.

2—Three added “Fluency Reality Checks” in strategic places. These nonsense words ensure that students are reading phonetically and not by sight.

3—“Dividing Multisyllable Words”. A whole new section details the ten rules on how to divide multisyllable words, illustrated with many examples.

4—A “Short Sheet of Vowels” master page.This multisensory reinforcement is designed to use throughout the book as needed, to accelerate learning and remembering the short-vowel sounds.

Questions and Answers:

Another customer asks: “How do you use these two resources together? Do you use Phonics Pathways and then the other? Or does Reading Pathways cover everything?”

Phonics Pathways is designed to TEACH reading skills including letters and sounds, rules, pronunciation, and comprehension.

Reading Pathways is designed to DEVELOP reading skills once they are taught.

Begin by using Phonics Pathways alone through page 52, where there is a pyramid-type exercise.

Now add Reading Pathways. It is a whole book of pyramid exercises that has the same progression of skills as that in Phonics Pathways, and will help enhance and develop the skills learned in that book.

There is a free downloadable guide on how to use these books together on my website: Go to, click on “Free Downloads,”  then scroll down to “Guide to Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways.” This little booklet explains in great detail exactly how to use these books together.

Reading Pathways begins with one word and slowly builds into phrases and sentences of gradually increasing complexity, and is shaped like a pyramid. These exercises strengthen left-to-right eye tracking, increase eye span and accelerate reading fluency.

Reading Pathways also features more challenging multisyllable word pyramid exercises and games to further develop fluency and vocabulary. It removes the fear and mystique of multisyllable words, and helps students build the strong vocabulary so critical for success in today’s rapidly-changing world.

While Phonics Pathways is a complete reading program in itself and has been very successfully used as such for over 30 years, Reading Pathways is an extra aid that will help develop, ease, and accelerate reading fluency.

Happy reading!  



Teach Comprehension?

The Question:

A customer wrote: “I was wondering what you think about teaching reading comprehension “strategies.” If students are able to read accurately and fluently will they automatically be able to comprehend the material they read?”

My Answer:

Most of the time yes…but not always! I have a video tape of a three-year-old boy reading fluently from the back of my book with great emphasis on feeling and meaning (so much so it was sweetly laughable!), even stopping to ask questions now and then about what might come next. His mother had only taught him how to read with it, but nothing about comprehension.

But then there is the 4th-grade girl who could also read anything in the book — but had no idea what she was reading! She had never connected reading with meaning. Her teacher had called me because she was totally frustrated about what she should do.

I ended up taking the child back, back, and finally back to the first sentence in the book: “Sis sat.” She did not have the slightest clue as to what it meant.

I asked her what “Sis” meant, she replied “Oh, you mean sister?”

Then I asked her what “sat” meant, and she said “You mean like sat down?”

Then I asked her again what “sis sat” meant, and her eyes just shone. She excitedly shouted “My sister sat down!” and from then on she connected meaning with reading.

Diagraming sentences is another great activity for everyone, but especially someone who needs help with comprehension. Just knowing the subject and verb alone is a huge step forward!

So as you can see, there are students who automatically comprehend once they can accurately decode, but others who need specific instruction about comprehension. Most students fall in between these two rather extreme examples.

Nevertheless it’s always a good idea to check for comprehension every so often by simply asking a general question or two about what the child has just read: “Who did it? What did they do?” etc.

As Rudyard Kipling said,

        I keep six honest serving-men
         (They taught me all I knew);
        Their names are What and Why and When
          And How and Where and Who.
        I send them over land and sea,
          I send them east and west;
        But after they have worked for me,
          I give them all a rest!

                                     ~Rudyard Kipling, Elephant Child