Many phonics programs do teach letter/sound relationships, but then move directly into reading whole words and stories. Some children have no problem with that, but many others develop a roadblock. They reverse letters in words, and even reverse words in sentences,
and cannot seem to move forward. Why?


Neurologists now know that early reversals are normal for many beginning readers. Blending practice should be an integral part of reading instruction, but is not often included. Blending prepares students for reading just as crawling prepares us for walking.

This critical but frequently-overlooked step helps prevent or correct letter and word reversals and develops strong eye muscles. It is important to acquire this skill prior to reading real words, in order to correct or prevent any tendency to reverse letters which might only cement a bad habit.

Blending practice can be very cursory, or taught carefully in a gradually progressive manner. What follows is my particular recipe for reading that gets maximum results in the minimum time with the least amount of effort:

(1) Blending practice should begin with two-letter syllables. It is at this point that strong left-to-right tracking skills become solidified, and it’s important to do so before reading real words to prevent or correct reversals.

For example, take “sa.” Say the sound of each letter of the syllable separately, at first: “sss” “aaa.” Now say it again, this time blending the two sounds together: “SSSSSSSSSaaaaaaaaaaa .” (Take a deep breath first!)
This simple but powerful exercise is essential.

(2) Reading should be gradually progressive. It’s too big of a jump for many students to suddenly move from reading a single word into reading whole stories. Would we expect someone just learning how to play the piano to immediately play a sonata just because they could play the scales?

Try reading one word such as “red,” then two-word phrases such as “red hat,” and then three-word phrases such as “big red hat.” It’s fun to make up your own! If your students enjoy it consider getting Reading Pathways, a book filled with just this kind of eye-tracking practice, but in the shape of pyramids. (Take a peek! http://www.dorbooks.com/pdfs/shortvowels.pdf)


(1) Try some of the eye exercises shown in back of Phonics Pathways (pages 251 and 252). They are the same ones given to our son when he was young by an optometrist specializing in vision therapy, and were very helpful indeed. (But they must be practiced on a regular basis.)

(2) And do try “The Train Game” on pages 258-259. of Phonics Pathways. The visual aspect of moving train cars seems to be especially helpful. Make up “The Train Game”s blank cars (page 259), write the word by syllables on the cars (such as “con” “strain” “ing”) and then have the student play “The Train Game” as directed on page 20.

Manipulatives like this can really help break through this roadblock, because the student initiates and completely controls the timing of the blending. That’s the critical part that makes all the difference. One reading specialist felt it actually rewired his students’ brain, enabling him to read from left to right for the very first time!

(3) Finally, consider beginning every reading lesson by having your student read aloud one of the simpler pyramid exercises in Reading Pathways. It’s a powerful “warm-up” for the lesson, much like stretching is before jogging.


Currently we are living in tough times, and all we can do is make the best of it. We may not have come over on the same ship, but we are all in the same boat.

Let us not bankrupt our todays by paying interest on the regrets of yesterday and by borrowing in advance the trouble of tomorrow. There is nothing we cannot live down, rise above, and overcome!

(There is a new video on my website that explains how I overcame some of my own personal obstacles — if you like, you can see it at www.dorbooks.com, click on “About Us.”)

With that thought and those good wishes, I leave you for now. Peace be with you! Blessings,

                  Dolores :)


© Dolores G. Hiskes 2016

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