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When it Comes to Learning to Read, Teachers Don't Always Give the Best Advice

From the Mailbag...

I get a lot of emails - from customers who use my reading program to teach their children to read, and from visitors to our site. I always do my best to answer all my emails, and sometimes, some emails will standout more to catch my attention, and below is one such email:

Hi Jim,

When you have time, Jim, I'd like your thoughts on something that's been bothering me, and it's bothering me even more so now that I've read a good part of the preparatory text to your Children Learning Reading Program.

M is in Grade two here. Her Progress Report, states that she "is reading below grade level expectations," and that she is receiving reading intervention four times a week. However, what I, and the mother, are completely puzzled by is the following announcement: "Her reading goal this term is to practice skipping unknown words, reading to the end of a sentence and going back to make a good guess."

To us, this sounds like a very counter-productive measure to improve her reading skills. We cannot see how this is going to serve her positively at all!

Having your thoughts on this issue would be most helpful to us. Do you see this approach as a dangerous practice, like we do?


Below was my reply:


When I teach reading, I do not teach my students to skip words or to make guesses based on cues and clues. It's counterproductive, and it's part of what fails students in the whole word approach. We never teach kids to skip math problems they don't know or to make guesses at math problems they can't solve, so why do we do it with reading? Beats me...

The proper approach to teaching reading is through a combination of phonics and phonemic awareness development - teaching kids the sound(s) represented by the letter(s) and then stringing those together to form words. Starting with the basics, and slowly working up to more complex decoding patterns. This is how I teach and it never fails. Even studies prove this approach to be by far the most effective - not skipping or guessing at words. This initially is a bit slower, with the need to sound it out, but with plenty of practice, children will eventually develop an automatic ability to read/decode on the fly without needing to ever guess what a word is, because they'll understand how English functions as an alphabet based language.

I think your best option is to follow our program lessons starting with lesson #1, and methodically work through the 2 stages of our program. You'll be surprised at the results compared to guessing and skipping words.

Best regards,


Whole Language and Sight Words Just Doesn't Work

Guessing, trying to learn by memorizing word shapes, and skipping over unknown words just DOESN'T WORK! Yet, year after year, this is the go-to method used by our education system, and year after year, I get perfectly capable grade 1 & 2 students that simply cannot read, because they were taught to read using the wrong method! My goal her is not to talk about whole language and sight words. I've discussed these issues in depths here:

Sight Words

The Perils of Sight Words

Reading With Word Shapes?

Why do we teach children to skip words that they cannot read, and why do we teach children to guess at words they do not know? When children cannot read at their expected levels, the blame always falls on the children/parents, and it's never the fault of the 'system'. Just like I said in my reply above, we do not teach kids to skip math problems they cannot solve - we teach them the proper method of solving the math problems instead. Just like learning to play a new piano piece, if there are some measures that are very difficult, you don't just skip over them because they are hard, you need to practice them even more. So why is it that when it comes to teaching reading, everything gets turned @$$ backwards? Excuse my language.

When it comes to reading, teachers don't always give the best advice.

Teach your child to read with the proper methods - through a unique combination of synthetic phonics along with phonemic awareness development.

>> Please click here to watch a short video and discover how you can effectively teach your child to read (Without skipping words, guessing words, or memorizing word shapes.)