What’s the best way to teach kids how to read?




Here we go again.

There is a BIG discussion in education circles about the best way to teach kids to read.   The debate is an old one wrapped up in new language.  Instead of the terms Phonics v. Whole language educators are now using the terms Structured Literacy v. Three-cueing system.

Same old same old!

What do the terms mean?

Structured Literacy means teaching children a range of phonic skills, using letters to build up words, understanding letter sounds both individually and in combination.  Phonics by another name.

The Three-cueing system uses an approach that assumes kids will learn to read by being immersed in written and spoken language.  Whole language by another name.

I am so tired of this argument.  I have worked with many kids who struggled to read, who hated reading, because they were forced into one or other of these methods of teaching.  I have seen bright kids in remedial reading groups astounding their teachers and parents when, given another way to learn, they could read and enjoy chapter books!

How long must this go on?

How long before we stop preventing kids learning to read?

Parents have told me that even though they knew their child could read  before going to school the teacher assumed she couldn’t because the poor child was trying hard to fit into the slow, laborious phonic lessons she was subject to.  I can’t blame the child for trying to fit in.  I remember my own story of being a ‘non-reader’ because I was so bored with the Janet and John books (remember those?) that we had to take turns reading that I read a chapter book under my desk and didn’t know what page to read when it was my turn.  Fortunately I had a mother who, despite being scared of school teachers, went to school and put things right.

That was over 70 years ago – and it is still happening today.

Why bright kids struggle to learn to read

Most of the bright kids who are struggling to read are doing so because they are not allowed to use the Three-cueing system where they get context and meaning from pictures, sentence structure and language skill.  But there are a few who struggle to learn to read for the opposite reason.  They struggle because they need a structured approach to literacy learning.  They need a step by step system that leads them to make sense of the letters.

Has anyone ever thought of combining both systems so that all children can benefit?  So that all kids get the support they need to make reading easy and fun? Of course they have.

The solution is…

A good teacher uses many ways to help children learn to read.  A good parent does the same.

But if parents are stuck on the belief that the only way to help kids learn to read is by drilling them in phonics lessons they are wrong.  Maybe they had to put up with that kind of teaching so that is all they they know.  Maybe they don’t enjoy reading so can’t pass on the love of reading to their child.  Maybe they are leaving all this learning to read stuff to the school.  Bad idea.


Because I believe that the foundations of a good reading life are set well before a child goes to school.  I see no reason why a three year old cannot grasp the basics of reading so that he or she is ready to use reading as a means of learning.

And to make sure  this happens I have created simple, easy to use courses that parents can use to give their children the foundations of reading ion a fun and complete way.  Check them out – and the workbooks that go with them.  (Look under the programs- 3R’s – on my home page)

Next steps

Then call me.  Let me help you help your child learn to read.  Every parent gets a free 20 minute call where we discuss issues and set the next steps.  You have nothing to lose and your child has a world to gain.



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