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How to Improve your 1st Grader’s Reading Skills

(A note from our good friend and ambassador, Fred Lewis:)

What I’ve learned from my ten years of volunteering in school computer labs: The MOST important grade for increasing efficiency and reading skills in school is FIRST GRADE. And first graders can definitely learn to touch-type. No matter what the obstacles (and there were many) it’s important to encourage each kid to really learn to touch type. It takes practice, but with Read, Write & Type the practice is fun! Kids have such a wide variation in how their brains are wired, there’s a huge difference in practice time to learn the sound-to-keystroke (letter) habit. But the practice is worth it, because they’re learning the skills they need for reading and writing at the same time. And if they master the keyboard they are much more efficient and confident in their writing all through the rest of their school years.

-Fred Lewis

Kids Need a Keyboarding License to Type

Keyboard skills

A message from Fred Lewis:

“Please read this article (Typing is the key to learning computer software). Kids need a keyboarding license before using a computer….just like a drivers license to drive.  Only Read, Write and Type does this. Middle school is way too late to teach touch typing.”

Teachers are waking up to the importance of typing skills for using just about any software program. But mostly they start too late–after hunt-and-peck habits have settled in. However, thousands of children are learning to type IN FIRST GRADE as they learn basic phonics skills with Read,Write & Type.

8 free lessons at

Dramatic Success with an Autistic Student

QWERTYHere is a letter I received from a speech pathologist that I met at a dyslexia conference in Seattle.  She was sitting at the same coffee bar and heard me introduce myself to my neighbor.  She leaned toward me and asked earnestly, “Are you the Talking Fingers Jeannine Herron?”  I said “yes, I am” and she started singing me one of the Wordy Qwerty spelling songs!  She knew them all!  We have corresponded from time to time since then….

Dear Jeannine,

I am now using Read, Write, and Type with a low-verbal, severely austistic ninth-grader here in my new state of South Carolina, with amazing results!

Her teachers had not thought that she could read or spell, and they have been put off by some of her behaviors.  It turns out that she has been frustrated, because the staff assumed she could not learn.  They were skeptical when I brought in my computer and started her on the program, but she took to it like a fish to water.  I add comprehension work to the story activities and encourage verbal imitation and responses.  We are almost half way through the program, and it is changing her entire curriculum- the teachers are now focusing on teaching her to read and write, which is increasing her communication skills- her parents are thrilled!  She was previously thought to be unable to sustain attention to any activity; however, with skilled support, she works on Read, Write & Type for 50 minutes, and I think would happily do more- Read, Write, and Type is changing her life.

I do not exaggerate the results from your programs, Jeannine.   Now, each week when I come in the door, she is visibly excited and independently brings pencil and paper and sits down to work; she then insists that we write in her communication book to home what we did on Read, Write & Type that day.  Best of all, the teachers now know she can read and spell words, decode simple sentences, copy the sentences from the stories and re-read them, write grocery lists and engage in real literacy learning activities at school.

But you know I have used the Talking Fingers programs successfully in many environments, both clinically and in school settings.  In fact, I have yet to find a student, thoughtfully placed, who did not respond to  Read, Write & Type..  Whenever I have an opportunity to provide a dyslexia evaluation, I include Read, Write & Type, and Wordy Qwerty in my recommendations for parents.

I am now serving a very poor, rural, southern school district as a speech-language pathologist.  This district needs to spend what little money they have very wisely for kids. Your programs are so economical compared to others!  I have shown some special educators the Talking Finger programs, and they would like me to spend some training time this January, showing them the program and sharing my results.

All the best for 2010!

Jane Coolidge, SLP-CCC

Struggling readers do not improve by “silent reading” in class

Jan HasbrouckI was recently sent an article by Jan Hasbrouck in which she discusses reading fluency and the pervasive use of Sustained Silent Reading and Round Robin Reading. These are strategies that teachers are using to develop fluency in struggling readers.

She says,

“Developing fluency among struggling readers takes more intensive, carefully guided practice than either of these strategies can deliver.”

Jan makes a very persuasive case that these instructional strategies take up significant amounts of classroom time with dubious benefit. She quotes Marilyn Adams as saying, “if we want to induce children to read lots, we must also teach them to read well.”

Classroom time will be better spent building decoding skills and providing one-on-one guided oral reading.

A good computer program for guided oral reading is “Soliloquy”, designed by Marilyn Adams, (then renamed “Reading Assistant”). Find the program online at The software actually listens to a child reading aloud and provides appropriate help.

Assessing Your Child’s Phonics Skills

CharactersChildren sometimes do well on reading tests in first or second grade because they are good at memorizing the visual appearance of words. You think they are doing fine!

However, when they get to third grade, they may start experiencing more difficulty because they encounter many more words that begin to look alike. If they have not learned to “sound-out” words using phonics skills, they will not be able to decode new words independently, and they may have more and more difficulty as reading becomes more complex. Guessing from context or pictures no longer works if there are too many gaps in a sentence to comprehend the overall meaning. If guessing becomes a strategy, children often begin to feel uncomfortable about reading, because they are not experiencing success. Their confidence lags, and their interest and curiosity can turn to frustration.

Nonsense Words

Try this simple test to assess whether a child is using phonics and knows how to sound-out new words. The words at the right are nonsense words. Cover the answers and ask the child to read the non-words on this page. The correct pronunciation is suggested in the parentheses. Listen carefully to the pronunciation. When children miss more than three, or take a long time to figure out each word, they need more practice with encoding and decoding words and non-words. The use of phonics should be automatic and unconscious, like riding a bicycle.

If you have our Read, Write & Type software, you can also insert the Spaceship Challenge CD, sign in as a GUEST, and ask children to play Level 2. If they have difficulty naming the pictures and identifying the sounds, or if they do poorly on reading comprehension or spelling, they will benefit from support with the extra activities and games suggested in the day-to-day lessons from our Read, Write & Type activity book. Download it for free on our website, and try practicing with your child today.

To download the activity book in PDF format, look for the link on our website, it’s number 7 on the list of “Read, Write & Type Learning System (RWTLS) PDF Documents”.

THE GOOD NEWS—Many Reading Problems Can Be Prevented!

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow to fly from San Francisco to Boston for a week.  I’m attending a conference where I’ll have a chance to talk to many friends and colleagues who have, like me, decided to spend their lives trying to understand why some children have difficulty learning to read and what we might be able to do about it.

It’s the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, a gathering of over 300 researchers from around the world who study everything about reading — brain structure and function, related cognitive and behavioral issues, and instruction and intervention techniques. You can find abstracts of the talks on the SSSR web site.  I look forward to learning new things to add to the knowledge I have accumulated from my own research over the last 37 years.