Learning to read is a multi-step process and struggling readers may have difficulty at any stage. The child may have a weakness in phonemic awareness, the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words, or have difficulty decoding, e.g., translating a printed word into sounds. Poor orthographic awareness, the recognition of spelling patterns such as the KN sound as “N” also interferes with a child’s reading comprehension. A child may struggle with rapid naming, the ability to process and blend letter/sound associations which affects fluency and comprehension. These children often read by memorizing words and by overusing the surrounding text to help them identify words. When the text becomes more complex, these children do not have the strategies and understanding of word structure to enable them to read efficiently.

The reading and language arts programs at Craig are nearly all based on the multisensory methods first developed by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham in the 1930’s for the remediation of dyslexia. One particular outgrowth of their work is Project Read, a comprehensive language arts curriculum, that was developed by Dr. Mary Lee Enfield and Victoria Greene in 1973. Project Read programs are divided into “strands” that cover decoding, comprehension and written expression and all include hand gestures and visual materials to reinforce the learning process.

The following is a description of a few of the multisensory reading programs used at Craig to help dyslexic children “break the code” and learn to enjoy reading.


Orton-Gillingham Approaches. The Orton-Gillingham method is a multisensory, systematic, phonics-based approach that begins with single speech sounds (phonemes) presented via visual, auditory and proprioceptive pathways and progresses to more complex phonograms, words, sentences and finally stories.

Project Read: Phonology. This strand of Project Read is a basic decoding method that relies on visual diagrams and hand signals to teach the elements of language. The program begins with phonemic awareness and moves to sound-symbol correspondence, syllabication and finally to context.

Project Read: Linguistics. This strand reviews all the 44 special sounds presented in the Phonology strand, but with more emphasis on multisyllabic words. The program teaches closed and open syllables, vowel teams (ea, ie, oa, etc.) and the five rules for dividing words into syllables or “cutting patterns.” The syllable combinations and rules are visualized as segments of the number 7 and the number 5, respectively, and each lesson is taught with a rhyme and hand signals. Students are also taught prefixes, suffixes, roots and word origins.

Wilson Reading System. The Wilson Reading System, first published in 1988 by Barbara Wilson, is a phonologically based system which teaches children to segment words and syllables into sound units (sound/symbol relationships) in a multisensory manner. Syllable types and word construction rules are also taught. The program emphasizes both decoding and encoding (spelling).

Benchmark Word Identification Program. Benchmark is a method designed specifically to improve orthographic awareness. Benchmark students learn a series of key words each containing a specific spelling pattern. For example, the keyword make contains the spelling pattern a-k-e. Once the student learns the keyword and spelling pattern, other words can be identified with the same spelling pattern, e.g., flake and spake. When practicing a lesson the student is taught to verbalize the connection repeating, “If I know make then I know flake.” Spelling patterns and keywords can also be combined to help students decipher multisyllabic words.

Benchmark and Orton-Gillingham-based approaches complement each other. Phonics rules taught by teachers trained in Orton-Gillingham methods are reinforced in Benchmark lessons. Conversely, Benchmark key words are carefully chosen to reinforce phonics rules such as hard and soft sounds. The sound-symbol relationships of may be more effective with auditory learners whereas Benchmark keywords may appeal to visual learners. Taken together, the two approaches offer a comprehensive system of instruction in decoding and encoding (spelling) for Craig students.

Lexia Phonics Based Reading. Lexia software teaches phonics and early reading in an entertaining and colorful manner allowing the student to work independently either at school or at home. The Early Reading program includes rhyming, recognizing initial and final sounds, segmenting, blending, letter knowledge, sound/symbol correspondence, consonants, short vowels and consonant digraphs.

Reading S.O.S. A Lexia program designed for older children. The program includes word-attack and contextual strategies that help the child identify multi-syllabic words, prefixes, suffixes and word roots.

Lindamood Phonemic Sequencing (LiPS) Program. Children who have poor phonemic awareness have difficulty with decoding and spelling often substituting and reversing sounds and letters and mispronouncing words, e.g., “death” for deaf. The LiPS program teaches students to become aware of the movements of the mouth which produce speech sounds. As children begin to understand how speech is produced, they begin to self-correct their reading and speech.


Read Naturally. There is a strong correlation between reading fluency and reading comprehension. Readers struggling with decoding have difficulty reading fluently and hence comprehension suffers. Read Naturally is a fluency program that consists of guided oral reading with quantitative feedback and materials for assessing comprehension.

Great Leaps. Great Leaps is another fluency program which consists of a series of timed selections of syllables, phrases and narrative text. Students practice reading a selection for a timed period until the reading is error free.


Project Read: Story Form Literature Connection. Project Read teaches the student to analyze the underlying structure of fiction (narrative) and nonfiction (expository) styles.

Project Read: Report Form. Project Read: Report Form teaches students “a process to collect, organize, and synthesize information when reading expository text.” The student learns how to identify the subject, “unlock” key facts and divide them into categories to show relationships and recognize supporting details.

Visualizing & Verbalizing. This program developed by Nanci Bell, addresses the problem of children who have poor visualization skills. They may see parts or details of a picture, but be unable to integrate them in an organized whole and are said to have “weak concept imagery.” These children may read well, but struggle with comprehension.

Vocabulary Development

A well-developed vocabulary is highly correlated with good reading comprehension. At Craig a comprehensive vocabulary program has been developed by the reading and speech and language departments. The program identifies three levels or “Tiers” of words. Tier One contains basic words that rarely require definition; Tier Two describes high frequency words that may require instruction and improve comprehension; Tier Three words have low frequency and generally refer to specialized subjects.

Take Aim! at Vocabulary. This vocabulary program, developed by “Read Naturally”, teaches 288 carefully selected vocabulary words.