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Teaching Struggling Readers to Read

by | Uncategorized

Mary Moran is the author of the Dcode Dyslexia(Dcode) Reading Programme, a Structured Literacy programme suitable for all learners, but especially applicable to dyslexics and other struggling readers. She wrote the programme during Covid, and it is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading.

Mary, can you outline what is the Orton-Gillingham approach and what is Structured Literacy?

In the 1920’s in the USA, Samuel Orton, neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, formed a hypothesis while working with young children who had failed to learn how to read, despite them having average to high IQs. His hypothesis was that struggling readers’, in particular dyslexic, brain function differed from the functioning of the normal brain of children who were doing well at school and learning to read easily.

Working with Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist, they itemised each sound and skill a child needed to be taught explicitly in order to overcome or prevent reading difficulties. This work heralded the birth of Structured Literacy (SL) with the formulation of the Orton-Gillingham approach/ method. It is considered the gold-standard of SL reading methods, based on the evidence of its efficacy, proven by many different implementations since its inception.

What is the science behind the O-G approach and SL?

Over the last thirty years a body of research called the Science of Reading was, and is still, being produced. It proves that Samuel Orton’s hypothesis was correct, and that all children learn to read well through SL, but for dyslexics it is absolutely crucial.

Where did you begin your career in tutoring dyslexics, and did you always use the O-G method?

In 1986 I was delighted to qualify as an O-G practitioner. Over the following four decades, it makes me feel so old when put it those terms, I have taught hundreds of children how to read through structure, both in private practice and through schools. While adhering to the tenets and methodology of O-G, I also developed tools and methods which I found hugely beneficial when teaching a wide variety of children with literacy needs.

Furthermore, I have always struggled to keep pace with the demand for my services, as is evidenced by the statistics which state that between 15-20% of the English-speaking world are dyslexic. That equates to over 6 million in the UK and 1 million in Ireland. I realised that my efforts alone would not stem the flow and I decided to produce a reading programme, which would be independent of myself and my time. Thus, the DcodeDyslexia SL reading programme was developed and published.

Can you describe the Dcode programme in more detail?

My wish in developing the programme was for it to be simple to use, require minimal training and be very effective for users, both teacher and struggling reader. We have over eight hundred users in Ireland, the vast majority of them schools and teachers, since we launched in late 2021-early 22. In a survey of schools who purchased the complete programme, teachers said they found it simple to use and very effective in teaching reading to all cohorts.

Dcode is productive for complete beginners and those who are mildly, and severely, struggling. It is also a very effective way to teach all children to read, and not just those who struggle. It is designed to introduce new skills book by book, building on the skills already learned. There are eight decoding texts and one encoding/ spelling text, and they are designed to be used together, however the Ncode spelling book can also standalone. Books 1-7 come with a set of laminated drill cards, designed to be used prior to commencing the book. Finally, the books are designed to be used by the student during sessions.

Is there any help available to teachers, tutors or parents who take on this onerous task?

I produced eight short instructional videos, one each for Books 1 to 7, and the final one is on the Ncode book. Each book has a qr code that will open the video’s page on YouTube. The following link will open Mary’s Youtube channel:   CLICK HERE

Finally, PATOSS are running training webinars, over four afternoons in Jan/ Feb 2024. This is a first training venture in the UK, and we are really looking forward to working with Dr. Kevin Smith and Sheila Rostill of PATOSS on delivering it.

PATOSS Webinar