Easyread was as much of an education for primary school teacher Christine as it was for her daughter…

The Problem

Phonics was a walk in the park for Catherine at age 5. She was in the top half of her class and had an all-round superb first year at school. However, after the summer holidays it was as if the slate had been wiped clean; all of a sudden reading became a real struggle.

At the start of Primary Two[1], while many of Catherine’s friends moved ahead, Catherine was kept back with her reading. This meant repeating all of the books she had been working on in the previous year, which left Catherine feeling upset and demoralized.

She knew all her single sounds and vowel digraphs off by heart. In principle it was all there! The real difficulty came when Catherine was asked to read words she had learned (easily) two months before. Her mother Christine, herself a primary school teacher[2], couldn’t help but notice that her daughter’s confidence was quickly disappearing. She refused to blend or sound out and instead relied on wild guessing and picture cues to read words. As time went by things got much worse. It reached the point where Catherine was going to great lengths to avoid reading in any context.

Christine and her husband Anthony had always been voracious readers, and so their home was overflowing with books. They really wanted to help their daughter become a happy and confident reader not just for work or school, but also for the sheer pleasure of it.

First of all they tried extra reading, which lead to more tears before bedtime. Next they looked into other reading genres as well as reading games online, but none of this seemed to hit the mark. Then they focused on trying to get Catherine to memorize a bigger sight vocabulary, given that her memory was excellent. However the same routine continued; she would read a word and then two sentences or a page later, it was gone.

Her lack of progress and frustration with reading were undeniable, and yet it just didn’t fit with her overall picture as a learner.

Christine had extensive professional experience of children who struggled with reading on account of learning difficulties, and it was clear that her daughter just did not fit that profile. In Maths, Writing, Science and all other curricular areas, Catherine continued to do well. But behind closed doors reading homework had become utter torture, often ending with mother and daughter in tears. Catherine’s visual, verbal and analytical skills meant that anything that was basic and ‘babyish’ was demotivating and patronizing.

Choosing a Solution

Finally, in an effort to find out if there was anything else out there that would be appropriate for her bright daughter, Christine had a look online. It was then that she came across Easyread. Catherine had a go at the trial lesson. With the Guided Phonetic Reading approach offered by the characters, she really quickly got the difference between b and d.  Christine was impressed by the efficient and fun nature of the lesson. Further research revealed that the Easyread understanding of other issues such as eye-tracking, and guessing, was evidence-based with proper educational credentials.  One thing was clear: this was not just another internet miracle cure which looked good with little substance.

A week later Catherine started the course. The choice of games and the easy-going style of each 15 minute lesson meant that Catherine could choose and manage her reading for the first time in her life.  Each day brought a fresh, achievable challenge, and the prizes that were sent gave her a continuous incentive – the mini radio in particular was a real winner!

Meanwhile, Mum and Dad liked the sense of fun that the program had injected into their daughter’s reading. As far as Catherine was concerned, David who narrated each lesson was talking directly to her! This really helped motivate her to keep going.

The Result

From a pedagogical perspective, Christine saw that the Guided Phonetic Reading approach was essentially a better version of the synthetic phonics teaching with which she was familiar.  Sounding out words using visual aids, for example, really played to Catherine’s learning strengths. It reminded her in many ways of Code-Cracker – a less hi-tech and much more basic program used in many schools. (‘If only we had this instead!’ she has said).

Meanwhile, at school Catherine moved up into the reading group that her friends were in after just 6 weeks on Easyread. Within 3 months, she had progressed from level 4 to level 8 reading books, an astonishing achievement.

In just 5 months Catherine has regained all and more of the reading confidence that had vanished so quickly in just 4 weeks back at school.  She is taking fiction chapter books to bed and Christine often hears her reading short extracts aloud to herself before she goes to sleep. Catherine reads all the signs on the bus, all the advertising posters and can even be heard sounding out words under her breath when she thinks her parents are not listening.  And give her the book of ‘The First 100 instant words’ and she can easily decode every single one! In essence, she is actively choosing to read.

Catherine and Christine have 100 lessons under their belt and another 100 to go, and they are loving every minute! It seems at this point, that anything is possible…

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Laura O’Sullivan is a Program Coach for the Easyread System, an online phonics course designed to provide support for spelling and reading problems for children with highly visual learning styles, dyslexia and auditory processing disorder. You can find out more about how Easyread can help a child to read at www.easyreadsystem.com 


[1] Grade 1

[2] Kindergarten and First Grade Teacher