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Latest news in literacy, child development, and all things DM Ed


Breakthrough Readers of September

by Maddie Rossmaur || 28 Nov 2016

Whether the school year was just beginning for our secret agents in the UK and the US, or school was already over half-way through for our Australian and New Zealand readers, some serious decoding could be heard all over the world!

Their determination and hard work paid off, as we heard of reading breakthroughs happening left, right and centre in September. Congratulations to you all and please join us in celebrating the successes of our Breakthrough Readers of September!


10 year-old Matthew had begun reading in English this year in English/French immersion in Canada. His mum could see already that when he read, Matthew guessed a lot of the words, trying to imagine what was happening in the story to help him read the text. Being a very visual learner, he favoured books that were written in a pictorial way. As Matthew was relying on his visual memory to guess and recognise words, his reading fluency was often stilted and slow.

Around lesson 90, Matthew reached the top level in our reading assessor which is amazing as that means he can decode long, irregular words that around a 1/3 of adults would struggle with. And, they’re impossible to guess, which shows a great improvement in Matthew’s phonemic awareness. Well done Matthew!


When 7 year-old Liana began Easyread, her mum could tell she would often resort to guessing words – particularly when she wouldn’t even look at the word to read it…! Liana would often try and look up and remember the sound and shape of the word by isolating it in her memory. As a result of the way Liana had been reading, her spelling was phonetic, but accuracy took a hit.

Liana herself decided that after reaching the milestone of 100 lessons, she would prefer to continue reading the simple chapter books she had come to enjoy reading to her parents and her sister. We are confident that her spelling will continue to progress now that Liana is reading in a different, more accurate way. Her mum said “Liana has had an amazing adventure, and we are truly thankful for the amazing jump start to our daughters reading.”


7 year-old Skye would often guess words by looking at the first letter; eye-tracking difficulties meant she would skim over text, miss out words, and add letters in when decoding longer words. Her spelling was very phonetic as a result.

At around lesson 70, Skye did a Skype lesson with me, and I was so impressed by how fluently she read, hardly decoding any words now. Amazing! Skye is continuing to work on our recommended eye-tracking exercises, and building up her fluency by rereading tricky words. We can’t wait to hear about her spelling changes too!


For some children, reading difficulties have meant that they are altogether put off the idea of reading, finding it all too stressful. Luckily, 9 year-old Brennan still enjoyed reading, even though he was assessed as being below his reading level for grade 3.


Rather than becoming stressed by sounding out words using tactics that didn’t seem to make sense for Brennan, he would prefer to skip the word instead. As Brennan tried to visualise each recognisable word in his brain, his reading fluency was impacted as a result. Longer, more unknown words proved to be difficult for Brennan, unable to use his guessing tactics to figure them out. As is quite common with highly visual learners, Brennan mixed up mirrored letters like b/d and p/q. The task of reading was made altogether more difficult with Brennan’s weak working memory.

Around lesson 125, Brennan’s mum told us that “his reading has improved and has become quite fluent as this reading level [in the programme].”

Amazing progress for Brennan, well done!


8 year-old James struggled with sight words before Easyread, often using his visual skills to guess at common words when they appeared. Using these tactics, James could read a word correctly, but would then forget it on the next page.

An eye-tracking weakness meant that James could appear to accurately guess recognisable words, but would not add the “ing”, “ed” or “er” to the end of the word, as his eyes skipped over the ending to the next word. Another indication that James had an eye-tracking weakness was the feeling of being overwhelmed when greeted with more than 2 sentences on a page.

James’s eye-tracking saw great improvements after completing 10 days of our eye-tracking exercises and, at around lesson 120, James finished up with the programme. His mum said: “He has enjoyed it every day, and I have found it has helped him greatly.”


Anne’s mum initially signed-up for Easyread as she was concerned about Anne’s spelling. However, when we got to find out a bit more about Anne’s reading and spelling experience, we found out that 10 year-old Anne did guess at words when reading. A history of hearing difficulties and short-term memory weakness also contributed to making the task of reading all the more difficult for Anne.

At around lesson 90, we were very excited to receive this message from Anne’s mum:

“About 3 weeks ago Anne started reading chapter books vociferously. She can spend most of a day reading.”

As Anne’s mum also mentioned Anne was still guessing the more challenging words, rather than taking the time to decode them, we sent Anne our eye-tracking exercises, which she continues to work on to help smaller text outside the programme feel just as comfortable to read as larger text on the screen.

Keep up the great work, Anne! We know she is taking her secret spy training very seriously…

If you feel like your child has reached the point of reading take-off and we haven’t included them this month, then do let us know, so we can send their badge out to them for this month. And do let us know if you’re having any worries around this stage too – we’re here to help every child achieve their breakthrough. And as always, congratulations to our Easyread graduates who completed the course with the achievement of their helicopter this month.

We chose Caleb as our Breakthrough Reader of September. After a long battle of reading and spelling difficulties, things are finally starting to change for Caleb…


Caleb’s mum said that “reading has been a battle for Caleb for about six years” on signing up for Easyread. At 10 years-old, he was not yet reading fluently, and because he hadn’t quite cracked the code of reading, he was unable to make progress in spelling. Caleb’s mum said that they had spent a lot of time at home trying to help Caleb with his reading and spelling, with very little improvement. She said “Caleb tries very hard and always has”, but because Caleb hadn’t yet found a way of reading that made sense to him, the rewards of his hard work were not reaped. Caleb’s confidence in his learning abilities therefore took a hit.

After just 60 lessons of Easyread, Caleb’s mum told us during our level 2 phone chat that Caleb was already able to picture the Easyread characters above words outside the programme, which is just amazing to hear as we wouldn’t expect this to start happening until around lesson 90! He’s also making light work of our Space book – a very difficult non-fiction book indeed!

And a few weeks later, Caleb’s mum sent us this message: “Caleb is going really well. He is improving each night. Sometimes if we have a couple of nights break, he is a little slow and not as focused.

The last week or so I have definitely seen an improvement in the speed and accuracy of his reading and the way he is decoding and sounding out each word.”

Well done to all our Breakthrough Readers, and to all those working hard to get to reach that hallelujah moment!

Maddie and the Easyread team