Reading Difficulties Become a National Crisis – a New View, a New Solution

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Are phonics and traditional reading instruction contributing to the national crisis in reading scores? “Yes,” says Bruce Howlett, a special education teacher from Ithaca, NY. He recently presented a well-received talk at the annual meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children, the leading special education reading organization.

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Traditional literacy methods have resulted in only a slight change in reading scores for the last 30 years. “Until we innovate, reading scores will hardly change,” explained Howlett. “This is what Obama’s new education initiative, The Race to the Top, calls for. In fact, reading scores for secondary students have declined according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the creators of the nation’s “reading report cards.”

“After twenty years of intensive reading research we know one thing about reading difficulties. They have very little to do with printed words and almost everything to do with spoken words,” explained Howlett. “Reading is an auditory (listening and speaking) activity; the visual areas of our brains are hardly involved in reading at all. The printed word we see is sent to the auditory centers of the brain. Reading is about activating our inner voice and producing speech. Watch a struggling reader's mouth the next time he reads”.

Howlett’s talk, The Top Ten Reasons Phonics Hurts My Brain, explored his experience as a reading dyslexia student. “I didn’t read until I was in third grade and then only very simple books. I couldn’t write a coherent sentence in fifth grade and failed English twice in high school.” He managed to get through college in the 70s with the help of typists, who would charge him twice the going rate to fix spelling and grammatical issues.

Howlett spent a dozen years working as a researcher at Cornell University. His interest in reading difficulties was piqued when he went to teach high school science courses to a class of emotionally disturbed high school students. Only one student could read. He decided to research the reading difficulties from a scientific viewpoint and ignore the many belief systems that permeate reading instruction.

Howlett collaborated with 20 educators to create the first new approach to teaching reading, called Sound Reading. Where most reading programs take at least a year and only move one aspect of reading, such as word reading, Sound Reading dramatically increases decoding, reading comprehension and reading fluency skills in as little as six weeks. Howlett spent ten years field-testing the methods in over 100 schools. “It is not hard to overcome reading difficulties. Just change the way a student builds the many connections between printed and spoken words. Phonics provides only a small bit. Reading leveled books doesn't address the problem directly,” states Howlett. “Reading therapies that fix the auditory issues are the cure.”

For additional information please visit or contact Bruce Howlett at 800.801.1954.

Sound Reading Solutions is a ten-year-old company founded by a group of educators and researchers. Sound Reading produces true innovations in reading software and math instruction and is used in schools, nationwide.

Contact: Jonathan Meyerhoff, Director of Public Relations for Sound Reading Solutions 800-801-1954.


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