Helping struggling learners of literacy

In sport, we expect that some beginners will be stars and others merely plodders.  In class we expect that all beginners will be experts and able to master literacy easily – unlike other countries like Japan and China with difficult writing systems which give their beginners an easy way into literacy so that none need fail.


In my work as a clinical and schools psychologist I found that too often the disadvantaged, dyslexic and foreign-born were held back from literacy by unnecessary difficulties in spelling.  These handicap child learners also at the critical years for literacy of 5-6 years.  These beginning years are when children decide whether or not they are going to succeed in learning to read and spell.  All sorts of barriers can make them decide they are hopeless – missing lessons thru illness, changing schools, a teacher they dislike, inability to concentrate, rowdy classrooms, and most of all, the task itself.

Then the children grow up convinced they will never be literate.

There is a simple experiment, which people will not try.  I found in my work that Parallel Texting gives these unfortunates a chance.  That is, a parallel text shorn of the spelling difficulties is set next to the present text. 

 One side of each page in a reading book is normal spelling; the other side is ‘spelling without traps’ which helps beginners to read present spelling.  Or even one double page set out in this way, as a trial.


Innovators!  What do you think most needs innovation?

My work as a psychologist has been primarily with people who have not been able to read, or very badly, or toiled as children harder than we super-literates had to.  Think of what they miss out.  Think of the cost to society!

Try this, or think what u would do.


Try this experiment, that gives the ‘plodders’ a chance to read and write, with parallel texts - one text without the ‘spelling traps’ that at present act as barriers for them.  


What would ‘spelling without traps’ look like?


1. 36 very common irregularly-spelled words are kept, to learn to recognize because they make up 12% of everyday text -  all almost always among come some could should would half know of off one only once other pull push put two their THEY AS was what want who why very, and international word endings -ion/-tion/-sion/zion.  Almost everyone can learn up to 40 ‘sight-words’ – it is having to learn a dictionary full of many words that is too much for most struggling learners.


2.After that, only 6% of surplus letters in words in everyday text need be cut, and 3% of misleading letters changed. That is not much, but like having the right screws in building something, makes all the difference.  Many of the disadvantaged can then read normal texts when Parallel Text is given next to it.

Those who do not need that help, can just read the normal text.


Classes and text-books at every level can try this out.

Books, journals and newspapers can put half a page at the back ‘for new readers’.

Students of education can try it out for their projects and theses.

Those who work to help the indigenous, migrants, dyslexics and other adult illiterates can try it. It can help in spoken English too.

Advertisers can try it.

Experiment.  It is the best way to progress.


Tell me what happens -  or why you will not trial innovation at all with spelling.