So, your child is struggling with their reading and writing in class.

Or maybe you’ve already received a dyslexia diagnosis.

Where do you start if the budget is tight and you need to help your dyslexic child at home? 

Working with a qualified specialist tutor is always a great first option. But there’s no question, it’s an investment that families can’t always spare. The good news is, there’s some excellent resources you can use at home. 

Read on to find out more about some recommended programs, books and other resources that you can use at home with your struggling reader.

Learn about the science of reading

You can just go at a particular reading program. But in truth, you’ll find it easier to teach more effectively if you have a grounding in how to teach reading. 

There’s plenty of easy-to-access resources readily available that will help you in learning more about reading science. As a starting point, I always recommend the following resources:

These organisations have some great to-the-point fact sheets and a host of other resources. I particularly like this infographic about structured literacy from the IDA.

If you want to delve deeper, there’s heaps to explore at Reading Rockets. You can even work your way through its Reading 101 course.

And, just to chuck in a shameless plug, don’t forget to check out my other blog posts and Facebook page.

Check your speech sounds

Words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes. In order to learn to read, it’s essential that readers learn to recognise and use these accurately. Once they know what sounds are represented by what letters and how syllables work, they can apply this knowledge to reading and spelling words of any complexity.

But what if you’re not sure how to say the 44 sounds of English? Many of us weren’t necessarily taught this skill at school – I know my generation wasn’t. 

A good place to start is this series of video demonstrations by Debbie Hepplewhite, of Phonics International. Another excellent resource is this one from Spelfabet. Both of these have short video demonstrations so you can hear how phonemes are pronounced.

Toe by Toe

So, what is Toe by Toe? Well, this little red book is a surprisingly straightforward approach to teaching reading. 

It’s an all-in-one-manual that’s designed for children older than 7 or adults who find reading difficult. It can be delivered by anyone with a reasonable level of literacy, and is used in a range of settings, including homes, schools and by tutors.

What I like about it:

  • It’s affordable. Here in Australia you can generally pick up a copy for between $50 and $60.
  • It’s easy to follow. You don’t need to have a teaching degree or significant additional training in reading instruction to deliver it.
  • It’s designed for short, regular practice sessions. You can probably work through this program in 20 minutes a day. 

It also teaches a simple way of breaking words into syllables, and includes increasingly complex decodable passages for reading practice.

However, while Toe by Toe does decoding and phonics well, it doesn’t explicitly include spelling or phonological awareness skills. That’s something you’ll probably want to supplement.

Hornet Literacy Primer and The Word Wasp

The Hornet Literacy Primer and The Word Wasp are similar in format to Toe by Toe. That is, they are both all-in-one reading programs in one handy little book. 

Written by the co-authors of Toe by Toe, these two programs include spelling as well as reading. Hornet is suitable for children aged 5 and over. It introduces the different phonemes (sounds) of English and their letter representations more slowly than Word Wasp. Each book, however, provides plenty of reading and spelling practice in a structured, logical order.

Like Toe by Toe, Hornet and Word Wasp are suitable for adult learners as well as children. There’s no cutes-y images or fonts that are likely to annoy older struggling readers. Plus, as readers work through the pages of the books, they’re introduced to increasingly complex vocabulary

Cracking the ABC Code

Cracking the ABC Code is written by Australian Dr Lillian Fawcett. It’s a comprehensive approach suitable for parents and teachers  and teaches the following elements:

  • phonological awareness
  • reading 
  • spelling
  • reading comprehension
  • writing

Like any good program, Cracking the ABC Code starts by assessing the student. Students then begin with the appropriate level reading and spelling program, from early readers through to adults. Multisensory practices are built in and students are given lots of opportunities to develop mastery in a cumulative, sequential manner.

Cracking the ABC Code requires at least 30 minutes a day, but progress can be significant. The program levels vary in length from 12 to 30 weeks. Some students have improved by more than 5 years, but on average, you can expect a year’s improvement in spelling, and 1 ½ years’ improvement in reading accuracy and comprehension. 

Cracking the ABC Code isn’t scripted like Toe by Toe, Hornet and Word Wasp. But, it is relatively straightforward to follow, with training provided on the website. Also, Lillian offers excellent support and answers to any questions you might have.

What I like best about Cracking the ABC Code’s programs is that all the essential elements for learning to read are included. For example:

  • phonics
  • syllable division
  • comprehension and fluency
  • spelling and writing

Readers are also exposed to increasingly complex vocabulary as they progress through the levels of the program.

Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons

Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons has been around since the early 1980s (but reprinted many times since). It’s a Direct Instruction program that has a script for parents to follow, as they teach their children to read, step by step.

The program takes 20 minutes a day. It’s effective and inexpensive. In Australia, it will cost you between $20 and $25. Not bad for an all-in-one, starting-to-read program that’s evidence-based and recommended by SPELD.

Other resources

Here’s some other resources to check out as well.

  • Speld South Australia has free training, decodable readers, a reading and spelling program and plenty more.
  • Sounds Write is free through Udemy. Parents can learn how to teach Units 1 to 7 of this highly-regarded program.
  • There’s also a number of really helpful online communities. One worth checking out on Facebook in Australia is Dyslexia Support Australia. 

Over to you

Do you have any recommendations for other families? What approaches have worked for you or your child?

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