Without Better Phonics Tools
Your Mechanical Child May
Never Read Well

  You may have a mechanical child if:

  1. You describe a phonics exception with an explanation like "some words just work that way" and your child appears to be brooding over why you feel qualified to teach.
  2. You interrupt this page at least once to run check if that sound in the garage is your preschooler trying to start a power tool.
  3. You have successfully taught other children to read with the same phonics tools which now appear useless
  4. Your child assumes all letters should stand for one and only one sound. You wonder: "can that mindset ever work for English! "
  5. You know that reading problems are no joking matter, but at this point in a frustrating journey you could really use a laugh!!

Let me tell you why I can spot a mechanically-minded child from a mile away

. . . and why I am sure run of the mill phonics will fail them

After raising two off the chart readers my third child reached teaching age and nothing worked. At 5 years old he would tell me all about the neighbors' lawn mowers. Then he would sit through reading lesson ready to explode.

He was not just frustrated. When I pointed out letter sounds he looked at me like I was making things up. Memory songs and word families meant nothing to him.  Yet, by 8 years old he had surprisingly keen interests.

He was smart, attentive, and not reading after 3 years of trying any program I could get my hands on.

Then one day when we were driving my son called out from the back seat.  "Mom, I know how you can teach me to read".  I nearly drove off the road. 

His plan:

  • I give him the video remote (oh boy this won't end well ;)
  • He would play a basic reading video
  • Then with book in hand, use the remote to stop the video where it covered each letter he saw. This would tell him the right sound.

In a nutshell, he expected letters to represent one and only one sound.

The revelation: the lessons he was hard wired to understand did not exist in English!!

I had already started collecting the most reliable rules from good programs.

Now began the second half of a six year research quest (or adult
level cut and paste:)

I am sure language is a gift. God had not left my child out of it. If I knew to vary basic letter sounds when reading, then I must be picking up simple visual clues. Find those clues and I could teach that skill.

I knew I was really onto something when:

  • I marked up a book about the Iditerod Trail and drew up a key to help my son identify which sounds the letters made. It worked. He read on his own.

  • I came across two studies (one from 1966, other from mid-1990's) that backed what I had found. English is predictable if you add some clues to basic letter sounds.

  • I built rules around this fact. I tested these rules on the first chapters of Proverbs. They worked for 95% of the words. 

I finished my first set of homemade flashcards.  We went through them 5-10 at a time.  I turned the rules into word list work sheets and progress happened fast. 

I remember vividly when birthdays were no longer an embarrassment.  Now, my son could read his own cards!

If you are crying (or laughing) right now then you know that plain old phonics is never going to suit your child. Out of dire necessity I've shared tools that do!

Most any child will improve with better phonics tools, but for a mechanical child it may be the only way they ever read well.

I've put all the tools I can get online and keep adding more. Dig in and keep the power tools on the very top shelf!!