The Self-Taught Audio Learner

Strange but true: Audio learners are sing-songy, talkative little folks who can often learn to read on their own.

They can notice patterns between spoken and written words naturally. For these kids most any reading program will do.  Sometimes just books with a lot of conversation is all the instruction they need.  My daughter falls into this category.  I'll tell you her story in a minute. 

The success of what an audio learner does naturally impacts two things.  

  1. What we need to teach kids who don't connect written and spoken sounds together on their own.
  2. Why some kids will never learn to read if not explicitly taught patterns beyond letter sounds. 


What we need to teach.

In writing English Decoder I remembered patterns that I had noticed on my own as a child.  I read at post-high school level in early grade school. There was much that allowed me to read that was not taught.  This is what phonics programs should include. 

For example "tion" = /shun/ did not make sense to me initially as a young reader.  After all my teacher had said the four letters involved made totally different sounds.  I remember seeing something that made sense followed by "tion" on the board.  I wondered "How I would know when the letters 't" "i" "o" "n" would make their normal sounds again if they meant something different now?"

My second grade solution: I spoke to myself the sounds /t/ /i/ /on/ over and over until they blended into /teeon/.  Then I reasoned that /sheon/ and finnally /shun/ were faster and easier to pronounce.

My adult solution: ci, ti, si at the end of a word make the 'sh' sound. I included this in English Decoder.  


What will happen if we don't teach it.

My very mechanical son could not learn to read the way I first taught him. (The contrast between my sing-songy, dancing,  poetry writing childhood and his build anything, hyper coordinated self was amazing.)  If I had not spelled out patterns in English that went beyond just letter sounds he would not have learned to read.

Several studies since this time have confirmed that mechanical and scientific children in the US fare the worst in reading.  My experience is not unique. ´╗┐Read more´╗┐ about this in different types of letter sounds

Sad but true: Without better phonics, like English Decoder, some students will fail to read.  

How does one child stand out as capturing the world via sound bites?


I'll describe my daughter, who taught herself to read, so you get the idea.

Fist of all she remembers songs. In the car, she is the one correcting the little voice in the car seat next to her.

"EEEUH. That's not the way the song goes."

Secondly, she hums constantly. It helps her think. It does not help her brother, who daily studies in the room next to her, to think. He turns on a CD to drown her out. Then, no one in the house can think.

"This is a quiet time." That's my line, and we end the noise (for a few minutes at least : ).

The next thing that stood out in my audio learner is a sense of rhythm. If we clapped to music at home or in church she was on. I have had to pull other children on my lap and help them clap with the beat. Of course she likes to dance. That seems to go with little girls though. This may be my bias.

A__ learned to read with only about 6 formal lessons. Informally, she heard her brother going through early versions English Decoder flash cards. It was her lot to hit reading age when I was totally immersed in reading instruction. We had the whole Riggs notebook and I was going over it meticulously. I don't know how many other resources were on the shelf as well.

So out came the sentence strips, explicit, single stroke print letter instruction and we were going to dictate sounds. I brought her younger brother on the scene just to get him ready. Thankfully, for us all, this rigid routine did not last long.

I skipped a day and she read without me. This continued and I let her go. I stepped in only to remind her to give her eyes a rest if she had been reading for over an hour at one time. We had long since, equipped our home with a wholesome library that she could help herself to.

Later we reviewed specific phonics rules when I listened to her read out loud. She was so quick with most words that she creatively ad-libbed any with unusual patterns.

This is really how my audio learner learned to read. If you think I am wearing rose colored glasses (and I don't blame you) go to learning styles and see that it was 6 long years before I understood how to teach my mechanical learner.


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