Reading programs are designed to help students struggling with reading and writing as well as for those who have a learning or language disability, such as dyslexia. These systems target phonics, phonemes, spelling, fluency, reading comprehension, and oral expressive language. The Dyslexia Help Center at University of Michigan complied a list of common reading programs here. The Harvard University Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group provides a plethora of resources regarding the importance of early intervention and selecting a program fit for you or your child.

We’re going to review three programs: Orton-Gillingham (OG), The Wilson Reading System (WRS), and Lindamood Phonetic Sequencing (LiPS), and offer brief descriptions of four others. Consider which approach is offered in your area, how intensive your intervention needs to be, and which one makes the most sense for your diagnosis.

Orton-Gillingham (OG)

The Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach was created for those with dyslexia, but has been used for any person with a language processing problem. It focuses on the individual and adapts to the student’s abilities while focusing on reading, writing, and spelling. It has also been adapted for students struggling with mathematics. Although most reading tools include vocabulary and fluency, the OG does not. It is most often taught one-on-one, but valuable for small groups or classrooms as well. This multisensory approach continually monitors the student’s progress and adapts future lessons accordingly. It emphasizes phonetics and how letters combine to create words. OG engages reading, writing, and spelling skills in each activity, and it emphasizes linguistic patterns. The OG learning experience is created to bring confidence, knowledge, and purpose to the student; the goal is to successfully help the student become a “competent reader, writer and independent learner.”

Scientific studies have shown that the OG approach may improve reading, spelling, word attack, phonetic awareness, and reading comprehension in elementary students with poor reading skills. Other research found that OG lessons were more effective when compared to other methods. The largest difficulty with this teaching, which may also be considered as one of it’s greatest advantages, is the heavy amount of work required for teachers; the instructor has to constantly monitor progress and adapt all future lessons to meet the student’s need.

Wilson Language Training

Wilson Language Training offers four programs: Prevention and Early Intervention (both called Fundations), Intervention (Just Words), and Intensive (Wilson Reading System). Each program is created for a specific age group and amount of intervention needed. Skills taught include: awareness of phonemes, word study, recognition of sight words, spelling, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and oral language skills. Research has revealed many benefits of Wilson Reading System: efficacy in improving oral reading fluency, reading comprehension skills, and spelling in those with a learning disability; improvement in standardized test scores; growth in total reading abilities; and older students/adults benefit as much a younger students. Review more research about Wilson’s Language Programs here.

Fundations is a comprehensive program focused on improving reading, handwriting, and spelling for children in kindergarten through third grade. Skills include: awareness of phonemes and phonetics, fluency, vocabulary, handwriting, reading comprehension, and spelling. It can be conducted in a typical classroom with a regular teacher for 30 minutes per day. This Prevention system is less intensive than the Prevention program and can be used in a typical classroom with all students.

This Early Intervention system is more intensive and detailed than the Prevention program, created for students who need a bit of extra help. Similarly, it includes 30 minutes per day, plus an additional 30 minutes 3-5 times per week. A teacher, reading specialist, intervention specialist, or therapist can perform this curriculum in small groups or one-on-one. Fundations is a comprehensive program focused on improving reading, handwriting, and spelling for children in kindergarten through third grade. Skills include: awareness of phonemes and phonetics, fluency, vocabulary, handwriting, reading comprehension, and spelling.

Students in grades 4-12 with mild difficulty spelling and reading can utilize the Just Words program in combination with other education programs. 45 minutes, 3-5 times per week in a small group of no more than 15 students is recommended. As with the Early Intervention program, it can be completed in small groups or one-on-one by a teacher, reading specialist, intervention specialist, or therapist.

This is a 12-step program for students in grades 2-12 or adults diagnosed with a language learning disability. This first steps of this intensive curriculum study phoneme segmentation and word structure. The intermediate steps cover spelling, sight words, fluency, and vocabulary. The final steps involve comprehension and conversations discussing literature. Lessons are 60-90 minutes long, 2-5 times per week in a one-on-one ratio, or 45-90 minutes per day in a group of up to 6 students. A teacher is recommended to have a certification in Wilson Level I and II to teach this in a special education classroom, library, resource room or adult education center.

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Lindamood Phonemic Sequencing (LiPS)

The Lindamood Phonemic Sequencing (LiPS) is a program that aims to teach individuals how to read fluently and to spell competently. This intervention helps students, people with a learning disability, sufferers of traumatic brain injuries, and stroke patients to identify sounds and sequence them into words. LiPS employs discovery of mouth movements, sounds, activities with sight words, reading, spelling, letter patterns, and context clues. Similar to OG and Wilson programs, this can be used both in a group or a one-on-one setting, as a preventative or intervention tool, daily or multiple times per week, and within or outside of the classroom based on the student’s needs.

Research studies have identified the efficacy of the LiPS program alone and when compared to similar programs. The efficacy is strong for its ability to improve phonetic awareness, sight word recognition, better reading skills, fluency, and reading comprehension. View more research on Lindamoodbell’s website here or from the US Department of Education here.

Other Programs to Consider

There are a variety of other options on the market to assist struggling readers.

  • Read Naturally allows the student to read along while a recording reads the text with proper fluency and pronunciation; fluency is practiced by repeatedly reading passages until read accurately; and the student personally monitors their progress on graphs.
  • Lexia Learning offers student-driven learning for all types of learners (below, at, or above level). Work is completed with teacher instruction and online.
  • Language! 4th Edition has gone digital to complement the rise in technology. The 7 step curriculum begins with speaking and listening, and works through phonics, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension, and all the way to speaking and writing fluently.
  • The Expanding Expression Tool (EET) kit focuses on oral and written expression, defining vocabulary, descriptions, associations, and categorization. It has a slightly different approach than the other programs, but is worth considering if your child needs more assistance in these areas.

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