By Dee Tadlock, PhD
Why was Read Right Developed–and How
Read Right, a fundamentally different approach to reading intervention, is grounded in theoretical constructs that challenge mainstream thinking in the field of reading. It was developed as a result of a mother’s determination to help her son. I had just completed a PhD in education with a major in reading when my younger son started first grade. It soon became apparent that he was having extreme difficulty learning to read. Armed with the knowledge of how to help struggling readers that I had attained in my doctoral studies, I worked diligently to help him—to no avail. When school district personnel suggested he be tested for learning disabilities and, if qualified, transferred to a different elementary school that housed the LD program, I asked to observe the instruction that was occurring in the classroom. Spending a day in the school, watching competent educators doing virtually the same kind of instruction I and his first grade teacher had been pursuing, resulted in my refusing the special program. I didn’t want to send my son away from a teacher he loved and all his friends to attend a program that I knew wouldn’t work—both his first grade teacher and I had already done everything I saw happening in that LD classroom.
Because of my refusal, the district asked me to sign a waiver stating that they were no longer responsible for my son’s reading. That was the catalyst I needed to resolve to figure out why he wasn’t learning to read. When confronted with a struggling student, the reading field tends to blame the student (he’s learning disabled; he’s lazy; he isn’t trying; he is absent all the time; he’s moved frequently during his elementary school years; he has a bad attitude) or the parents (they don’t make him come to school; they didn’t read to him when he was little; they don’t read themselves) or the culture (his culture has an oral tradition; it doesn’t value reading). I rejected all those typical explanations for students’ failures and concluded that it had to be the methodology—there must be a systemic problem in how reading instruction is conducted.
I embarked on what turned out to be a 3-year journey of library research to answer two fundamental questions: How does the brain learn a process? & What is it brains are doing when they read excellently, and how does that differ from what brains that struggle with reading are doing? My hope was that if I could gain at least a partial answer to these questions, ideas about how reading might be more effectively taught would emerge in my thinking.
During the three years I was doing the library research, I did not try to instruct my son in reading. He was getting reading instruction every day in school that wasn’t helping him read better; the message he was receiving: I’m dumb. I can’t do this. I’m stupid. His self-esteem plummeted further when he was asked to do tasks he couldn’t do because he couldn’t read well enough to do them. I felt he didn’t need similar experiences from his mom. Until I knew something different to try, I had a “hands off” policy as far as reading instruction was concerned. (I continued reading to him as I had done since before his birth as he has an older brother.)
Finally, as I had hoped, I began getting ideas about how reading might be more effectively taught. I eagerly began working with my son again, trying my new ideas. He was, by now, in third grade for the second time. I hoped to see an incremental improvement–what I saw instead was a total elimination of his reading problem in three months! No one was more surprised than I, and I knew then that I was on to something–I had figured out how reading should be taught and why traditional methods don’t achieve desired results. Read Right constitutes a paradigm shift in the field of reading. It has had continuous, well-documented success in transforming struggling readers–regardless of the label affixed to explain the problem–to excellent readers for the past 30+ years.
The next few blogs will explore the theoretical constructs on which Read Right methodology is based and will describe how they differ from those that support traditional reading instruction.
To bring closure my son’s story: He never had a moment’s struggle in school once his reading problem was eliminated. He scored in the 95th percentile in a norm-referenced, standardized reading test he was required to take in his senior year in high school. He graduated from a major public university with a grade-point average sufficient to get him admission to graduate school should he ever decide to attend.