"If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must expect to employ methods never before attempted." ~SIR FRANCIS BACON 1561-1626~

About Conventional VS Read Right

The Conventional View & The Read Right View

In 1997, the Federal Government responded to the reality of far too many adults, teens, and children being unable to comfortably and easily get information from print by convening a National Reading Panel charged with conducting a review of research to discover the best way to instruct reading. The panel’s final report was published in 2000 and became the basis for the No Child Left Behind legislation which made federal funding for reading dependent on whether the district followed the dictates of the panel.
  1. The report advocated:
  2. Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness (the concept that words in spoken language are composed of individual phonemes, or sounds)
  3. Systematic instruction in figuring out what the words are (using decoding, word-attack, and sight word recognition)
  4. Employing methods to improve fluency (typically, by asking students to read as fast as possible and timing their words per minute)
  5. Instruction designed to improve vocabulary
  6. Improving reading comprehension by teaching specific strategies and by asking pertinent questions

The field of reading sees the acquisition of reading ability as a somewhat linear process in which each of these five skills must be mastered to read effectively. Each skill depends on mastery of the previous one: you can’t figure out what the words are if you don’t have phonemic awareness; you can’t read fluently unless you can quickly and accurately identify each word; you can’t quickly identify words that aren’t in your vocabulary; you can’t comprehend if you can’t read fluently.

Read Right’s view is that reading is a unified, multi-faceted, primarily implicit process and that any attempt to separate the cohesive, integrated components and explicitly teach them as disconnected entities will not be successful because the necessary interrelationships will be removed. The cognitive act will be changed. The foundational skill for reading is not the ability to quickly and accurately identify words. Rather, it is anticipating the author’s intended meaning. Technically, the brain must create anticipatory sets* relative to the author’s message, and, because doing so operates implicitly, the brain must figure out for itself how to create those sets.

Read Right constitutes a paradigm shift in the field of reading. As such, it is not surprising that our views about “basic reading skills” differ from that of the National Reading Panel. These differences are delineated below.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness, or the understanding that spoken words are composed of discrete sounds, provides the basis for decoding and so must be explicitly taught. (It is interesting to note that this is the first addition to the “skills list” in 150 years!)
*Anticipatory set: A collection of elements assembled to function as a unit to enable a prediction, or anticipation to occur. In the case of reading, the prediction is relative to the author’s intended message.
Brains need to have phonemic awareness in order to produce speech. Students come to pre-school with phonemic awareness. The reading field seems to believe that converting this implicit knowledge to explicit knowledge will have a beneficial effect on decoding ability. Research does not bear this out. Students who are explicitly taught phonemic awareness do better on tests of phonemic awareness, but they do not do better on word identification or readubg comprehension tests. Nor does it make a difference in later reading achievement.

“Children who, after phonological intervention, could sound out new words or non­words were not reliably improved relative to comparison groups in their word identification and text-reading skills.” Lovett, M.W., Steinbach, K.A., & Frijters, J. C. (2000). Remediating the core deficits of developmental reading disability: a double-deficit perspective. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33 (i5), 334-58.


The foundational piece and main event of reading is word identification, accomplished through decoding, word attack, and sight word recognition. The task for the reader is to translate written symbols into oral language and then to “go through” the oral language to get to the meaning.
The brain really doesn’t care what the words are; it wants to know what the author is saying, and it doesn’t have to mediate through spoken language to access the meaning. Due to inherent limitations in short-term (or working) memory, it is not possible to access meaning by mediating through oral language. The capacity of short-term memory is limited to 7 +/- 2 bits of information, which means decoding every letter of a word containing more than 7 letters becomes problematic. If the reader recognizes each word on sight, a sentence with more than 7 words is difficult—perhaps impossible—to comprehend. The brain overcomes this capacity limitation by directly processing meaning through the creation of anticipatory sets.

fMRI research also supports the Read Right view. When subjects read word lists as their brains are scanned, the neural activation patterns occur primarily in the language centers of the brain. When subjects read paragraphs as their brains are scanned, the neural activation occurs all over the brain. Reading words and reading passages are not the same cognitive acts. Reading words is a relatively simple cognitive act of naming. Reading to understand what the author is saying is a unified, multi-faceted, cohesive, integrated, primarily implicit process.

You can’t read if you don’t know phonics, but the brain does not use phonics to figure out what words are. Phonics information is strategically sampled when required to help create anticipatory sets and, in the face of sufficient uncertainty, to confirm or reject their validity. Eye movement research confirms this. Depending on which study you look at, the brain fixates on only 40%-60% of the words on the page when it reads. Paulson, E. J., and A. E. Freeman. 2003. Insight from the Eyes. Portsmouth, NE: Heinemann


Vocabulary development is conceptualized as a reading skill because it is felt the student will not be able to identify a word if it isn’t part of his speaking or listening vocabulary.
Reading is a major tool for acquiring vocabulary. How could this be true if we have to know the vocabulary word first in order to read text containing it? Unless the reader is encountering so many new vocabulary words in a paragraph that he loses the meaning, he doesn’t have to know all the vocabulary; he can still comprehend the author’s message. The reader easily, often without noticing it, deduces the meaning of unknown vocabulary by using his understanding of the paragraph to figure out what the unknown vocabulary must mean.

Fluency (the ability to read smoothly, easily, and comfortably)

Once word identification is mastered most students will be lacking in fluency. The belief is that slow reading undermines reading comprehension. Poor fluency, it is thought, is caused by weak word identification skills. The skill of fluency is most frequently “taught” by strengthening word identification skills so the words can be identified faster and by timing students as they read and encouraging them to push for speed.
Fluency is not a reading skill. Rather, lack of fluency is a symptom that the brain is not doing the fundamental process of reading correctly. In other, words, the neural network that guides the reading process is guiding it inappropriately. When the brain remodels the network so it operates appropriately, the symptom will be eliminated. Reading will be effortless and comfortable for the reader and will result in understanding the author’s message. Oral reading will sound natural, like conversational speech.

Reading Comprehension

Comprehension cannot be assured until readers are producing fairly fluent reading, so it is the last skill to receive focused instruction. Both literal level and higher-order comprehension are classified as reading skills. The most common approaches to teach comprehension are to ask and correct questions (sometimes to discuss answers to questions) and to explicitly teach comprehension strategies.
There are three requirements for literal-level comprehension of the author’s message to occur:

  1. The brain needs to read right, which means the brain uses the implicit creation of anticipatory sets relative to the author’s meaning as the primary reading strategy. Creating anticipatory sets is impossible to accomplish if the reader is not constantly “trucking along” with the meaning. Thus if the brain reads right, literal comprehension is inherent in the process.
  2. The brain needs to have sufficient prior knowledge about the information and the language in the text to enable it to create the anticipatory sets.
  3. The reader has to have intent to know what the text says.

Read Right methodology provides tools to deal effectively with issues that might arise in each of these arenas.

*A note on higher-order comprehension skills (also known as critical thinking skills)

Critical thinking skills allow students to effectively analyze information, make inferences, synthesize,
draw conclusions, define criteria and make evaluations, discern cause and effect relationships, etc.

A common mistake when considering reading comprehension is to identify critical thinking skills as reading skills. The neural network that guides the reading process has finished its work when literal comprehension has occurred. If the reader wants to think critically about the information gained from reading, he must access the neural circuitry built to guide critical thinking operations. The Read Right Critical Thinking Component is designed to help students develop and fine-tune these networks.

It is important to note that the brain accesses the same neural circuitry when it wants to think critically about information gained from reading, listening, experiencing, or observing. Critical thinking networks operate on information, and the brain doesn’t care what the source of the information was. That’s why regarding higher order comprehension as a reading skill constitutes erroneous thinking.

Read Right definitely makes it easier to read, and there’s a whole new world out there in books that I never knew about. It helped me change some of my negative behaviors by learning new things offered by books like in psychology and theology. It also helped with the way I speak. I have a better outlook because I know I can achieve something.

— Youthful Offender, WA Corrections Center, Shelton, WA —