Learning to Read’s “Dark” Secret

January 2, 2022

by Rhonda Stone
Master of Public Administration–Education Policy/Reading
Read Right Systems

The switch turns on and off, like a light in a windowless room. When it’s on, everything is seen. When it’s off, all is unseen–and whoever is in the room must feel their way through the darkness.

Learning to read is much like this. It has two distinct functions. For one function (explicit learning), the light is on and we “see” letters and words on the page. Thus, it can be easily assumed that learning the “code” (or, more specifically, how to decode every individual word using the letters on the page identified in order, from left to right) is the only path to reading success. For the other (implicit operation), the light is off and we cannot possibly see deep within the human brain and what is happening when an individual reads successfully–and unsuccessfully.

No expert who knows human brain function (neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists) would disagree that the human brain uses distinctly different neural systems to process “explicit” information (that which we can see, hear, and declare) and “implicit” operations (what our brains do to keep us both alive and constantly learning). Why, then, have reading experts completely ignored the role of implicit operation as the single most important factor in reading failure and success? The sounds that letters on the page make are easy to learn. Nudging implicit brain systems to do the right things with those sounds is what reading experts have wrong.

It is learning to read’s dark secret–and understanding how brains actually function sheds light on what the reading field is ignoring.

Becoming a successful reader is NOT about learning to decode and otherwise identify individual words. It is impossible. Neuroscience has documented that the human brain cannot process more than 3 to 7 bits of information at a time before it reaches capacity and starts all over again by wiping short-term/working memory clean! Reading is NOT about identifying every single word on a page and adding up the words to figure out the meaning. Again, adding up individual words violates the limits of brain capacity.

Becoming a successful reader IS about efficiency in complex cognitive processing. Who would argue with that? Such efficiency can only occur when the human brain figures out how to integrate multiple forms of knowledge into the singular act of making sense of text. Rather than focus on individual words, the brain MUST focus on using minimal alphabetic information to recreate the message that an author intended to communicate. Like an orchestra, these things must work together in harmony: minimal information from letters and spaces on the page; immediate recognition of punctuation and its essential contribution to meaning; instantaneous connection with a variety of knowledge already stored in the mind of the reader; and more.

Figuring out how these things work together, honestly, is IMPOSSIBLE. Figuring out how to nudge a new or struggling reader to do the right things to make complex processing happen is POSSIBLE. Read Right developer Dr. Dee Tadlock has done it and has a 40-year track record of success guiding individuals with mild to severe reading problems out of the darkness that comes with reading failure.

For our Online Tutoring Service, Read Right offers an eight-session guarantee. No one else does that. If, after eight tutoring sessions, a student does not demonstrate a reduction in symptoms as compared to the initial assessment, the client can request a refund of the eight sessions. Read Right can offer this because it works.

Read Right: A Paradigm Shift in Reading

August 9, 2021

A paradigm shift is a radical change in thinking—from an accepted point of view to a new one. Read Right reading programs (K-3 Primary Core Curriculum and the Read Right Intervention Program delivered on site or online) offer a paradigm shift in teaching reading effectively. What triggers a paradigm shift? Persistent problems that cannot be solved by popular methods tried by nearly every school system in America for years.  For Read Right developer Dr. Dee Tadlock the unsolvable problem was a son who was unsuccessful in learning to read in first grade. He provided the initial catalyst for Dr. Tadlock’s search for a better way to teach reading. After three years of post-doctoral research, Read Right methodology was developed as an effective, lasting solution which she initially tested with her son, and then her own special education students. That’s right. Read Right developer Dr. Dee Tadlock is a former special education teacher.

Unsolvable Problems

Most educators will agree that too many children, teens, and adults struggle with reading. Ample evidence suggests that flawed ideas are the cause. First, virtually every school district in America has students in almost every classroom that can’t read well enough to do the work they’re asked to do.  Second, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in reading have been virtually flat for more than 30 years. The same data shows that two-thirds of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders read at a basic level or below, insufficient for success in college and many careers.

In 1997, the U.S. Government responded to the on-going state of affairs by convening a National Reading Panel to review available research. The objective: discover the best way to instruct reading. Its final report, published in 2000, supported the “tried and true” approach: explicit, systematic teaching in “five essential components” of reading. The components and the order in which they must be taught:

  1. Phonemic awareness (the concept that words in spoken language are composed of individual phonemes, or sounds)
  2. Intensive phonics knowledge (decoding, word-attack, and sight word recognition)

NOTE: Word recognition is perceived as the foundational skill that must be in place before successful reading is possible. As Marilyn J. Adams expressed in her book, Beginning to Read (1990), “Skillful reading is not a unitary skill. It is a whole complex system of skills and knowledge. . .On the other hand, unless the processes involved in individual word recognition operate properly, nothing else in the system can either.

  1. Fluency (typically, timing students to encourage them to read as fast as possible to determine words-per-minute)
  2. Vocabulary (individual words and their meanings)
  3. Comprehension (teaching specific strategies to support text understanding; often involves asking questions to see if comprehension has occurred)

Without appropriate scientific testing, these five parts and pieces were assumed to accurately represent what was required for successful reading. Teaching these skills became the law of the land via the No Child Left Behind Act. The act tied Federal funds for states and individual school systems to a requirement that reading intervention programs must reflect the findings of the National Reading Panel. A key component of that legislation was the Reading First Initiative—a 5-year, $6 billion attempt to support selected schools and school districts in implementing the “five essential components of reading instruction” so the effectiveness of such instruction could be demonstrated. The end goal was that no child leave third grade with a reading problem.

Fortunately, the U.S. Government likes data, so it commissioned a final impact study of the Reading First Initiative. Officials assumed that quality instruction of the five basic skills would produce confident, successful readers. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the 2008 Reading First Impact Study Final Report (Abt Associates) revealed no improvement in any of the five skills after three full years of study with three grade levels (Grades 1 – 3). There was one exception: modest gain in phonics knowledge for only one year of the study, and in first grade only. Importantly, they found no improvement at all in any year, nor in any grade level, in the only skill that gives the act of reading value: comprehension. Thus, students were no better off understanding what they read. This result emerged in spite of significantly more teacher training, more time spent on reading instruction in the classroom, additional appropriate materials, and the introduction of reading coaches to the school staff. Again: $6 billion spent on a “tried and true” assumption about reading instruction, and no significant effect. Bottom-line? Focusing reading instruction on the “five essential components” did not work to help students become successful readers!

Today, schools are still using these failed methods because the federal government is still promising that they will work. Consider this: They are the same methods that SpEd has been using for decades to remediate reading ability. They didn’t produce consistent, significant growth in the past and they are extremely unlikely to do so in the future.  

As Albert Einstein wisely said, “Insanity is continuing to do things the way we have always done them and expecting to get different results.”

Read on for an explanation of why this 150-year-old method of instruction does not and cannot work.

FACT: Identifying Individual Words and Passage Reading Are Different Cognitive Acts

The theoretical constructs underlying Read Right methodology are supported by fMRI research conducted when subjects are reading. If the subjects are reading word-lists, the resulting neural activation patterns are located primarily in the language centers of the brain. Subsequent research has revealed that the same neural activation patterns occur whenever the brain is naming something—objects in the environment or even pictures of objects. Thus, when the brain is reading to identify individual words on a page, it is merely naming those words. Notably, this is what the five essential components theory of reading is designed to facilitate.

Read Right methodology is a paradigm shift for the field of reading. Why? Read Right contends that the brain doesn’t care what the words are. The human brain is the organ for making sense of the world. It constantly seeks meaning. An example is the manner in which babies and toddlers acquire speech. They babble at first, experimenting with the creation of the sounds of their native languages—the sounds they hear in their environments. . Later, they figure out that language is a tool for communication. They don’t learn the meaning of individual words and then string them together to communicate. Rather, they want to communicate a broader meaning, and they gather up language to actualize the communication. Meaning comes first—before the language. Their first attempts at using words are not for naming (or reciting) the words; rather, from the very beginning, they use words as language was intended: to communicate meaning. When a small human toddles over to the kitchen sink, reaches towards the faucet with a chubby little hand and says, “Waw.” He is not saying, water. He is saying, “I want a drink of water.” Mother—a very natural and intuitive teacher of language—responds by saying, “Oh, do you want a drink of water? OK.” Then she hands the toddler a glass of water. In using language (talking, listening, or reading), the meaning always comes first. The language to express that meaning is gathered afterwards. Current reading instruction places words before meaning.

Humans must figure out for themselves how to make meaningful speech happen. At the center of it all, though, is meaning—not separate and explicitly taught skills that can, over time, be added up to deliver meaningful language. Confused? Consider this: approximately 1 percent of all 4 and 5 year olds teach themselves how to read without any decoding instruction. In every case, they’ve been read to for years, and they frequently ask for the same book to be read again and again. With no more than that, they figure out the complex process of reading—and never need additional help or support with the skill. They never display reading problems. They read excellently from the very beginning.

Shifting the Paradigm: Read Right’s Theoretical Constructs

Read Right creates rapid and impressive gains in students’ reading abilities. It reflects the following theoretical constructs:


As an individual learns how to do something, he or she builds a neural network to guide the process. Reading problems are caused when an individual builds a flawed neural network to guide the process of reading. Because the network has errors encoded in, it operates inappropriately when it is accessed to read.

The only way to eliminate a reading problem is to compel the brain to re-model the network. Brains are “plastic,” but they are unlikely to accidently encounter an environment that would cause them to remodel existing circuitry. The tutoring environment must be precise to facilitate the remodeling work and ensure it will happen.


A process is anything you can put a how-to in front of, like how to ride a bike, how to scratch your nose when it itches, how to walk, how to talk, how to read, and thousands of other “how-to” things. Reading, like all processes, is primarily learned implicitly and operates implicitly—below the level of conscious awareness. Because of this, all processes—including reading— cannot be explicitly taught. Think of bicycle riding: —as you are riding a bicycle, do you know what your brain is doing to keep you upright? Did anyone teach you how to integrate and co-ordinate the neural systems necessary to make bicycle-riding happen, or did your brain figure it out for itself? 

Even though processes operate primarily implicitly, every process has some explicit aspects. These can and should be explicitly taught. For reading, the explicit aspects include sound-symbol correspondence, the concept of word in print, the understanding that when a reader reads out loud, the language created is the same as the language represented in print on the page, and the purpose of punctuation. All of these can be easily and explicitly taught. Knowledge of the explicit aspects of reading is necessary, but it is not sufficient to enable excellent reading. An iceberg is an appropriate metaphor for any process-learning: the small part of the iceberg sticking above the water is representative of the explicit aspects of any process, and the much larger part of the iceberg under the water represents the implicit aspects of any process. The job of the educator, once the explicit aspects of reading are taught, is to construct an environment within which the brain is compelled to figure out all the implicit aspects of reading and integrate them with the explicit aspects. Once the brain figures this out, the reader emerges from the reading act understanding, at a literal level, the author’s intended meaning each and every time reading is engaged.  

Unfortunately, the reading field has never—in 150 years—acknowledged the implicit nature of procedural learning. Reading professionals only advocate “explicit and systematic” instruction of reading skills and strategies. Read Right theory contends that the concept is oxymoronic. It’s impossible to explicitly teach implicit process, which must be mastered reading excellence to be achieved.  As a “how-to” thing, reading excellence requires complex neural activity below the level of our conscious awareness. Thus, excellent reading cannot be taught. The brain must figure it out for itself.


The foundation and main event of reading is not word identification; it is anticipating the author’s message. The brain must figure out how to plan, coordinate, and integrate numerous complex neural systems so such anticipation is possible. Phonics is necessary to read, but excellent readers don’t use phonetic information to figure out what the words are. When needed, they strategically sample just enough phonetic information to help anticipate the meaning and, in the face of uncertainty, use phonetic information to confirm or reject the anticipation.

Implications of the Three Assumptions

To eliminate a reading problem, the brain must be in an environment that compels it to remodel neural circuitry so it successfully guides the complex, implicit process of anticipating the author’s meaning. Read Right provides such an environment.

The Paradigm Shift Solves the Unsolvable Problem

Students who participate in Read Right, regardless of the label they wear to explain the reading problem, make rapid, impressive gains in reading that outstrip any reasonable expectations. You can explore the data pages of our website to find support for this statement, including third-party, gold-standard research. Also, you might want to peruse our video library to hear testimonials from those who have witnessed first-hand the transformation made possible by participation in Read Right.

For a point-by-point comparison of the five essential skills theory as compared to Read Right theory, go to the home page and scroll down.

Use ESSER Funds for Innovation and Acceleration

June 2, 2021

Special Education and Regular Education Students All Need Fast Growth

Students qualifying for special education services are possibly among the hardest-hit by COVID disruptions. Federal ESSER funding (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief legislation) was authorized by Congress to address this. But, the ESSER-funded program you choose must result in rapid growth for students. Old, repackaged strategies cannot work for SpEd students. So, what can produce accelerated learning? The innovative Read Right Reading Intervention program will make it happen, as delivered by your special education staff. Read Right methods have been producing remarkable growth for 30 years. For special education students the growth is often up to 2 years gain in one school year and even less.

Y_ _      c_n      c_ _ nt   _n     _t!

Candidly, the expectation for reading improvement for special education students in one year has been six months’ growth—the rate defined by the federal government as indicative of a good reading program for SpEd students. This expectation cannot close the achievement gap. Why shoot for six months growth when your students on average can achieve one to two years growth?

Here’s how it works: Read Right consultants train your own staff, (certificated or non-certificated teaching assistants) via seven weeks of hands-on training spread over one semester, to be the BEST small group reading instructors they can possibly be. When properly trained, your staff will stop learning loss in its tracks—and produce accelerated recovery. How fast? Here are REAL examples from our clients. They are the best source for understanding how well and/or how fast Read Right Reading Intervention works:

“The State of Texas on TAKS scores has gone to vertical alignment (a standardized measure of growth; for Grade 4 to Grade 5, it is 66 points per year). The kids we’re serving, their average growth—average, mind you—is 111 points! That’s a grade-and-a-half to two full grade levels in one school year! Some of our students have made three years (growth)!” –Julia Bell, Freestone-Navarro Special Education Cooperative serving elementary and secondary special education students, Texas.

“We had a (high school) student, very problem child. …Suspended at least three times. …He got right back into it (Read Right) and did well. …November to May…his grade level had gone up 2 grade levels (in spite of extended suspensions). If you follow that manual page by page … and do everything Read Right says you should do, you will succeed. You will love it. You will feel rewarded.” –Nancy Louis, Marianna Bracetti Academy (middle and high school), Administrator and Trainer, Pennsylvania.

 “All the students at Gateway School are diagnosed with some kind of learning disorder…it has worked with every child. That’s when you have real success.” –Harriet Walber, Director, Gateway School for Grade 7 – 12 students with learning disorders, Texas.

Is the Read Right Reading Intervention Program a good fit for ESSER funding, your district, school, and staff? Absolutely. Here’s how:

From the U.S. Department of Education ESSER guidance document:

  1. Does (the program you choose) address a (school or district’s) “most important educational needs as a result of COVID-19?”  FROM READ RIGHT SYSTEMS: YES! Most Special Education students struggle with the ability to read and comprehend academic text. Rapid and permanent improvement in reading ability accelerates recovery by making it possible for special education students to succeed across the curriculum.
  2. “What is the proposed timeline for providing services and assistance to students” (and what are the gains expected in that timeline)?  FROM READ RIGHT SYSTEMS: You can expect an average 1.5 to 2 years growth in the reading abilities of special-education qualified students in one school year. This is a common average for schools implementing Read Right with Special Education students during the first year. Why? Because Read Right, unlike other intervention programs is in alignment with how the brain learns a process, and we train staff over one full semester—with students present for the entire training process. It is THE most intensive training your staff will ever receive for reading improvement.
  3. “The extent to which the (school or district) intends to use ESSER funds to promote remote learning.”  FROM READ RIGHT SYSTEMS: School staff members trained to be Read Right Small Group Instructors can use the methodology in the classroom AND online. The methodology is highly adaptable. It has been used online successfully for schools and individual families for 11 years.  
  4. “How the (school or district) intends to assess and address student learning gaps resulting from the disruption in educational services.”  FROM READ RIGHT SYSTEMS: Your ESSER objective for Special Education students is to rapidly improve reading ability so that SpEd students can begin to read and comprehend text independently. This accelerates learning in every subject.

Join individual schools and school systems that are already choosing something innovative to achieve accelerated learning. Choose Read Right to transform your Special Education program into something truly “Special.”

Re-Thinking Special Education: What Is Possible? Pt. 2

May 20, 2021

By Rhonda Stone of Read Right Systems
Part 2 of 2

If it doesn’t work, why keep doing it? That is one interpretation of what Albert Einstein meant when he said:  “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Special education programs across America continue to be locked into the 150-year-old view that students who struggle with reading do so because they do not have sufficient word attack and decoding skills. How is it possible, then, that many SpEd students can read this second sentence (the first one is on our Home page) with only the clue that the  sentence is about TREES:

I    h_v_    b_g    tr_ _ s     _n     m_     b _ _k y_ _ d.

It obviously isn’t possible to decode the words in this sentence. To read it, the brain relies on far more complex and sophisticated neural activity to anticipate the meaning. Anticipation is what drives all human function, including reading! Consider this from Kajaani University of Applied Sciences in Finland, a nation that routinely outperforms the United States in reading: “Reading, we conclude, is not a matter of decoding linguistic information. Far from being a text-driven process, it depends on integrating both sensory and motor processes in an anticipatory meaning generation based on the history of experience and cultural context of the reader,” by  Timo Järvilehto  Veli-Matti Nurkkala and Kyösti Koskela, in “The Role of Anticipation in Reading,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Pragmatics & Cognition, Volume 17, Issue 3, Jan 2009, p. 509 – 526. DOI:

Few would disagree that competent reading ability is the foundation for achieving success in elementary, secondary, and collegiate education. So, why not re-think Special Education, and do everything you can to ensure that instruction is fully aligned with current brain science? That is what Read Right methodology has done—and it is producing results Special Education administrators and teachers never thought possible. Results like these:  507 students—a mixture of elementary, middle school, and high school students—in an average of only 40.2 hours of participation in Read Right gained an average of 2.1 grade levels in reading as measured by the comprehension sub-section of the Gates Mac-Ginitie Test of Reading. The Normal Curve Equivalency gain score was 10.6. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not! Read Right unleashes the power of the brain to do what brains do.

For your next reading intervention purchase, add something with a proven track-record that does NOT repeat what you’ve already tried with lackluster results. Your students can experience one to two full years’ gain in reading ability in one school year or less. Train your SpEd teachers and teaching assistants in Read Right methodology. Help your students become impressively successful readers.

Re-Thinking Special Education: What is Possible? Pt. 1

May 13, 2021

by Dee Tadlock, Ph.D.
Reading Instruction, Reading Remediation, and Online Reading Tutoring
Part 1 of 2

Students who qualify for special education services in reading typically fall further behind their peers each year. As the daughter of a friend said to her mother when assessed for special education services: “Mom, once you go into special ed, you never get out.”

Does it have to be that way? Is it possible for students with special education labels to catch up to their general-education peers and exit SpEd services forever? Let’s ask Dr. Pat Harper, Director of a multi-district special-education cooperative in Texas: After considerable research, the Co-op purchased Read Right as their reading intervention program for both general-education students and special-education students. “We have seen phenomenal results!” says Harper.

THERE WAS A 48% DECREASE in the referral rate the first year after implementing Read Right, and the number of referrals have since declined by almost 70%. Additionally, there has been almost a 50% reduction in the special education population. “For many students, solving their reading problems with Read Right tutoring has been a ticket out of special education.”

Read Right graduates have also done very well on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills—80% have passed it, and none of them had ever passed it before. Harper stated, “Read Right has proved to be the tool that has enabled school staff to serve our students in a way that no one thought was possible. The dramatic results speak for themselves. Read Right works!”

Why does participation in Read Right transform severely struggling students to successful, confident readers? The simple answer is: Read Right marches to a totally different drummer; it does not put students in instructional environments created by virtually all other reading intervention programs. It adheres to the wisdom of these two quotes:

 “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” Albert Einstein


“If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must expect to employ methods never before attempted.”  Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

The Read Right Reading Intervention Program for schools is neither a packaged program nor an independent online learning tool. Instead, it is intensive training for your staff to be the BEST small group instructors they can be. The Read Right methods your staff will learn over one full semester of hands-on training are not a re-application of the instructional methods students have already received. Those methods did not work—so, why use them again?

Instead, Read Right methodology does something extraordinary: it integrates the latest and best neuroscience related to brain function with typical and not-so-typical ideas about what is required to achieve reading proficiency. With our methods, your students will experience successful, confident reading ability for the first time in their lives, beginning with the first day they engage with Read Right Small Group Instruction. Our patented methods build proficiency into the system from Day One (and, to be clear—training of your staff occurs with your students present!)

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explain why Read Right works so well and how you can access it for your students. Remember: When reading problems are resolved, many students no longer need SpEd services.

GO FOR IT! You’ve already spent thousands and it hasn’t delivered. Read Right methodology employs methods never before attempted, and it achieves results never before accomplished. It’s the best way to “re-think” Special Education!

Reading + the Mysterious, Miraculous Human Brain

April 11, 2021

by Rhonda Stone, MPA
Tutor & Communications
Read Right Systems

“Brain science?! Who needs to understand brain science?!” some may ask.

In a word: Everyone!

From parents to teachers to reading experts, if we all understood more about how the human brain works, fewer children, teens and adults would struggle with the essential skill of reading.

Here are a few common misunderstandings about the mysterious and miraculous human brain:

  1. “Each person has a dominant learning style.” Not true! This refers to auditory, visual, and hands-on learning. Thirty years ago, a study of people with brain injuries proposed this–and an education scientist somewhere, somehow twisted it around to apply to everyone, including people with uninjured brains! Read more about this harmful myth at:
  2. “If you are analytical, you are left-brained. If you are creative, you are right brained.” Again, not true! The brain IS divided into two hemispheres (left and right), and joined in the center by the corpus callosum. However, we are all “whole-brained.” Meaning, brain function occurs and requires activity throughout the brain. Learn more from Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical School:

    The following myth may be the most damaging to the development of reading excellence:
  3. “Intensive, systematic instruction in phonics and decoding is required to become a successful reader.” Absolutely NOT true!! Evidence: Every year, a small percentage of children ages 4 to 6 figure out how to read on their own, before starting school! These children are called “precocious readers.” In fact, brain science suggests decoding and individual word recognition may cause reading problems. Here are three reasons from brain science: a) Human working memory (also called “short-term memory”) can only hold 3 to 7 bits of information at a time before it wipes working memory clean, and starts over. Thus, limitations on working memory prevent the brain from reading successfully through either decoding or individual word recognition. b) On top of this, focusing on individual syllables and words restricts all neural activity to the language centers of the brain, preventing the brain’s control system (executive function) from seeking, locating, and integrating other information stored as memory throughout the brain. Access to all information relevant to what is being read is vital to the only skill that makes reading useful: comprehension. Finally: c) R–ea–d–ing l–i–k–e th–i–s w–ou–l–d dr–i–ve y–ou cr–a–z–y! It forces the brain to work too much! Every function we perform involves anticipation, which is the brain’s amazing ability to use minimal information to achieve automaticity.

Lack of understanding of how the human brain functions is the #1 reason reading problems appear to be so difficult to fix. Read Right has found an answer: When the right strategies are used, fixing reading problems is not difficult. We know this with certainty because we do it every day. The key is a broader understanding and application of accurate brain science.

Read Right methodology is grounded in an inclusive view of brain science–or, all brain science. We remediate reading problems quickly because we understand and have applied brain science in new and exciting ways.