Read Right vs. the “Science of Reading”

Read Right is Highly Effective because Education Scientists have Overlooked the Implicit Nature of Procedural Learning

Education scientists and the reading field operate on two assumptions with the potential to negatively effect reading development. These are:

  1. Teachers can explicitly tell students what they need to do to read, placing the emphasis on the teacher’s explicit instruction instead of the student’s excellent performance.
  2. The main event of reading is identifying individual words, not whatever the brain must do implicitly (below the level of conscious awareness) to construct meaning.

Both “assumptions” are wrong, and they are associated with what is today commonly referred to as the “science of reading.” The assumptions favor the belief that “reading” is a set of five separate skills that can be explicitly taught (phonemic awareness, phonics and decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). As we will explain, reading is far more complex! In truth, reading is a complex PROCESS performed by the brain and, as such, it requires procedural learning, which occurs below the level of our conscious awareness. Procedural learning is what infants and toddlers use to figure out how to grasp an object, crawl, walk, talk, and much more! How do infants and toddlers figure anything out? Through active experimentation!


Every educator, parent, and government official should know that the science of reading grew from conclusions published in the 1999 Report of the National Reading Panel. It is also essential to know that the Report’s authors acknowledged that the Panel could not answer many significant questions related to reading development because insufficient information existed at the time to draw conclusions as how important the unanswered questions are (see Chapter 2, Page 96 of the Report). This included foundational things like: How much phonics instruction is enough, or too much? Should phonics instruction continue in Grade 2 and beyond? How important is background knowledge to reading development?

At Read Right, we’ve already answered these questions. For example: How much phonics knowledge is “enough”? Answer: Children only need to be able to immediately recall the sounds made by the 15 stable consonants (letters that make one sound: b, d, f, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, and w). That’s all. We know with certainty because Read Right methodology has been transforming new and struggling readers into successful readers with minimal phonetic information for 40 years. How long does it take to teach the 15 stable sounds? One to three months, max. Additionally, Read Right reflects the discovery that, as soon as children demonstrate immediate recall in the stable letters, they should begin to work only with books and stories–not word lists, work sheets, or any other non-reading activity. Why? Doing so confuses the brain into believing that “reading” is about (pause at the dashes between each word)–awkwardly–naming–one–word–at–a–time–and–adding–up–the–single–words–to–get–to–the–meaning. How awkward is that?! It’s much easier and more efficient to read by seeking meaning from the beginning, from the moment reading progresses, and using meaning constantly to help the brain form what are called “anticipatory sets.” (See the work of Robert Rosen for more information on the brain’s “anticipatory systems.”)

Should phonics instruction continue in Grade 2 and beyond? No. Only when a child cannot demonstrate immediate recall of the 15 stable letter sounds is explicit phonics instruction needed. If they can, they are finished with explicit phonics instruction. How is this possible? Because developing readers don’t need phonics to “sound out words.” Rather, the human brain reads faster and more efficiently when it figures out how to strategically sample the phonetic information on a page in the process of accurately constructing meaning. This is true of sentence reading. Most of the research reviewed by the National Reading Panel relied on identifying words on word lists, which is not “reading.” It is word “naming.”

How important is “background knowledge” to reading and reading development? Implicitly-gained knowledge of language (e.g., structure and vocabulary) and explicit declarative knowledge (everything an individual can declare) are essential for reading development. Excellent readers integrate multiple forms of knowledge instantaneously to be able to achieve higher-level reading ability. More to come on this!


Procedural learning is long recognized and understood as an important way that humans learn. (See the work of Jean Piaget.) And, neuroscientists have long acknowledged the implicit nature of procedural learning. All processes—anything you can put a “how to” in front of, like how to ride a bicycle or how to read—are learned and operate primarily below the level of conscious awareness. No one has access to or control over what the brain does to make any kind of process happen. That’s why processes cannot be explicitly taught, but must be figured out by the brain for itself.

Read Right provides the right environment for the brain to figure out what is required to make excellent reading happen. We define this as reading that is always fully comprehended (as long as the vocabulary is known) and, when performed aloud, sounds just like conversational speech. That’s why our methods are impressively effective. Read Right unleashes the power of the brain to do what brains do: make sense of the world—we call this learning.

NOTE: An iceberg is the perfect metaphor to illustrate the implicit nature of procedural learning: The small portion above the waterline represents the explicit aspects of any process that can and should be explicitly and systematically taught (e.g., declarative phonics knowledge). The gigantic portion beneath the waterline represents the implicit aspects of the process that cannot be explicitly taught, and must instead be “figured out” (integrating multiple forms of knowledge located in multiple brain systems instantaneously).

The brain is a powerful learning machine that, from birth, begins to experiment and learn. It can’t be stopped from learning if the environment is right. For 170 years, the field of education has not successfully addressed how to fix reading problems when they emerge in part because the implicit nature of procedural learning has been completely ignored. Rather than apply strategies appropriate for procedural learning, such as methods that support students as they experiment on the way to discovering how to read fluently with full comprehension, the reading field simply reorganized, renamed, and/or re-emphasized how explicit instruction should be delivered with phonics and decoding. Here’s the thing: If a person cannot read at all, learning to use phonics and decoding to name individual words may appear to be a great improvement! Sadly, these individuals are known to struggle with higher level reading. They read slowly, and commonly have to re-read over and over to figure out the meaning. So, in essence, intensive phonics and/or decoding instruction is a “band-aid” put on a life-shaping problem that is not truly solved. Decoders and word-identifiers frequently begin to struggle by the time they reach Grade 3 or 4 reading material, if not sooner.

If explicit instruction has not solved the problem in the past, it cannot solve the problem in the future!

With Read Right methodology, each student’s brain regardless of the nature of the reading problem, is compelled to figure out how to make excellent reading happen. The methodology simply unleashes the power of the brain to do what brain’s do—make sense of everything, whether it is simple or more complex. In this way, excellent reading supports the growth of knowledge and neural efficiency.


Is word identification the foundational skill for reading? Logic seems to suggest that we read “individual words” on the page because we see the words. However, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) suggests otherwise. In recent neuroimaging studies, when subjects identified individual words on word lists as their brains were scanned, the neural activation pattern was significantly different as compared to the pattern that emerged when subjects read sentences and paragraphs of text. This indicates that identifying individual words and passage reading are separate and distinctly different cognitive acts. This makes perfect sense when the science of procedural learning is understood. Unfortunately, virtually all classroom reading instruction today focuses on individual word identification (decoding and/or sight-word recognition) instead of procedural learning. Fact: the human brain uses anticipatory systems guided by executive function to make all processes happen. Procedural learning that is fully focused on quality of performance is what the brain uses to develop excellence. Whereas decoding and sight-word recognition focus on the simplistic act of—identifying—one—word—at—a—time, procedural learning that places the focus on anticipating meaning compels the brain to use executive function to activate and integrate all the neural systems required to create meaning from text.

Successful readers and highly competent learners continuously search for meaning. As a result, individuals who read proficiently do not care what the individual words are. Rather, their brains want to know what the message says. For excellent readers, meaning is the focus, not slow and laborious individual word identification.

Read Right’s methods are rapid and effective. Dozens of educators, school administrators, parents, and students verify its effectiveness in our Written and Video Testimonials.  

Everyone in the reading field wants the same thing: Reading success for every child, teen, and adult. Read Right methodology wouldn’t still be here after 40 years of development and training if our methods didn’t work! Unfortunately for America’s children, the “science of reading” continues to repackage and rehash the same old ideas about how reading “must be” taught. Read Right stands alone outside of this flawed science because, frankly, our success proves that the accepted “science” is wrong.

For example, our methods:

  • Never ask a new reader (ages 5 and up) or an individual with an established reading problem (ages 6 to 86) to learn the 44 different sounds made by the alphabet’s 26 letters and 18 common letter combinations, or the 350+ rules associated with English-language phonics.
  • Never ask our students to decode a single word. Instead, our trained tutors show students how to use the stable letter sounds in a far more efficient and effective way on the journey to figuring out how to construct meaning from text.

What we do is so effective we can even offer a guarantee to those who use the Read Right Online Tutoring service. See our Online Tutoring Guarantee for information.

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