Our story began 20 years ago in a bathtub, with pictophonics founder David Morgan.
I struggled to read myself.
One of my earliest memories was my mother’s exasperated face as she tried to help me to read. My brother and sister had both found it easy, but not me.
It was still a problem in my teens and I ended up studying engineering. As part of my engineering degree I studied fine art and something clicked at about that time and I have been happily reading ever since. I almost switched from engineering to fine art, I loved it so much! But if I had, pictophonics would never have been born.
Then my sons struggled too.
I had really forgotten all about it until I taught my sons to read. I was less good at being exasperated than my mother! It was a bad time for all of us.
At about that time I helped establish a charity called the Shannon Trust. We were getting prison inmates to teach each other to read. The majority of prison inmates cannot read, but some can. So we used them as tutors, because they all had time on their hands.
The interesting thing for me was that the inmates were learning to read fast. So, lying in the bathtub, the engineer in me asked myself why they had not learned to read the first time around. There was clearly no innate reason.
We are over the moon with Jacob’s progress. He’s recently had a reading assessment at school and he’s jumped a level and is now classed as a “free reader”, reading age of 10. He’s done amazing! Thank you!!!
Understanding the neurology was the key to the castle.
As an engineer you always want to know how something works. If you don’t, it might break and hurt someone. Having a feeling for how something works is just not good enough.
So I started to look at the neurology of reading. It is surprising, but most educationalists were not that interested in the nitty gritty of neurology at the time. I just love it! I love all of the little chemical processes that give us what we feel in our brain. Frankly it is just magic. I gave myself most of a degree-level foundation in neurology, at least in the bits that seemed to matter to reading.
It quickly becomes obvious that the conventional learn-to-read process was completely wrong for the way that the brain likes to learn skills. We started creating materials that were really optimized for being easy for the brain to work with. And we tried to make them as fun as humanly possible.
We can now help almost any struggling reader – especially children who are chronic guessers.
We found through research and experience that almost every struggling reader shares one common pattern – they tend to guess words (over-rely on context clues, interchange common words, etc.). About 1 in 5 children in every year group are failing basic reading, and we would estimate about 80-90% of those are whole word sight-reading and thus guessing constantly.
We pinpointed the strong visual learner or weak auditory processing pathways that can trigger this pattern, and discovered the best way to teach for those brain types. You can see more about chronic guessing and the main possible causes of reading difficulty here.
If your learner guesses at words… you have to figure out why and apply the right solution. Otherwise you will be stuck trying the same old strategies that have failed before — sometimes for years.
Over a decade of research & development, blood, sweat and tears later…
We now have a reading intervention for strugglers that has a nearly 100% success rate. Our next project is to make that the best way for every child to learn to read in the first place. And we mean to make that process free for ever beginner reader.
It has been a great journey for us. I hope you will join it. Explore our free visual phonics resources if you have an early reader and dive into our section for struggling readers for tips and advice to help them.
David Morgan, M.Ed
Founder of pictophonics, the Easyread intervention, and Helping Children to Read