Our story began 20 years ago in a bathtub, with TVP 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, trainertext visual phonics 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.
Understanding the causes of difficulty boosted TVP’s success rate to almost 100%.
The trainertext immediately started to get great results, but we were hitting roadblocks too. Some children were having difficulty that we did not understand.
So now the neurology really delivered again.
In every single case, when we looked at the patterns it began to give clues as to which bit of the reading process was failing. Reading requires a chain of events in the brain and if one of them is not working you will have a problem.
You can see more about the possible causes of reading difficulty here.
In an independent research study, children who were an average of 2 years behind in reading age caught up within 120 TVP lessons (on the online version of TVP, the Easyread system). That’s a 2 year reading age gain in an average of 6 months.
Over a decade of research & development, blood, sweat and tears later…
So we kept working on our systems and our understanding of what worked and what didn’t for different children. There is almost nothing in the systems we suggest that has not been tested and is not based on some fundamental neurological theory.
Often we have had a single child struggling and created some software to help that individual. When the fix has worked for the one child, we have moved it into the system to test with others.
As a result, our outcomes have steadily improved year by year. In the last couple of years there have been around one or two parents per year that have been unhappy in some way, out of around a thousand that have been happy. In most cases we then do a series of lessons directly with the child and everything is soon fine.
It has been a great journey for us. I hope you will join it. Our aim over the next ten years is to reach a point where every child learns to read with confidence and joy.
Founder of Trainertext Visual Phonics, the Easyread intervention, and Helping Children to Read