Reimagining Education Since 1978

II. Sound Shapes Early Reading Program

Learning to read as a young child can be relatively easy for those of us who have a mind for it. But for some, learning to decode the complex English language can be a daunting task, particularly for children who are at risk for dyslexia who learn differently. Failure to master the basics early can seriously handicap subsequent learning. What if we could design a rigorously conceptual approach to preschool literacy that engages the greatest potential of every child, regardless of learning challenges, and at the same time strengthen his critical reasoning skills?

Our groundbreaking preschool literacy program engages the greatest potential of every child regardless of learning challenges and at the same time strengthens his critical thinking. During the 45 years of pioneering this approach to teaching pre-school children how to read, this program has been particularly effective in facilitating the reading skills of children either diagnosed for, or predisposed for, dyslexia, thus reducing the need for future remedial intervention.

Sound Shapes Precision PhonicsTM is a breakthrough Montessori-based pre-school reading program which has been developed and tested at Nightingale for over four decades. With funding from the Turner Foundation in Springfield, it has been developed as a marketable product.

The method integrates the latest brain science with Maria Montessori’s foundational concepts of “isolation of difficulty” and “control of error.” Building confidence in the child’s inborn “mathematical mind,” the program boosts his inborn capacity to wonder, inquire, and think logically.

Case studies and ongoing evaluations point to the program’s unprecedented success with early learners, particularly for children who may be at risk for dyslexia. In fact, it serves as an early diagnostic test allowing teachers to intervene proactively before dyslexia becomes more difficult to overcome.

To make English “dyslexic friendly,” we introduce the toddler to a carefully selected lexicon of single-syllable phonetically-regular words – cat, pup, tin, fog, net – before introducing a set of rules governing the more puzzling spellings of words. In addtion, Sound Shapes uses a Sound-to-Print strategy for teaching children how to read and spell. Whereas traditional phonics programs begin with alphbet letters on the page and ask the child to translate the letter into speech sounds, telling them: "This letter "makes" the sound..." Letters don't "make" sounds, people do! Sound Shapes ReadingTM reverses the order, moving instead from speech sounds to letters. Having trained the child's awareness of the speech sounds they hear and how the mouth articulates those sounds, the teacher asks, "How do we write that sound on paper?" The reversal of the order in which phonics is taught follows more logically the sequenc of human development: We all learn to talk before we learn the alphabet letters. The advantage of a Sound-to-Print strategy is that it helps students understand the logic of their language, both spoken and written.

Sound Shapes Precison PhonicsTM early-childhood literacy program offers an instructional scaffolding that fosters independent reasoning and higher-order critical thinking. A six-step process enables the young child to unlock the reading code, erects a solid conceptual framework upon which he can build a lifetime of reading fluency.

Interestingly, the child who has a predisposition for dyslexia, is particularly strong in problem solving, "out of the  box" imagination, and critical thinking skills. She typically compensates for cognitive differences by activating the reasoning part of her brain. If we strengthen the capacity to access these inherent abilities in both dyslexic and typical learners, all children can quickly become fluent readers!