PHONICS-TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
by Dolores G. Hiskes - July 2015
Volume 69 - BIG CHANGES!
There are BIG CHANGES in how to order Dorbooks products!
From now on Phonics Pathways (10th ed) and Reading Pathways
(5th ed) can ONLY be ordered directly from selected vendors,
or from Jossey-Bass/Wiley, the publisher.
Only discontinued items can be ordered directly from Dorbooks,
and are greatly discounted while they last. See new ordering info:
What is dyslexia?
Most experts agree that, in general, it is the result of an inability
to distinguish and/or process the sounds that make up speech,
for whatever reason. When trying to define dyslexia, it's difficult
to find any one group that totally agrees with another--in either
its definition, diagnosis or treatment.
What can we do about it?
Some experts feel that dyslexia is inborn and can never be cured,
while others believe there is no such thing as dyslexia, and it is
just a result of improper teaching methods. It is at this point
where opinions begin to diverge.
Mercks Manual defined dyslexia as:
*Failure to see or hear similarities or differences in letters or words
. . . Inability to work out pronunciation of unfamiliar words. . .
Tendency to substitute words for those he cannot see. . .*
Since whole language programs do not teach students individual
letter/sounds at first, how can they hear the sounds comprising
the word? And if children are encouraged in first grade to substitute
words for those they cannot read, do not these programs actually
train children to do the very thing that journals define as dyslexic?
My own experience is that while true dyslexia is much rarer than is
commonly thought, it indeed can be an inborn organic phenomenon.
Our own son has it.
Although he was taught how to read with explicit phonics, he still
struggled with learning. Although he is now over 50 years old, has
graduated in Microbiology from the University of California, and
frequently reads a book in one sitting, he still needs to think twice
before writing *b* and *d* in order not to reverse them!
Children exhibiting dyslexic symptoms who were taught with whole-
language methods have what I term *whole-word dyslexia* and no
longer exhibit any signs of reversals or confusion once they learn
how to read properly. It can be impossible to differentiate from
true organic dyslexia.
But what difference does it make?
Whether dyslexia is organic or educationally-induced, treatment
still consists of good phonics remediation. Whether irregular eye
movement patterns are a cause or consequence of poor decoding
skills, the remediation is still the same.
When phonemes are individually learned, slowly blended into
syllables, blended into words, and built into sentences, eyes are
being patterned to move together smoothly from left to right across
the page. It is eye training at its simplest, most basic level. It is my
experience that if BAD teaching can be a cause of dyslexia, then
GOOD teaching can help overcome it!
We are not born with the ability to automatically move our eyes
from left to right-it is an acquired skill that is absolutely necessary
in the earliest stages of reading. Without it, irregular eye movements,
reversals, etc., can become established that result in slow and/or
inaccurate reading. Eye-tracking skills must be well-established
before real learning can take place.
Some students get over this hurdle quickly once they learn how to
read correctly, others need more time and training to correct
irregular eye movements. Sporadic and irregular eye movements
have become so firmly entrenched that specific convergent eye
exercises are needed to help them get over this difficulty.
This process actually can be painful for some students! Don Potter,
a resource specialist, once wrote to me:
*This 4th-grade girl put her head down when she started the long-
vowel sections of Phonics Pathways because she said it made her
hurt all over. Previously there had been heavy use of context,
requiring a lot of self correction to get through a passage. Decoding
had been mostly by context and configurational clues.
*Comprehension was seriously impaired because of lack of attentional
capacity, and she had often exhausted herself with the decoding, and
frequently inserted words that weren't there.
*She experienced a great deal of mental anguish when she had to
read the long-vowel endings in Phonics Pathways. Rewiring the brain
is no fun, but what a tremendous difference it has made in her reading!*
If a child must concentrate so hard just to decide the phonemes correctly,
he cannot focus on meaning at the same time. It's not that eye convergence
and tracking exercises will teach reading per se, but rather it will set the
stage for allowing learning to happen.
*Eye training* is not new or unique to America--it has been part of Chinese
and Tibetan medicine for many thousands of years. No doubt there are
false and overblown claims made by many practitioners. But it is my
experience that *dyslexic* students who were taught how to read incorrectly
have benefited greatly from vision/motor training, which in its simplest form
should be embodied in any good phonics reading programs. It's certainly an
important component of Dorbooks products!
One mother recently wrote,
*My son is 9 and this is our second year of homeschooling. In October our
local library included your book. I was the first to take it out and I now have
our own copy. I read in the back about the activities to help hand and eye
coordination. These were the same exercises we did for Perceptual Vision
*What a difference it made! My son loves it so much that It is one subject
I get *Great Mom, I love doing Phonics Pathways! Reading Pathways has
been a tremendous boost in our family to reinforce blending. My 5 year
old read the very first pyramid story last week and it really made her day!*
Whole-language programs frequently claim that they DO teach phonics.
But the question is, what do they MEAN by *phonics*?
So B E W A R E !!! As Mark Twain said:
*There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech to fuddle the
mental apparatus and upset the convictions and debauch the emotions
of an audience not practiced in the tricks and delusions of oratory!*
All this information is quite a mouthful, and so I’ll close for now. But I
will be back soon - very soon - with information about a new product
I am working on, that I’m very excited about!
So stay tuned, and enjoy the lovely Summer weather we’re having in this
poor old battered world of ours.
(It ain’t much, but it’s all we’ve got - so let*s love it and care for it
in any way we can, even if we just pick up trash, opt out of plastic
bags. or just enjoy a beautiful sunset and each other!)
Blessings to all,
Copyright Dolores G. Hiskes 2015
May be reprinted in entirety with reference to author
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