Reading Program

“The only man who is educated is the man who has learned how to learn…”  Carl Rogers

Teachers may have a wide variety of skills and techniques that can be applied when teaching the student to read.  These technical skills incorporate all that a student needs to become a reader.  The problem lies in the fact that these vast and varied skills are not used in a way that targets the individual approach to reading.  When a classroom filled with eager learners produces readers, those left behind are often considered “unable to read”.  The truth of the matter is that they have simply not been taught away from the way the average child learns.  Letter-sound correspondence is a skill that may come naturally for some students.  This is not the case for everyone.  Some very intelligent people have mastery in areas the average person may struggle with, yet he or she may struggle themselves with letter-sound processing.  When the classroom teacher selects from a bag of multiple techniques, those that seem to fit her needs or the needs of the “majority”, some are going to be lost in the randomness of these lessons. The blame falls upon the child who simply can’t read, not on the teacher, who is adequately armed with sufficient academic provisions. The Sappo Reading Program removes the randomness out of the teaching method and replaces this with planned attack strategies.

There is no other academic skill as important as reading.  Without the ability to read, other subjects become invisible.  Even the mathematics class presents challenges where symbol processing and word reading skills are needed.  When everyone else around you is reading, what does that do to your academic self-image?  There is no reason for any child to be a non-reader.  They have taught chimpanzees to read!  With that in mind, Sappo uses an approach that allows each and every child to become a reader.  These methods used in the earlier grades produce readers without a chance of regression or with results that are all inclusive.  When the average student uses our method, they become stronger readers, who are then better able to comprehend and think critically at an earlier age.  When the learning disabled student is taught using the Sappo Reading Program, they too progress toward becoming readers.

Students are not programmed to read by rote or memory, they are given the very same tools the teacher possesses and these are distributed with purpose and appropriate sequencing.

“All students are treated as gifted and talented students, because the gifts and talents of each child are sought out and recognized”.  Henry Levin

Why the Program Works

The Sappo Reading Program was developed for targeted phonological instruction.  The student demonstrates automaticity in individually presented sound-symbol correspondences before moving on to the next sound. Isolating sounds becomes the central construct of the Sappo Reading Program.  The teacher is able to identify problem areas as these become evident within the daily lesson.  There is room in the program to address and repeat identified gaps in learning. An alarming number of students, suffering from frustration-induced anxiety, and showing no history of reading delay, have been found to be deficient in phonetic reading skills.   These students have been burdened with the task of reading by memory only.  The problem of memory reading is that the brain places emphasis on word recall and comprehension is therefore, negatively impacted.

Often reading is taught using non-reading strategies like the technique Sappo calls “guess-pass” reading.  This non-reading strategy encourages the student to guess at words that cannot be read or skip them entirely.  Wrong guesses and frequent passes cause frustration that can lead to anger if not resolved.  “Real Reading” requires mastery of phonemes and meta-cognition.  The student becomes keenly aware that words have structures based on sounds.  Learning should sequentially build on preceding skills or abilities. “Learning is possible if you base the more complex structure on simpler structures…..”  (Piaget, 1964).  The Sappo Reading Program is based on this approach.   A clear link is made between mastery of sound-symbol association and higher level reading performance (Gough & Walsh).  There remains a keen social awareness that far too many of our children are still not reading.  We say still because the deficit was clearly identified early in the twentieth century.  By mid-century the problem was already considered by many to be critical (Flesch, 1955).  The highly recommended use of a phonics-first approach to reading was virtually ignored.  By the early 1950’s only 15% of our schools incorporated phonics-first teaching (Flesch, 1981).  What are the results today?  Thirty-one percent of eighth graders and thirty-four percent of twelfth graders meet the National Assessment of Educational Progress standard of reading “proficiency” for their grade level. (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2002)

The crisis becomes more evident when you compare these statistics to the reality based requirements for economic survival.  For instance, between 1996 and 2006, the average literacy level required for all American occupations has risen by 14 percent (Barton, 2000).  Now consider the fact that students in the lowest 25 percent of achievement are twenty times more likely to drop out of high school than students in the highest 25 percent (Carnevale, 2001).  Statistically we see the worsening of this societal dilemma working as an impetus for a “reading revolution”.   The Sappo Reading Program is one such movement in this revolution.  For over 18 years, Sappo School has used a phonetic reading program for all of their students.

We want to thank the Reading and Language Arts Centers for the training we received from them as we continued in the development of this program.

How the Program Works

The Sappo Reading Program is based on the research formalized by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham.  The techniques recommended by this team define lessons that are language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible.  Multiple memory triggers are used throughout lessons that are well planned and organized just enough to be effective yet not so much that they become rigid.

The phonics-based system teaches the basics of word formation before whole language meanings are studied. The method our reading program features incorporates three learning modalities children need in order to learn effectively.  These multi-sensory modalities are visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

Using the some of the structural components of RLAC’s Phonics First approach, Sappo’s Reading Program is taught in daily, 42 minute interactive sessions. Color and body movement reinforce the learning potential for each student.   Learning can be defined through the structure and effectiveness of neuron connectives.  New synapses grow with each learning experience.  Within this program, many senses are stimulated to create neural networks that aid in recall.  Each and every lesson is designed to increase brain activity.  The predictability of the lessons allows the student to become proficient at the skills being taught and also serves to organize the mind and thought patterns in relation to sound-symbol correlation.  Reading becomes more natural and thus can become automatic, leaving room for comprehension and critical thinking.

Phoneme-Grapheme connections are presented with both visual and auditory cue prompts that promote excellent reading skills.  Syllabication is presented with visual aids and project support to reinforce lessons learned.  These are used skillfully through a repetitive process that is not dull and unimaginative.   The students love these lessons and look forward to each day.  They become an integral part of their own lesson as they benefit from reciprocating the teaching.

Sappo understands that when stimuli are not strong enough the synapses whither and memory regresses.  Therefore, lessons are presented in a way that promotes positive emotional responses that trigger learning.  Also highlighted in this Reading Program is the use of Sappo Strategies that are designed to improve learning, retention, and recall.


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