An introduction to my method for teaching reading specially to dyslexic readers
By Daniella De Winter
Language development, especially in a second language, depends, mostly, on the ability to read. Reading is a goal in itself but, more importantly, it is a tool which helps achieve language fluency. The inability to read will immeasurably complicate and delay language acquisition and will result in frustration and lack of confidence in the process and in general.
I firmly believe that every person should be able to read. When we don’t read, we give up one of our most important senses, sight, and in turn, rely only on our hearing, making things more difficult for us to understand, learn and retain.
Reading should be developed as an automatic skill in order to free the mind to achieve understanding. The more effort needed for decoding, the less the mind is free to understand what is being read. Furthermore, immediate decoding improves the students’ memory. It helps them retain the meaning of new words easier and for longer terms. This is achieved by means of the SoftRead method.
SoftRead is a combination of a phonetic and a pattern-based approach. It involves excessive pre-reading exercises to train the eye and then links between the visual and the audial output of the letters. It is not childish and therefore suits all ages.
From 1975 I have worked in conveying and developing new methods to teach the English language. I started by teaching adults, hence the pedagogical approach to the English teaching had to be highly practical and time efficient. Some of my students had language-based learning difficulties, which meant that the traditional language teaching approach did not work for them. I needed to develop a new, down to earth method that would suit both native and nonnative speakers. It was clear, from the very beginning, that the easier and faster way to master a language was through one’s ability to read. One of the most distinctive features of this method is that it can teach students with dyslexia how to read in a very short period of time but, moreover, it can help prevent the development of dyslexia.
For dyslexic students, one of the main problems is that they cannot break down the sounds into smaller sound units or syllables. They are unable to analyze and synthesize the sounds as individual units. So reading becomes a titanic task which they cannot accomplish and, hence, frustration arises, lack of understanding grows and the inability to retain new hampers the learning process.
Over time, and as my own children were growing up, I developed the SoftRead method for young children, both with and without learning difficulties. Everyone can learn to read. There has not been one person that did not succeed with my method. The only difference throughout the use of the SoftRead method was time. Some people learned in five lessons and some in ten or more. The outstanding achievement was that people who had lost hope, could read!
In 2000 SoftRead as a software program was already out and in 2013 I decided to publish all the knowledge that I had gained over the years in a creative, accessible way that enabled anyone to learn English. The SoftEnglish collection of books and games intends to promote independent learning. Teachers are considered facilitators in the learning process. The underlined purpose is for the student to do most of the learning and practicing on his/her own which will always guarantee better understanding and long term memory despite his/her difficulties.