Having a student repeat a year is often not an effective intervention as exposure to essentially the same program under the same conditions tends not to address his needs. In addition, repeating a year carries the likelihood of negative social and emotional consequences.

Therefore, it is recommended that a student be promoted even though he has not achieved the class standard. However, this approach should be in conjunction with remediation such as tutoring and special accommodations. To review the guidelines on these areas, refer to the earlier posting titled Tips on Choosing a Tutor and Modification of a Student’s Curriculum.

Though this approach does not imply that the student will attain the class standard within the next year, it will foster academic growth and this growth coupled with naturally occurring neurological development will best allow him to further his potential.

The next three entries will be on homework. The first will address parental supervision.

To Retain or Promote a Struggling Student

Having to repeat a year frequently does not attain the desired results because such an experience tends to expose a student to the same curriculum along with the same teaching approach. And, since these components didn’t work the first time, they are unlikely to work the second time as well. Furthermore, being retained could have a negative effect on a child’s self-esteem and confidence.

Consequently, instead of being held back, struggling students should be advanced to the next year as this approach along with effective tutoring tends to best meet their needs.

Should you lack confidence in this advice, something which is understandable as I am an unknown author, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with my work by referring to Once this is done, then carefully consider your child’s situation and decide whether retention or promotion along with tutoring would best suit his/her needs.

Reading Comprehension – Essential Forerunner Skills

Comprehension –  Forerunner Skills:  Punctuation, Fluency & Expression

These skills need to be intentionally taught to weak readers – the incidental approach doesn’t meet their needs.

Punctuation: Inform the student that a coma signifies a short pause and a period a longer one and that in both cases the voice is slightly lowered; the length of a question mark’s pause is the same as that of a period while the voice is slightly raised.

The following techniques develop all three forerunner skills.

Modelling: The tutor reads a short sentence or part of a longer one and then has the student re-read it. Continuing with the text, the procedure is repeated 1-2 times more. This is followed by solo reading by the student. If needed, carry out this exercise 2-3 times during a session.

There is no cause for concern if the student appears to be reciting the text from memory as mimicking will still develop the required skills.

Joint Teaching: Here the tutor reads a couple of sentences along with the student. The tutor could either inform the student that s/he will be doing this or s/he could jump in whenever the need to do so arises.

Students appreciate these approaches as the built-in assistance promotes success. In addition, the environment produced by these techniques tend to be stress-free – another factor which encourages learning.

A word of caution: Techniques such as attempting to improve fluency by reading against the clock has a testing element to it. Therefore, it’s recommended that it only be used if it does not cause the student to become apprehensive.

Side Note: Please note that if the efficacy of an approach has been questioned by professionals but is working well for your student/child (there is progress without undue stress), by all means use it.

Simplicity – The Mainstay of a Rapidly Effective Remedial Reading Program

As too much information tends to overwhelm struggling students, remedial sessions should be as simple and concise as possible. Consequently, until a student has made genuine progress, only the truly essential skills should be focused on.

The essential skills consist of the short and long vowel sounds, syllabication (the bane of weak readers of all ages) and comprehension.

This information is based on the exciting results the Darwin Reading Program has been achieving for over a decade.

Remedial Reading Program: 70% off Sale Ending Soon

The 70% off Back-to-School Sale of our excitingly effective Remedial Reading Program will be ending on October 19th.  Reminder: There’s no charge for shipping or handling during the sale.

For info on the Program, visit as well – a teaching video depicting an illiterate seven year old start on the path to reading within 10 minutes of her first session.

To place an order, go to – Book Orders.

Here’s to strong literacy skills!

Learning Disabilities: The Importance of Obtaining an Official Diagnosis

A diagnosis by a psychologist who is an expert in the field of Learning Disabilities is needed as it would provide an official diagnosis. Such a diagnosis would not only identify learning problems but it would also entitle a student to receive special accommodations – accommodations that could involve:

  • in-school remedial services;
  • a reduced workload;
  • extended time for exams;
  • oral exams for those with written communication difficulties;
  • permission for the older students to use note-takers or record classes.

This assistance would be applicable throughout a student’s academic career and this includes his/her college and university studies as well.

Re Pre-School Children: Warning Signs of Impending Reading Difficulties

Warning Signs

The child has:

  • difficulty verbally communicating his needs, wants, … ; 
  • a limited vocabulary;
  • difficulty articulating sounds.

Parents, should you wish to have information on timelines for language developmental, refer to the internet. However, do understand that the information you will encounter is not set in stone.

Should your child’s seemingly limited language development cause concern, don’t hesitate to discuss this matter with your child’s physician and/or a speech and language specialist.




Learning Difficulties – When to Start Remediation

As the demands for testing children with learning problems are heavy, it could take many months or even more than a year before a student is evaluated. Consequently, it is not advisable to wait for an official diagnosis before starting remediation.

In fact, remediation in the hands of an effective tutor should be started as soon as its need is evident – even at the pre-school level if necessary. For tips on choosing a tutor go to, blog # 10.

Learning Difficulties: Overcoming Diagnosing Problems

Parents, if you suspect your child is not progressing at a normal rate, do not hesitate to consult a professional – a teacher, pediatrician, psychologist or a speech & language therapist.

If a professional dismisses your concerns, seek a second opinion. If the second opinion is also dismissive, set up another consultation within two to three months.

This appointment should preferably be with one of the previously seen specialists. Meanwhile, keep notes on your child’s school performance and overall behaviour as this could aid the professional in his/her diagnosis.

Remedial Reading – Syllabication

Remedial Reading  – Syllabication

Syllabication is the process of dividing a word into its parts. This process makes it easier to read challenging multi-syllable words.

A syllable is a word or part of a word that has a vowel that can be heard. For instance:

  • pet has one vowel and therefore is a one syllable word;
  • boat has two vowels but as only the ‘o’ is sounded, it is a one syllable word;
  • contain has three vowels but as only the ‘o’ and ‘a’ are sounded, it is a two syllable word – con/tain.

Syllabication tends to be the bane of weak readers be they 8 or 80.

As there are many exceptions to the syllabication patterns, the objective is to teach the concept that words that can be divided into parts rather than stressing particular patterns.

For exercises that allow students to grasp the concept of syllabication, you can refer to the Darwin the Dragon Reading Program or prepare your own.

Syllabication should be introduced when the student starts to encounter multisyllable words.

Side Note: As the Program also accommodates adults, it has two sets of teaching instructions as well as two titles – the one mentioned above and the Vowel First Method.

Teaching Video Two

This video depicts the rapid progress a child made during the summer prior to grade 3. Within 8 sessions he advanced from a book which started with two words on a page to a book which had up to 18 lines on a page.

The rapid progress displayed in the videos as well as in the Examples of Effectiveness represent the norm for the Darwin Reading Program rather than the exception.

This series of postings has now come to an end. Hopefully, it has demonstrated that a student who starts off with reading difficulties is by no means destined to struggle indefinitely or develop a lasting dislike for reading. With appropriate remediation and the active involvement of teachers, parents and, if needed, tutors, a turnabout can be achieved and an interest in reading established.

Comments and questions are most welcome.

A final note to parents and tutors

Tutoring can be a most exciting undertaking. To experience its joys, take the time to prepare yourself well as this will allow you to proceed with a comfortable degree of confidence and enthusiasm.

Enjoy the journey!

Minna Trower

Since a fair number of youngsters and adults experience literacy problems, consider sharing these postings with family and friends as you never know who might appreciate discovering a work that truly enhances lives. For more information on the Program, please visit the other sections of the site.