Introduction to the Darwin Remedial Reading Program – Part 1/2

The aim here is to provide teachers, tutors and parents with the guidance and support that will allow them to implement the Program with ease and efficiency.

To stimulate confidence in this work, testimonials are being presented. The first one is upcoming while the others can be viewed by going to the home page of, and then referring to Examples of Effectiveness and Letters of Acknowledgement.


When I first met a severely dyslexic 12 year old, she could not read words such as log, hut and tap. However, within 15 minutes of her first session she was applying the Program’s unique decoding techniques and was independently reading words of this nature.

Her resource teacher had sat in on the session and was so impressed that she bought the Program then and there. She was using it within a couple of days and continued to do so until she retired. She later mentioned that within the two years she had used the Program she didn’t encounter a single child who didn’t benefit from it.

Info for Parents: You should only tutor your child if it does not result in stress and frustration. The reasoning here is that these factors not only inhibit learning but they can also have a negative impact on the parent/child relationship. For alternatives to parental tutoring, see page 3 in the Program’s Guide/Workbook.

To avoid excessive pronoun clutter (e.g. he/she), the masculine pronoun is used when a student is being referred to as this reflects the prevalence of males to females with learning difficulties.

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.

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.




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.

Holistic Approach – Part 3 of 3

Benefits of Having Your Child Linked with a Mentor

This entails the pairing of a youngster/teen with an adult via a mentoring organization such as the Big Brothers and Big Sisters. The prime goal of these organizations is to help the young develop their potential. Towards this end, the mentees are exposed to a variety of activities which are not only fun but also tend to expand their horizons; they receive assistance with school work; and also benefit from the one-on-one relationship with an adult who has their best interest at heart – factors which all contribute to the building of self-esteem and confidence. If assistance is needed in finding a mentor, contact your child’s school or a social worker.

Establishing a Balance between Homework and Leisure

Balancing time between school work and leisure can be tricky. Consequently, parents, you should prioritize needs according to your prime objective – the development of a happy and peaceful child.

The prime objective is a happy and peacful child

The next posting will present a teaching video depicting an essentially illiterate 7 year old start on the path to reading within 10 minutes of her first session.

Holistic Approach – Part 2 of 3

The importance of Friendships and Physical Activities

Helping your Child Cultivate Friendships

As it is truly important that your child has friends, encourage him to invite playmates home. Start by inviting one at a time and then increase the numbers if so desired. To ensure a positive experience, be prepared to offer playtime suggestions in case a lull in activity occurs.

Encouraging a Reluctant Child to Participate in Physical Activities

If your child appears to lack ability in sports, encourage him to participate in physical activities. To help him get off on the right foot, it might be wise to first provide him with private coaching. For instance, if a nine year old is open to giving softball a try, his chances of enjoying this activity will significantly increase if he first acquires some throwing, catching and batting skills. Incidentally, coaching need not be a great expense, if any at all, as parents, relatives, friends, or teenagers could do this job quite nicely.

If the first 2-3 sessions of a new activity don’t spark your child’s interest, find one of greater appeal. Should assistance be needed in choosing an activity or, for that matter, teaching a sport related skill, meet with your child’s physical education teacher.

The next posting will address the benefits of having your child linked with a mentor as well as the importance of finding a balance between homework and leisure.

Holistic Approach – Part 1 of 3

Promoting Social & Emotional Development

Holistic Approach - Promoting Social and Emotional Development

As a persistent lack of progress tends to chip away at a student’s self-esteem and confidence, remediation should be based on a holistic approach. This approach is not only concerned with academics but also with social, emotional and physical development.

To promote social and emotional growth, parents should encourage their child to participate in various hobbies and activities. This is important as such involvement would allow him to experience pleasure, a sense of belonging and the opportunity to develop new skills – a factor which is important, for a wider skill base increases one’s opportunities for social interaction.

Activities that are apt to promote social and emotional well-being are Scouting/Guiding; individual sports such as Karate; team sports such as soccer; classes in art, drama, dance, instrumental music, singing, cooking, carpentry, photography, etc… Please keep in mind that the importance of developing interests cannot be overstated!

If finances are a concern, bear in mind that some organizations have been known to discretely forego fees and provide equipment. However, qualifying for these benefits may require the intervention of a school representative or a social worker.

The next posting will present suggestions on how to help your child cultivate friendships as well as tips on how to encourage a reluctant child to participate in physical activities.

Study Skills Outline

Verify that your child is aware of the topic being studied. One would think that this would be an obvious undertaking but it is frequently not the case.

Ensure that your child is attentive to headings and sub-headings.

Have your child identify the main point of a paragraph and ask him to present the information in his own words. Provide as many prompts as necessary so that he does not become frustrated.

To help your child with memorization tasks, acquaint him with the memory aid of mnemonics. For example, the mnemonic HOMES is used to remind a student of the Great Lakes: The H is for Huron, O for Ontario, M for Michigan, E for Erie and S for Superior. Creating mnemonics with your child can be a fun challenge.

Mnemonics can be a helpful learning aid

The next three postings will address the advantages of a holistic approach. The first will focus on promoting your child’s social and emotional development.