One of the Goals of Letters are Characters is to be generative.  Let this be a starting point so that you can do your own research.  Awareness and knowledge are critical to making improvements.


Reading acquisition is the most studied area of education.  More than 100,000 studies confirm that there is a right way to teach reading.  If someone promotes a quick fix for a struggling reader, know that there is no such thing.  Repetition of explicit, multisensory, scaffolded methods is the formula that must be followed in order for children to wire their brains to read. The degree of repetition varies a great deal from child to child. 


Letters are Characters was formulated to create communities with accessibly to the data and a play-based application so kids can enjoy the process of wiring their brains to read. Letters are Characters strives to serve as a generative platform.  Below are sources for your edification.  


Adams, M.J. (2011). Advancing our students’ language and literacy: The challenge of complex texts. American Educator, 34(4), 3-12. Link: 


Arndt, Elissa J., 2007. “Scientifically Based Reading Programs: What are They and How Do I Know?” Florida Center for Reading Research. 

PPT – Scientifically Based Reading Programs: What are they and how do I know? PowerPoint presentation | free to view - id: 58d0df-NDZmN (


*Awes, Alison. 2014. “Supporting the Dyslexic Child in the Montessori Environment.” NAMTA Journal 39, no. 3: 171–208.

This article discusses the tools and materials that support a child who learns differently.

Definition: Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge (p.175).


The author explains that dyslexic children need systematic multisensory avenues to learn, and this has no correlation to IQ.


Reading disorders affect 15 to 20 percent of the population. The disorder can be mild or severe. Very important: Children who read poorly in third grade (age 8 or 9) continue to have reading problems in high school and after. This may indicate that the neural systems become less responsive to intervention as children get older. Children at risk for dyslexia can be identified even before they begin to read. 


In addition to the neural systems, reading difficulties diagnosed at age eight or nine are much more difficult to remediate because the initial disadvantage is compounded over time.


“Early diagnosis, joined with effective treatment, can help define the strengths rather than the challenges of the child. Particular attention should be paid to protecting the child’s self-concept, as dyslexic children are especially vulnerable to weak self-esteem. When a child is accused of a lack of motivation, not working to her full ability, being lazy, or not being smart, she begins to doubt herself. These accusations are more common than we might hope because often the potential in the child is clearer than her ability. The child needs the knowledge that she can count on her parents and teachers for unwavering support (p. 181).”


The author notes that the child’s knowledge of letter sounds by age six is the most important indicator of future reading


Many dyslexic children compensate with deep imagination, curiosity, and excellent auditory-compensating ability. They often love stories that are read aloud and take great joy in big-picture thinking exercises (there may be a neurological reason for this).


Dyslexia often goes undetected because of lack of teacher training.

Lastly, the article provides details on effective Montessori methods, such as phonemic games, remedial daily lessons, and observation techniques.


Berninger, V.W., & Wolf, B. (2012). Understanding dysgraphia. [Fact Sheet]. Baltimore, MD: The International Dyslexia Association. Link:

Berthoud, Ella. 2019. The Art of Mindful Reading. London: Leaping Hare Press.


Bigozzi, Lucia, Christian Tarchi, Linda Vagnoli, Elena Balente and Giuliana Pinto, Reading Fluency as a Predictor of School Outcomes Grades 4 - 9. Frontiers in Psychology.


Carr, Nicholas. 2011. The Shallows. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.


Chan, Janna. 2022. 3 Common Misconceptions About High-Quality Instructional Materials. Edreports.

3 Common Misconceptions About High-Quality Instructional Materials



“Decoding Before Context” (2018). Literacy How, Empower Teaching Excellence, Vol. 6 no. 18: (accessed, 2018).


*Dehaene, Stanislas. 2009. Reading in the Brain. New York: Viking.

This book details what is known about the neuroscience of reading. It postulates that reading is a relatively modern task and that our neuronal networks are repurposed for reading. It provides details about remediation that is being developed for dyslexia using the latest data.


Chapter six, “The Dyslexic Brain,” details findings about the left temporal lobe of dyslexics, providing evidence that there is a neurological reason for otherwise high-functioning individuals to have an impaired ability to read, write, and speak because the phonological processing area is impaired. Also research on the genetics of dyslexia (DYXICQ on chromosome 15, as well as three other genes) is detailed.


The most important thing is how the approach to intervention described. “The brain is a plastic organ which constantly changes and rebuilds itself and for which genes and experience share equal importance. Neuronal migration anomalies, when they are present, affect only very small parts of the cortex. The child’s brain contains millions of redundant circuits that can compensate for each other’s deficiencies. Each new learning episode modifies our gene expression patterns and alters our neuronal circuits thus providing the opportunity to overcome dyslexia and other developmental deficiencies. (p. 345).”

Evidence-based interventions can partially restore normal patterns of brain activity in dyslexic children, or alternate pathways can be formed to compensate. The earlier the intervention can be done, the better for both physiological and emotional reasons. Strategies are recommended and detailed.


Dakin, K.E., & Erenberg, G. (2008). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and Dyslexia. [Fact Sheet]. Baltimore, MD: Author. Link:  

D’Orio, Wayne. (2020). Where Did Leveling Go Wrong.  School Library Journal V. 66. 2:  22-24. 


Duke, Nell, K. and Mesmer, Heidi Anne, E (2016). Teach "Sight Words" As You Would Other Words".


*Dweck, Carol. 2008. Mindset, The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.

This book explores the concept of fixed versus growth mind-sets. Individuals with growth mind-sets do not view intelligence as a fixed entity but rather as a construct that is dynamic. It explores how the two mind-sets shape people’s thoughts and lives.


Eden, G.F. (2015). Dyslexia and the brain. [Fact Sheet]. Baltimore, MD: The International Dyslexia Association.



*Eide, Brock L., and Fernette F. Eide. 2011. The Dyslexic Advantage. New York: Hudson Street Publishing.

This book posits a theory that along with the disorder of dyslexia there are also gifts.


“As we’ll describe throughout this book, dyslexic processing also predisposes individuals to important abilities in many mental functions, including:

  • three-dimensional spatial reasoning and mechanical ability
  • the ability to perceive relationships like analogies, metaphors, paradoxes, similarities, differences, implications, gaps, and imbalances
  • the ability to remember important personal experiences and to understand abstract information in terms of specific examples
  • the ability to perceive and take advantage of subtle patterns in complex and constantly shifting systems or data sets (p. 18). 

The book further explains the history of the discovery of the disorder. (It was discovered in 1896 by British ophthalmologist W. Pringle Morgan, describing a young boy named Percy.) The authors encourage people to think of dyslexia as a learning and processing style as opposed to a disorder.


The authors explain the signs to look for in early detection:

  • late talking, leaving out or reversing word parts (berlapse/relax, wold/ world, pasghetti/spaghetti)
  • making up words for things
  • inability to rhyme
  • inability to break words into phonemes (c-a-t)
  • trouble with word retrieval
  • slow mastery of tenses, cases, pronouns. and other grammatical rules


Later signs include “problems with handwriting and written expression; basic arithmetic and rote memory for math facts; processing speed; motor coordination; mishearing and difficulty hearing in background noise; visual function for near work; following directions, keeping information in their mind (working memory); mastering procedures; planning and organizing; error detection; time awareness and pacing sequencing; and mental focus and attention (p. 32)” 


They posit that it takes dyslexics longer to learn than non-dyslexics. They call this the “square root rule” (page 38).


They also clearly explain explicit learning. “Individuals with procedural learning challenges also typically have difficulty learning simply by observing and imitating others as they perform and complete, complex skill─that is, by implicit learning. Instead, they learn better when rules and procedures are broken down into small more easily mastered steps and demonstrated clearly─a process known as explicit learning (p. 36). 

They divide dyslexic individuals into types: interconnected reasoning, narrative reasoning, dynamic reasoning, and material reasoning.


Fitzer, Kim, R and James B. Hale. (2015). “Reading and the Brain: Strategies for Decoding, Fluency, and Comprehension.” (accessed March 4, 2019).


Flink, David. 2014. Thinking Differently. New York: Harper Collins.Flink, the author, has both dyslexia and ADHD. This book chronicles his journey and gives practical advice to parents of children who learn differently. It also describes his organization, Eye to Eye, which pairs students with learning and attention issues to college students who act as mentors. Three of the most important points of this book are the following:  

If a learning difference is suspected, it is advised to get an evaluation as soon as possible because without it, one is not able to advocate effectively for a child. Flink advises choosing the evaluator carefully and gives specific questions to ask. Testing and understanding how your child thinks are the guides to use to put together the pieces of the learning puzzle.

Seeking accommodations is critical to the success of children who learn differently. “Alterations in the way tasks are presented allow children with learning disabilities to complete the same assignments as other students…Alterations in setting, timing, scheduling, and response type may begin to address some of your child’s learning differences. Any reasonable option should be considered as you brainstorm ideas to make learning more accessible for your different thinker.”

Tell your story to people who can help and provide support.


Folsome, Jessica Sidler, Knight, Jennifer A., Reed, Deborah K. (2017). “Report of the Kindergarten-Second Grade Phonics Materials Review for the AMES Community School District.” Iowa City, IA: Iowa Reading Research Center, University of Iowa. Ames_phonics_curriculum_review_report.pdf


Gentry, J.R., & Graham, S. (2010). Creating better readers and writers. The importance of direct, systematic spelling and handwriting instruction in improving academic performance. [White Paper]. Columbus, OH: Saperstein Associates. Link:


Gilger, J. (2013). Gifted and dyslexic: Identifying and instructing the twice exceptional student. [Fact Sheet]. Baltimore, MD: The International Dyslexia Association. Link: 


Gillis, Margie. “The Science of Reading: Comprehensive Literacy for ALL Students.” Presentation, Haskins Laboratories and Fairfield University, 2017.


Goldberg, Margaret. “Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System: Doesn’t Look Right, Sound Right or Make Sense.” September 23, 2019


Goldstein, Dana. "In the Fight Over How to Teach Reading, This Guru Makes a Major Retreat." New York Times. May 22, 2022.


Grant, Vanessa. “This Could Be What’s Behind Your Kid’s Problems in School.” Today’s Parent, February 15, 2018.

(accessed, 2019).


Guernsey, Lisa and Michael H. Levine. 2015. Tap, Click, Read. California: Jossey-Bass.


Hall, Susan L., and Louisa C. Moats, EdD. 1999. Straight Talk about Reading. Chicago: Contemporary Books.

This book is written for parents who want to teach their children to read. It provides helpful information and practical tips. It also covers in detail why reading instruction is not science based.


Hanford, Emily. 2018. “Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read?”  APMreports.


Hanford, Emily.  “Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way?”  New York Times, October 26, 2018.


Hanford, Emily. “There is a Right Way to Teach Reading, and Mississippi knows it.” New York Times, December 5, 2019.


Hanford, Emily. (2020). “Influential Literacy Expert Lucy Calkins is Changing her Views”  AME Reports



Hari, Johann. (2022). Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention--and How to Think Deeply Again. New York: Random House.


Hessler, Terri. (2017). “Why is Structured Literacy Missing From So Many Teacher Programs.”  International Dyslexia Association.


Hollands, Fiona M., Kieffer, Michael J., Shand, Robert, Pan, Yillin, Cheng, Henan, and Levin Henry M. (2016). " Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Early Reading Programs: A Demonstration with Recommendations for Future Research." Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness Vol. 9, No 1, 30 - 53. 


Honig, A. S. (2007). Oral Language DevelopmentEarly Child Development and Care, 177(6-7), 581-613.


“How Structured Literacy Saved My Children.” Boulder Valley Kids Identified with Dyslexia. (accessed 2018).


Hudson, R.F., High, L. Al Otaiba, S. Dyslexia and the brain: What does current research tell us? The Reading Teacher, 60(6), 506-515.



Hunt, Lynda Mullaly (2017). Fish in a Tree, Puffin Books, New York, NY.


Guernsey Lisa., Levine, Michael, H. Tap, Click Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.


Kris, Debrorah, Farmer (2021). How Music Can Help Kids Learn Literacy Skills. (accessed December, 2021).


Loewus, Liana. (2019). “National Reading Scores are Down. What Does It Mean?” (accessed November, 2019).


Loewus, Liana (2019). “Data:  How Reading is Really Being Taught.” (accessed December, 2019)


Moats, L.C., & Dakin, K.E. (2012). Dyslexia basics. [Fact Sheet]. Baltimore, MD: The International Dyslexia Association. Link:


Moats, L.C. (2011). Spelling. [Fact Sheet]. Baltimore, MD: The International Dyslexia Association.Link:


Morey, Anne-Marie.  “What Tigers Can Teach Us About Letter Reversals.” Bay Tree Blog. 

(accessed 2018).


Pimentel, Susan. (2018). “Why Doesn’t Every Teacher Know the Research on Reading Instruction.” Education Week, January 4, 2018.


Rathbun, Guy. “Audio Story: Language at the Speed of Sight.”  PRX.  (accessed, 2019).


Reed, D.K. (2012). Why teach spelling? Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction. Link:


Reithaug, Dawn. 2002. Orchestrating Success in Reading. Stirling Head Enterprises.
Rello and Baeza-Yates. 2013. Good Fonts for Dyslexia. Washington: Assets.


Satullo, Sara, K. “Bethelehem Kindergartners Make Stunning Strides in Reading.” (accessed, 2019).


Schultz, J. (2013). The dyslexia-stress-anxiety connection: Implications for academic performance and social interactions. [Fact Sheet]. Baltimore, MD: The International Dyslexia Association. Link:

Sparks, Sarah D. (2022). Concerns Raised Over Reading Recovery's Long-Term Effects. Education Week

SPP 73: Assessing and Supporting Reading Difficulties with Dr. Kilpatrick (accessed July, 2019)


Shaywitz, Sally. 2005. Overcoming Dyslexia. New York: First Vintage Books.

This is an extremely important book for any struggling reader.


Shaywitz, S.E. (1996). Dyslexia. Scientific American, 275, 5, 98-104.



Seidenberg, Mark. 2017. Language at the Speed of Sight. New York: Basic Books.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand fully the evolution of reading and why the science of reading isn’t used to construct reading curriculum in the United States.

The book explicates reading disorders/dyslexia explaining that this developmental disorder is on a continuum and the response to intervention is an appropriate measure to use for treatment.  Since we cannot “look under the hood to see the brain” we must rely on behavioral evidence, genetic factors and factor in protective elements to determine needs.


Stuart, Christine. 2021. Lawmaker Says Right to read Bill is About Equity.


Schwartz, Sarah. 2021. 'Science of Reading' Overhaul. But Will Teaching Change?


Torgensen, Joseph, K. (2004). “Avoiding the Devastating Downward Spiral.” American Federation of Teachers, ALF-CIO, (Accessed, 2018).


Tyre, Peg. “Yes, There’s a Right Way to Teach Reading.” Great, November 26, 2018. (accessed, 2018).


Ulin, David, L. The Lost Art of Reading, Why Books Matter in a Distracted Age. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books.


Wilson, Barbara, A. Wilson Reading System, Instructor Manual Steps 1 - 6. Massachusetts: Wilson Language Training Corporation. 


 Wolf, Maryanne. 2008. The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York: Harper.

This book presents an important perspective on what reading does for us, how it shapes and changes our minds, thoughts, and brains. The exploration of reading as an occasion with the self that is both generative and transformative is illuminating. The last third of the book presents a comprehensive look at reading disorders/dyslexia. The section first explores the damage that is done to children because educators are often ill-equipped to help them.


“You will never understand what it feels like to be dyslexic. No matter how long you have worked in this area, no matter if your own children are dyslexic, you will never understand what it feels like to be humiliated your entire childhood and taught every day to believe that you will never succeed at anything (p. 165).” (Quote from Jackie Stewart, Scottish race car driver.)


“Children with any form of dyslexia are not ‘dumb’ or ‘stubborn’: nor are they ‘not working to potential’─the three most frequent descriptions they endure. However, they will be mistakenly described in these ways many times by many people, including themselves. It is vital for parents and teachers to work to ensure that all children with any form of reading problem receive immediate, intensive intervention and that no child or adult equates reading problems with low intelligence. A comprehensive support system should be in place from the first indication of difficulty until the child becomes an independent, fluent reader, or the frustrations of reading failure can lead to a cycle of learning failure, dropping out and delinquency. Most important the considerable potential of these children will be lost to themselves and to society(p. 194).”


Wolf stresses the fact that we know how to teach these children, and it is our failure if we don’t. Rapid automatized naming (RAN) tests are discussed as an effective way to identify those who my be struggling readers even before they begin to read (see pages 283–285).


Torgesen, Joseph, K. 2004. “Avoiding the Devastating Downward Spiral: The Evidence that Early Intervention Prevents Reading Failure.” 2004. American Educator, Fall.


Wasik, Barbara, A. (2001). “Phonemic Awareness and Young Children.” Childhood Education, 77 3: 128-133. 


Wilson, B.A. (2012). Information and resources for adolescents and adults with dyslexia-it’s never too late. [Fact Sheet]. Baltimore, MD: The International Dyslexia Association. Link:


Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World. New York: HarperCollins


Worrell, Juliana. (2021). Chancellor Admitted We're Teaching Reading All Wrong. Now Is the Time to Get It Right. December 21, 2021. (accessed 2021)



Useful Websites and PDFs

Partial List of Teaching Resources


Adams, Marilyn Jager, Barbara R. Foorman, Ingvar Lundberg, and Terri Beller. 2014. Phonemic Awareness in Young Children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.


Bell, Nanci. 1997. Seeing Stars. California, Gander Press.

The Bob books:


Decodable Text:

Earobics Step 1, Home Version: Sound Foundations for Reading & Spelling. 1997. Houghton Mifflin (available on Amazon).


Handwriting without Tears:


High-frequency words:


Orlassino, Cheryl. 2014. I Can Read, Book A: Orton-Gillingham Based Reading Lessons for Young Students Who Struggle with Reading and May Have Dyslexia: New York: Creative Dragon Press


Learning with Homer (app)

One More Story (app)


Information Relevant to the State of Connecticut


Current Connecticut Public Acts:  14-39, 15-97, 16-92, and 17-3 - CT Right to Read Legislation

Right to Read CT


CSDE/SERC SLD/Dyslexia webinars/online modules ~ 


CSDE “SLD/Dyslexia FAQ” ~ 


CSDE “What is Structured Literacy”, which is a part of the SLD/Dyslexia FAQ 


IDA website ~


Alycia M. Trakas

Education Consultant

Connecticut State Department of Education

Academic Office

Bureau of Special Education

PH: (860) 713-6932

Fax: (860) 713-7051 


Orton Gillingham Free Training and Free Tutoring 

32 Masonic Learning Centers for Children, Inc.

Waterbury, Connecticut



Also, see work of Margret Rawson


Useful site to compare materials