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Effective Reading Instruction

Kathy Denious dyslexia tutor

Children with dyslexia cannot learn to read using traditional classroom methods.


According to the International Dyslexia Association, what does work is Structured Literacy, an explicit and systematic approach (which would actually benefit all young learners, not just those with dyslexia).

I am certified by the International Dyslexia Association as a Structured Literacy Classroom Teacher (C-SLCT) and by The Center for Effective Reading Instrustion in the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (KPS) - critical professional training that provides educators with deep knowledge to be literacy and language experts in the science of reading.

Structured Literacy incorporates six elements that are crucial to learning to read for those with dyslexia.

Phonology: Phonology is the branch of linguistics concerned with the study of speech sounds and patterns. A phoneme is the smallest unit of distinct sound in a language; English has 44 phonemes. The ability to hear, identify, distinguish, and manipulate phonemes - aka phonological or phonemic awareness - is a critical step in learning to read and should be explicitly taught to children with dyslexia.

Sound-Symbol Association: This is the relationship between sounds - phonemes - and the symbols that represent them - letters. The connection is a two-way street. In order to read, children must be able to see the symbol and create its sound, and they also must be able to hear the sound and find and/or create its corresponding symbol. This relationship is more commonly known as "phonics."

Syllables: A syllable is the unit of language containing one vowel sound. Understanding and recognizing the six types of syllables in the English language gives emerging readers a systemic framework in which they can more easily decode the proper sound of the vowel in a syllable as well as sound out longer, multi-syllabic words.

Morphology: A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning within a word. Many English words are constructed with a root word plus a prefix and/or suffix. For instance, prefixes such as pre- and ante- indicate "before" and suffixes such as "ology" and "graphy" indicate "the study of." Through explicit instruction in the common building blocks of longer words, children can figure out the meaning of new and unfamiliar words.

Syntax: Syntax is the arrangement of words and phrases to create meaningful and understandable sentences. By explaining to early readers how proper English sentences work, we facilitate their ability to read and create their own sentences. For instance, most English sentences rely on a subject-verb-object framework, and this knowledge is another tool children can use to help them decode a sentence.

Semantics: To grasp the semantics, or meaning, of a passage of text, the reader must understand the individual words, the phrases, the sentences, and how they all interact, and they must decide if the meanings are literal or figurative. Reading – and understanding – come more easily for those who know more words, and the more words a person already knows, the easier it is for them to learn new words. The goal of reading is to understand the written word, and this element of Structured Literacy is the final step in learning to read. 

LETRS teaches teachers how to teach and encompasses four distinct units: 


  • Early Literacy Foundations

  • Oral Language Connections

  • Phonological “PH”oundations

  • Print Knowledge 

LETRS also:


  • Provides the highest-quality literacy interactions that weave cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development through intentional, purposeful play

  • Ensures early learners acquire foundational literacy and language skills

  • Helps young students who have not yet learned vital early literacy skills

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