Start Here

What is Reading Simplified?

I once heard that a classroom teacher has to make 700 decisions each school day. But I heard that number well before the internet took over our worlds! Today, who could possibly count how much information and decision-making moments must pass through a teacher’s mind?

“Can I go to the bathroom?”
“How do you spell, ‘difficult?’”
“What is your Common Core standard for this lesson?”
“Will you please call me?”
“Where’s my coffee cup?”
 “Seven plus three is 11.”
 “What are we supposed to do?”
“Ella threw up!”  😮
“When’s recess?”
“Download our Comprehension Task Cards!”
“When I can I meet to talk about my son Luis?”
 “Can you tie my shoe?”
“Have you submitted the attendance?”
“Who’s the Line Leader?”
“Enrique, ask three before me.”

It’s exhausting just to read.

Teaching, in general, is hard.

Plain-old truth. “Duh!”-kinda truth.

And teaching children how to read may be the most challenging, contentious, and disappointing task of the elementary teacher, reading specialist, special educator, or interventionist.

Proficiency rates for 4th grade readers descend below 40% for all U.S. children and, to our shame, hover around 20% for many children of color.

We became teachers to make a difference.

But some days we doubt we’re as effective as we should be.

Given the urgency of our students’ need, we shouldn’t have to endure the endlessly conflicting advice among various standards, advocacy groups, professors, politicians, publishers, district leaders, blog writers, reading wars, colleagues, and our own self-talk.

And we’ve been there.

Struggling with how to teach beginning reading to a 6th grade student.

Struggling with how to prioritize excessive district, school, and basal language arts objectives.

Struggling to take comfort in yet another student leaving our classroom without adequate reading abilities.

Streamlined Instruction. Accelerated Achievement.

Yes, teaching children how to read was once perplexing, overwhelming, and discouraging for us, too.

But after years of study, trial-and-error, research, professional learning, and practice with hundreds of children, we have discovered a simplified pathway for reading success for all children.

We have distilled the clamoring voices of the teaching reading world into a few simple steps.

We cut through the competing standards, mounds of reading research, basal objectives, and clever downloadable activities to reduce the complicated process of teaching reading into a


Step-by-Step System.


hammock fence no hurry

Enjoy a simplified plan for teaching your beginning, struggling, or dyslexic students and just a handful of activities and leave The Overwhelm behind.

Better still, your students will learn to read more easily and more rapidly….

Reading Simplified Distinctives

Through this blog, you will benefit from 3 key distinctives:

  1. A streamlined pathway for accelerating decoding, word identification, and fluency—the foundations of reading comprehension (see below for the pathway)
  1. A streamlined set of activities (such as Build It, Switch It, Read It, and Sort It), and
  1. A vetting of the best-of-the best from a researcher who is also a reading teacher.

First, a streamlined vision for accelerating decoding, word ID, and fluency. All of the items on a reading series scope and sequence are important.

Yet only a handful are urgent.

Does a 2nd grader who can’t read Hop on Pop independently urgently need to learn how to use quotation marks?

Does a first grader who can’t yet blend 4-sound words urgently need to know how to spell “group” and “soup?”


Rather they both need to urgently learn how to decode, become automatic with word ID, and move towards fluent reading. These are the 3 bulwarks of a good reading foundation that should trump all other competing demands.

  1. A Streamlined Pathway towards Fluent Word Reading

Thus, we have developed a 1-page pathway, map, or plan of how to move beginning or struggling readers rapidly through the process of decoding, becoming automatic with word identification, and moving towards fluency. 4 step pathway RS
See the 4 major objectives circled in yellow that lead, step-wise, towards fluency?

  1. Blending & Manipulating 3-Sound Words
  2. Learning Advanced Phonics Knowledge
  3. Blending & Manipulating 4-Sound Words
  4. Blending by Chunk (Multisyllable)

This 4-step pathway serves as our beacon when we teach anyone how to read. They help keep the Urgent front and center for us. They reduce The Overwhelm.

Most importantly, these 4 major guideposts allow us to move our students towards success rapidly.

On average, what other programs might expect to happen in 2-3 years, we witness in 4-6 months. This is the type Accelerated Achievement that we want for your students, too. ?

  1. A Streamlined Set of Activities

There are literally millions of reading instructional activities available to each of us with a simple stroke of the Google keys. Many of them are super-cute, too, right? I know!

Which one should we use?

And when?

And why?

I feel The Overwhelm coming on again….

May we suggest another way? Keep the Reading Simplified Pathway in mind and just use a handful of reading activities:

  1. Switch It 
    Switch It Example image
  2. Read It
    Read It up close
  3. Sort ItSort It page_read Together

These small handful of just 3 activities is our bread-and-butter with 4 year-old beginners and 10 year-old dyslexics. Yes, that’s true.

That’s it.

Then when we see a cute activity or we need to re-invigorate our student or reading group, we just consider, “Does this activity or idea move my student(s) forward on the Reading Pathway?”

And, “is this a tweak of one of my handful of activities?” If so, then we download, copy, and laminate the activity that’s on our computer screen. If not, we click, “Delete.”

No Overwhelm. 

  1. A vetting of the best-of-the best from a researcher
    who is also a reading teacher.

Finally, please know that you can come to anytime to get thorough, consistent advice from a reading teacher who has studied the reading research, who has taught hundreds of children how to read, and who has taught pre-service and in-service teachers in multiple states how to teach reading.

We will streamline out the fluff, noise, and confusion to bring the urgent and useful if you are looking to improve your ways of teaching reading to beginners, strugglers, or dyslexics.

Here you’ll find:

  • Videos of teachers teaching students specific strategies (like this cutie),
  • Articles of how to implement the Reading Simplified system,
  • Reviews of books to teach beginning reading and when we use them,
  • In-depth reviews of the best apps and how to use them (such as Montessori Crosswords), and
  • Weekly Q&A mini-trainings. Don’t go it alone—ask us and we’ll tell you the answer or go find it.

We want to build the kind of place that we wish we’d had when we were first learning how to teach reading.

Like a Master’s Program online.

We hope you want to stick around. You probably do or you wouldn’t still be reading, would you? 😉

What trouble are you having with a reader(s) right now? Please let us know what’s keeping you up at night in the Comments below.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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62 thoughts on “Start Here

  1. Is this a curriculum that I can download? My coworkers and I saw your presentation at the IRC in Peoria and we are interested in your program.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for the good question! We are about to open the Reading Simplified Academy which will provide:

      1) an online professional development community–learning together how to implement the Reading Simplified approach,
      2) hundreds of differentiated pages for students ages 5-12, and
      3) an online discussion board for sharing ideas and getting help daily from me.

      Thus, within the Reading Simplified Academy, the student resources will be provided (word lists, worksheets, games, texts to read) along with the guidance about when best to use them. The intent of the organization of the Academy is to help keep the teaching of reading easy and not overwhelm the teacher with all information at once.

      Please be on the lookout for an announcement about the Reading Simplified Academy in our upcoming newsletter. Thanks again!


  2. I reside I South Africa with a home school centre and would like to use your programme in English and Afrikaans. I’ve started but need more help please.

    • Hi Elna,

      Thanks for writing in! That’s exciting that you see the potential for these activities in your center.

      If you give me more info about the ages and levels of students you’ll be working with, I can give you a clearer answer.

      In the meantime, here is a post that explains an overall 3-part structure for each lesson:

      One of the 3 parts of the above lesson structure is Word Work. Work Work is mostly accomplished with just 3-5 Reading Simplified activities, regardless of the beginner or struggling reader’s age.

      Here’s a great recap of the 3 most important Word Work activities (Switch It, Read It, and Sort It):

      If your students don’t know any letter-sounds, then start with Build It before Switch It. Build It is described here:

      But the best first step is to simply try an activity with at least 1 student. As you try an activity, you’ll learn more about what’s hard and what’s easy. Then you can add another activity. Through these step-by-step trials you can learn how to put everything together.

      Or, if you want to know immediately how the whole system works, please join our Reading Simplified Academy:

      Finally, I’m not knowledgeable about Africaans, but Build It, Switch It, and Read It are likely very useful in that language too. Begin with vowels that are more regular or predictable, like the short vowels in English. If Africaans has vowel sounds that have more than 1 spelling for a given sound, then the Sort It activity would work for it too. Just determine what are the high-frequency spellings and have students sort by those spellings. You could also create your own original Key Sentences for each of the main vowel sounds.

      This is a lot! Pick an activity that looks interesting and try it. Then come back for more. 😉

  3. Hi, I am not a teacher, but was a teaching assistant before I became ill. I have a grandson who is in year two who cannot read or sound out words. I think this would help him. Would I be allowed to download this workshop to help him. Many thanks Heather

    • Heather, I’m glad you discovered this site! Yes, I do think the activities I recommend will help him to learn to read.

      The workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away, is live tonight at 8pm (EST; New York City time). If you are registered for the event, then you’ll also receive access to the replay for a short time via email. The 3 activities are for you or his parents to learn how to do and then try with your grandson. I hope to “see” you there!


    • Hi Kathryn!

      We’re transitioning to new times. Would you like me to email you when we have that info available?

      Thanks for your interest!!

    • Thanks for the question, Bibi! We DO currently offer a certificate for those who complete the Reading Simplified Academy course.

      In the future, we will also add college credit for completion of the course as well as a more advanced “Certified Reading Simplified Teacher” status.

  4. Hi just wanted to thank you for this wonderful learning experience.
    I wanted to ask how can we view the webinar if we missed it on the allocated time?
    Its March break so am not able to work on the assignments with my kindergarten students till next week, so wondering how will this work for me.
    Thank you.

    • Shehirnaz, I’m sorry I missed your comment. 🙁 Since the time is passed, I’ll just note that the on-demand workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away, is available here:

      When you register, you will receive the replay for 3 days to view at your convenience.

  5. I tried to download Montessori Crosswords to my tablets, but it looks like it is only available for iPads. Is there another app you suggest in place of this for the crossword part? I was able to download the four other parts of the app in Montessori Crosswords.

    • Maureen, I see Montessori Words and Phonics as the name of the same app on the Google Play store. I hope that will work for you? It doesn’t have the Crosswords feature, per se, but that’s not particularly important.

  6. I love the decision making reference!!! So true!!! Thank you so much for making this guided reading (small group) time into a very focused “ power food “ type of time. Although our year is complete, I am excited to use these strategies when our year starts instead of trying to play catch-up for the end of year next year. This brings me joy and a renewed passion. Thanks!

    • That is amazing, Angela. So wonderful that you feel passionate about next year (instead of exhausted!). Thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts.

      Please let us know how much faster your students kick-off next year…

  7. I was excited to join this group. I am a Special Education teacher at an academy where most of the students are from a very low income family, which provides obstacles of it’s own. We also have students who are from different countries and are having to learn English while learning to read. I have 7th graders who are learning to read at this time. Even though they can’t read they don’t want to be stigmatized by reading baby books. This often presents a problem for me to come up with lessons and activities for them to accomplish. I am hoping this program will solve my problems in Reading instruction.

    • Thank you for serving in a challenging context, Kay! I’m so glad you joined the Reading Simplified Academy because I bet you need the most efficient reading system for solving all the challenges your students encounter!

      Please be sure to share what you’re learning and what you’re trying in the Teachers’ Lounge so we can tailor the experience of learning Reading Simplified and implementing it for your unique context.

      The first activity taught inside the Reading Simplified Academy, Switch It, can be started with more advanced words such as CCVCC or CCCVCC so they don’t feel it’s “babyish.” And/or, the app Sound Literacy is a good tool for playing the game on a grown-up looking app. But we can talk more inside the Teachers’ Lounge…. 🙂

  8. Does this provide a scope and sequence of reading and the materials needed? Does if have phonics readers? Is it a program you can use in multiple grades? K-2?

    • Yes on all 3 counts! 🙂 Our focus is on developing fluent readers. We have a Streamlined Pathway that is like a scope and sequence. You can see a bit about it here: We also provide many mostly decodable texts that align with the Streamlined Pathway and these materials are useful for grades K-5 (and some use for older struggling readers). You can also learn more here.

  9. I am a concerned grandmother. I have my granddaughter one night a week. She has ADHD and slight Tourette Syndrome. She has tics that are very unusual. She knows not to pick her nose but can’t control the impulse so she hides her face and invariably misses an entire lesson. She has many tics, this is the most prevalent at this time. They change. She cries when she has to read. She is very intelligent. She can sound out any word, but continues to sound them out when at this point they should be sight words. She failed second grade and is struggling badly now in 2nd. I want to help. Obviously I only have one night I can participate. Any advise?

    • Mary, thank you for sharing your concerns with us! ADHD and Tourette’s are out of our wheelhouse, but I have a colleague at My Child Will Thrive who knows all about cutting-edge adaptations for children’s health challenges. For instance, changing diets is a major hassle, but it’s been revealing dramatic changes in well-being for many children (including my own).

      As far as her reading is concerned, please first check her sound-based decoding using a nonsense word test. There are 2 norm-referenced tests here free:

      Then, if she is at or below grade level, she’d likely benefit from boosting her sound-based decoding. She would likely just need 3 word work activities to accomplish that as well as reading and re-reading. You can watch an on-demand online workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away, to learn more about these core activities…

      In addition to supporting her decoding, choose mostly decodable texts for her to read aloud (for a season) as you coach her on how to work through the words herself. Afterwards, 1) ask for a brief summary and 2) have her begin a re-reading habit with the text or part of the text (no more than 150 words and perhaps less if she she’s weary).

      For the re-reading routine, follow these guidelines . The re-reading helps the sight words to stick.

      Regarding her sight words, if you know she knows a word or two that she’s about to encounter in a book, tell her that. Tell her that she’s come along way and she actually knows MORE than she thinks she knows! When she sees this word _____ in the book, she’ll be able to read it without saying each sound separately. She’ll even get a check plus (or whatever reward you’d like) each time she reads these words automatically.

      Finally, to cope with the ADHD, break up reading activities into short bursts. It’s likely better to do 7 minutes three times in the day, then to try to do 21 minutes all at once. This staggered approach is great for building everyone’s memory of new information anyway. Also allow her to move, stand, rock, etc.

      I know this is a lot! May the info serve you. If you’d like to join our paid membership community, we could provide more day-to-day support and materials. Blessings!

  10. I look forward to learning more and using these activities to help my struggling students. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • YEAH!! We are too, Kathleen. Thanks!

      For others, Kathleen’s excited about the 5-day challenge, Level Up Your Readers’ Achievement in the Next 5 Days challenge, which starts Oct 8. Join here anytime this week:

  11. I teach special Ed and I have students having difficulty reading even though they have not been diagnosed dyslexic.

    • Hi Jennifer! Most of my students have fallen into that category. Please give these activities a try and let us know what you find.

  12. I have used the Switch it with my students. I am a sped teacher in 4th grade. I am very concerned that I have students that cannot read at this point. I would like to start using this consistently, however I don’t want to begin if I don’t have access to continuing the work. I understand the academy is not open, however is there a estimated time/date it will open and cost.

    • Thanks for writing! Switch It is very important for those who aren’t reading at that point!

      We’re opening the Reading Simplified Academy this Friday. 🙂 An annual membership will be $247 and a monthly membership will be $29. Many schools/districts will pay for this ongoing PD.

  13. Hi i am a guiding reading teacher in foundation phase,living in South Africa. I would like to learn more about your program.

    • Hi Suri!

      That’s a perfect match for our mission! We show teachers and parents how just a small handful of activities can rapidly accelerate all beginning and struggling readers’ decoding.

      You can learn more about our core techniques by watching an on-demand workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away, when it’s convenient for you.

      Register for a time for this workshop here:

      Hope this helps!

  14. My biggest challenge right now is the number of students that only know about half of the alphabet and sounds. I am a first grade teacher.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Mandy. That’s daunting. I’m glad you’re in our Level Up challenge, though. Switch It and Read It can work together to help solve that problem.

  15. Up now struggling with how to get my second grader caught up. She came to me with “Yaya, everyone in my class reads better than me.” This broke my heart. So being that Grandma, I am determined to help my grand daughter get over this and desperately searching for a solution.

  16. She doesn’t like to read. She has learning issues and is reading at a 1st grade level and she should be a 6th grader but I held her back.

    • Hi Tracey, sorry to hear about that. I assume you’re speaking of your daughter? It’s very understandable that a person who can’t read well won’t like to read. She likely needs intense reading intervention. If you could look for a local reading therapist, that would likely be the best direction. Some literacy organizations in some communities even offer free services.

      Also, if she’s not already identified as have a reading disability by the school system, that should be looked into. The school system should be expected to identify her issue and offer specialized instruction to support her.

      If you like to learn new info and work with her yourself, you could become a member of our Reading Simplified Academy where we walk you through the steps of how to teach reading.

      If that’s not a good match for you, and there’s no local or school support, then another option could be online tutoring. Here are two businesses that specialize in reading difficulties that I know of (but I haven’t worked with them myself):


      My best to you and your daughter!

  17. Thank you for this. This is really helpful. I just want to ask for an advice how can I motivate grade 3 kids to read who are really struggling with sounds and letter recognition. I want to help them but it seems they are not ready and not willing to learn. 😔

    • Hi Jo!

      Comprehension and Fluency
      The first step to strong comprehensions surprises a lot of people–it’s strong sound-based decoding. So give a nonsense word test to see if your student(s) has good sound-based decoding. If not, come back to our website for our core activities. Here’s a place to find some nonsense word tests:

      The second step is to ensure good summarization abilities. If sound-based decoding is the foundation for comprehension, then summarization is the foundation for all higher level comprehension abilities. Here’s a place to learn about how to draw out a good summary:

      After that, the next Big Idea for building comprehension is having students reading widely and listening to advanced texts to build their background knowledge. Here’s a YouTube video about that from Prof. Dan Willingham:

      Resistant Readers
      Solving the problem is a complex set of steps, but I usually begin with providing the student with a strong sound-based decoding system (which he is usually lacking). I hope the workshop mentioned above demonstrates that to you.

      Then, the trick is to get the student to read enough, with his new-found decoding foundation, that he realizes reading isn’t THAT hard. One of my favorite ways to do that is to have him re-read short selections every day until he masters each and gains some confidence (and lots of sight words from all the re-reading).

      Another major trick is to have him follow along to a professionally recorded book/text.

      Here are even more suggestions for motivating the most resistant readers:

  18. I teach kindergarten and first grade special education. My students get stuck in the rut of not being able to identify letter names and sounds. Once they do get that down, they get stuck on blending CVC words.

    • Hi Colleen!

      That’s a perfect match for our mission! We show teachers and parents how just a small handful of activities can rapidly accelerate all beginning and struggling readers’ decoding. You can learn more about our core techniques in 1 of two ways: 1) You can read about these core activities on our blog here: OR, 2) You can watch an on-demand workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away, when it’s convenient for you. Register for a time for this workshop here:

      Hope this helps!

  19. I teach 2nd grade and several of my students came in reading at a kindergarten level. It’s hard trying to catch them up. They missed out on the foundation they needed and have comprehension difficulties.

    • Hi Tami! Thanks so much for writing in! That’s a perfect match for our mission! We show teachers and parents how just a small handful of activities can rapidly accelerate all beginning and struggling readers’ decoding. You can learn more about our core techniques by watching an on-demand workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away, when it’s convenient for you. Register for a time for this workshop here: Hope this helps!

  20. I am a former educator (k-2, 10 years teaching experience). My son is going through testing for possible dyslexia. He’s in first grade and has been below grade level all year working with classroom teacher and reading specialist and still making little progress in reading and writing. He’s non compliant with me at home when it comes to school work so he’s what keeps me up at night! :-/

    • Hi Joanne! Thanks for writing in and sharing your story! The hallmark of dyslexia is poor sound-based decoding. The Reading Simplified system excels at solving that problem, for all types of learners, including dyslexic students. You can learn more about our core activities from our on demand webinar, which plays three times daily. You can register here:

      In addition, we have an online discussion board in our Academy, the Teachers’ Lounge, where teachers and parents receive individualized support for their specific questions. I’m in there most weekdays along with the help of our Teaching Assistant. So, we help everyone learn what’s the best usage of the activities for their context.

      I hope this helps!

  21. I have 4 students in particular (2 in grade 3 and 2 in grade 4). I have tried everything!! Phonics support etc….has been provided since grade K/1. They are frustrated, I am frustrated, their classroom teachers and their parents are frustrated….help!!

    • Hi Donna! Thanks for writing in and sharing your frustrations!

      We show teachers and parents how just a small handful of activities can rapidly accelerate all beginning and struggling readers’ decoding. You can learn more about our core techniques by watching an on-demand workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away, when it’s convenient for you. Register for a time for this workshop here:

      Hope this helps!