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  • Writer's pictureGaila Cohen Morrison

Dear Gaila - Learning to Read with Dyslexia, part III

For more tips & tricks for teaching reading to children with dyslexia see Part I and Part II

Dear Gaila,

After years of having trouble at school, my son has finally been diagnosed with dyslexia. Is there any chance he can ever learn English?

Anxious Mother

Dear A. M.,

Ethic of Our Fathers says : "All I learned - I learned from my students." Years of teaching have taught me how true it is.

Some of the best 'tricks of the trade' are those that students taught me. Kinetic learning uses touch and feeling as another pathway to the brain memory. I often used felt letters, plastic letters, sand paper, letters in rice as an additional method. Yet, I didn't understand how powerful a tool it is until I met Ari.

"See how easy it is to feel it?" he told me.

Ari struggled with reading. He struggled with reading when he was in kindergarten, and he still struggled with reading when he was in 5th grade. I tried everything I could think of - every trick, every system, every teacher - but those letters never seemed to get into his head! And yet Ari persevered. For six long years he presevered at trying to learn how to read, when all he wanted was to do what he was good at - throw a ball, play with friends, and run like the wind.

We were working one day laboriously going over reading when I brought out some plastic letters. I placed them on the table and formed a word. His hands lightly brushed over the letters and the word just fell out of his lips. Like many dyslexics, Ari would use the guessing strategy to attempt to read a word - gloves, goes, gives were as likely as globes.

Figuring it was a fluke I put down another word. And yet, Ari gave the same correct response. I put down another word. Again he read it correctly.

I couldn't believe it. After 6 years of trying we'd finally gotten through. Immediately I knew what to do. I drew up a list of Fry's most frequent words, cut up enough cardboard for about a hundred words and started to put down glue and then cover it in sand. Word by word we learned how to read. After a bit I sent him home with a list of words and the cardboard. He came back with the words in spiky fabric paint. "See how easy it is to feel it?" he told me.

I now have a set of the most commonly read words, partly sand, partly fabric paint, partly 'spiky' fabric paint.

And I have learned to use those, boxes of rice and other ways to feel letters and words for those who learn better that way.


Gaila has almost 40 year of experience teaching and runs A.H.A.V.A., a non-profit to promote English literacy. Would you like to ask Gaila a question? Email us at or send us a message. Look out for more Dear Gaila columns

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