Community Reading Project Newsletter #5

Newsletter #5.    22 March, 2017



Welcome to our new members from Montserrat, a tiny, beautiful island with a tight-knit but welcoming community. The residents are working together to fight reading deficits, and we’re providing support and tools.

This is our opportunity to review the theory, research, and practices of the Project in a series of posts to our Facebook group.  It’s a guided tour of the reasoning, evidence, and step-by-step of how to fix your child’s reading deficit.

PLEASE share the group’s link with other Montserratians, whether they are still on the island or not.  Reading failure is something we can repair together.  (And if you are not from Montserrat, please share it anyhow.)


Some background about Montserrat, the ‘Emerald of the Caribbean’. George Martin (of the Beatles) opened a recording studio in 1979, and Montserrat became a playground for musicians and rock stars. Eric Clapton, Rush, The Stones, Dire Straits, Sting, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, and just about everyone who counted recorded their albums there.

Then in 1989 Hurricane Hugo wiped out, well, everything. The studio was gone. The 5-star hotels were gone. Nearly every home was damaged.

Rebuilding started, but in 1995 the local volcano blew up, Half the island remains in an exclusion zone. If you have been to a small island, you know that typically three-quarters of the population lives in or around the main city.  But Plymouth, that main city, was buried in ash and remains uninhabitable.

People were evacuated, and the island population dwindled down to 1,200. But Montserratians are not easily discouraged, and they love their island, so they are reclaiming and rebuilding.




We have a little project in the Community Reading FB group. Leila Lewis is 42 years old and was severely dyslexic. Until now.

Leila was one of those students with all the accommodations and supports, pulled out for ineffective interventions, extra time, etc. She even earned a college diploma with the support of a reader and scribe. Except that eventually she got older and exited school. Her life has been filled with hardships and humiliations that we can’t imagine. She lives in her mom’s basement with her 16-year-old daughter.

Leila is whip-smart and the hardest-working person I know, but she has been fired from every decent job (never ‘officially’ for dyslexia).

Three months ago she was reading at a grade-1 or -2 level, guessing at words from context. We worked together every morning over Skype, 7 days a week, and recapped the lessons in our FB group for parents, explaining our techniques, and tracking her progress. Mostly it was BLENDING and Repeated Reading drills, and then a few pages of reading together. It took us 6 weeks to read our first book together – we painfully whacked through a grade-3 Goosebumps. The first day it took us 30 minutes just to read the single-paragraph on the back cover.

Then we started our second book, ‘Catboy’, a grade-4 level, 2-3 pages a day. But then she started reading independently, and her reading exploded.  She finished Catboy, and started a grade-5 book ‘The City of Ember’, she’s almost 200 pages through it.  Best of all, she is reading Ember together with her daughter, who is also a weak reader.  How wonderful is that?

Today Leila wouldn’t meet any of the criteria for dyslexia. She has strong phonological skills, strong decoding, etc.  And of course she can read, she doesn’t need accommodations anymore.  She has applied to go back to college, she has a new job, and new optimism.  Nothing will hold her back.

You can review Leila’s training program and progress by scrolling back in our Facebook group to the last week of December 2016. There was no magic, just some evidence-based techniques and LOTS of hard work.

Parents whose older children still read at grade-1 or -2 level and survive at school with accommodations should connect with Leila. Contact her on our FB group to ask a question, or simply post in our group. Leila will give you an earful. And mostly she will say “Start teaching your child to read, right now. Today.”




Sadly, the Toronto clinic has closed.  The Project has morphed into a virtual community, with hundreds of members around the world but only a small number in midtown Toronto.

It was fun having a ‘real world’ place to meet, but we used it so infrequently that we couldn’t justify the expense.  I had hoped that a ‘free’ space would become a hub for literacy events, but it wasn’t happening.





Your child knows other kids in his class who can’t read.  Consider talking to their parents.  Tell them about your progress, your hopes and fears, your struggles. They may deny any problem or be too embarrassed to talk to you, but rest assured they will be attentive.

Parents almost never talk to other parents about learning difficulties, and educators aren’t forthright when a student falls behind.  Many parents don’t even realize their child is struggling, others don’t know how to get help. The simplest step is to invite them to join our closed FB group and listen to the discussion. 

A child won’t outgrow a reading deficit without help, especially a severe one.  But nothing will change until we start an open and honest discussion about reading failure and how to fix it.  PLEASE talk to other parents about reading.  You will be saving a child, just as surely as if you had pulled him from quicksand.





Click here for our website.  It offers lots of free training materials and information for parents.

Recent posts on the blog include ‘Sounds of the Letters’ (there is a major problem with Jolly Phonics – it teaches the wrong sounds), and ’60-Second Screening’ (a handy tool for checking your child’s foundation skills.)


Click here to join our closed Facebook group.  It is a private place to discuss your child’s needs and help other parents.  Your posts won’t appear on your timeline, and won’t be visible to your friends.

A lot of the public activity of the Community Reading Project has moved to this closed group.  Please join, and please invite other parents, teachers, and tutors to join.



Contact us:

Tom Berend
(416) 230-4974  (mobile)




Posted in ReadingBlog

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