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Common Difficulties Explained
It is important to understand the source of your child's reading problems. Here, we explain the common reading issues and where we can help.
Elementary Age Reading Problems
Does not always recognize start and/or end sounds
Many children know their alphabet and seem to know the sounds letters make, but a common problem is recognizing these sounds as parts of words, which of course, makes decoding, sounding out, a real challenge.
What's Going On: To sound words out, children need to be able to break words apart in their heads into phonemes, individual sounds, e.g., turning |cat| into |c| |a| |t|. This skill is sometimes linked to language difficulties and requires strong processing skills. Blends, such as |br| or |bl| are even more challenging, as is distinguishing between |ba| and |da| and between |mu| and |nu|.
What Gemm Can Do: Our research based reading programs speed up processing in tiny incremental steps so that the young reader can identify the sounds inside words, creating a foundation for learning to sound out without the frustration.
Guesses, mispronounces or skips over words while reading
Many struggling readers will skip over words when reading, preferring instead to read all the words they recognize with the strategy of treating the sentence like a puzzle, where they can fill in the missing word later. Or they know they can't break it down and decode it, and so they guess.
What's Going On: Words are skipped or guessed because they are not recognized and the reader cannot sound the word out. This is indicative of a memorization reading strategy where a child is getting around a phonological awareness or decoding problem by trying to memorize all words. This is an inefficient strategy that runs into trouble in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade as the word list explodes.
What Gemm Can Do: Your child needs to learn to read the way he/she listens, moving left to right, decoding every sound or letter as it comes. This requires sound processing skills upon which automatic decoding fluency skills can be developed. Most struggling readers need help at this cognitive level.
Age appropriate reading programs for children
Forgets words even right after being helped
Many children frustrate their parents and teachers by failing to recognize the same word on the same or next page, within a minute of two of being helped with the word earlier.
What's Going On: For the struggling early reader, the page can look like it's Russian. There are so many unrecognizable words that it is overwhelming. Think of reading a foreign newspaper -- so many words that are so foreign that it is hard to retain any. Also, retention requires context. If you tell your child a word, and he hears it the way you say it, it can be retained. But weak processing means that the text and the spoken word are often not a match -- it sounds foreign and will not be retained.
What Gemm Can Do: By improving processing, we can help make most words recognizable, certainly the phonetically regular words. This leaves a few irregularly spelled words and/or vocabulary words unknown to the child to be learned and retained, a much more manageable task.
While there are a number of unusual spelling rules, conventions and exceptions that take time to learn, spelling in the early grades is only a concern if regular, phonetic words are misspelled. Spelling is an important decoding skill.
What's Going On: Poor spelling is most often indicative of poor phonics caused by weak phonological awareness. If phonetically regular words are a problem, then your child will have a hard time learning conventions and exceptions, as every word looks like a candidate for a rule.
What Gemm Can Do: Our program works on phonological awareness to help make regular spelling natural, and has exercises that train rules, conventions and exceptions.
Many children with reading difficulties start to resist reading out loud to their parents, and become easily distracted in reading times in school.
What's Going On: Reading out loud is humiliating for children who feel they cannot read. They understand the pressure of parents and teachers, they see how easily their peers read, and so they feel frustration and shame that they cannot read. Hence they avoid the torture at all costs.
What Gemm Can Do: This is one of the most common reading problems. Our primary goal is to make reading easy, more natural, so that young readers will become willing readers at the very least, so that they can put in reading practice required to acquire high level reading skills.
Extra reading support or tutoring is not helping
Most struggling young readers receive extra support at school and/or at home after school. While the programs, therapies and/or teachers have good reputations for helping reading, it is also true that despite this added help, reading scores in North America have remained stubbornly flat.
What's Going On: Most training works around the underlying difficulty, weak cognitive processing and memory skills. Teachers and tutors create drills to help young readers to differentiate the text of |ba| versus |da|, but the child with weak processing skills hears them almost identically, meaning the training is long and painful. In addition, real gains require frequency and intensity. Many half-hearted reading interventions fall short before they start -- a 1-2x a week regimen is not enough intensity to change anything.
What Gemm Can Do: Our reading program uses neuroscience principles -- frequency, intensity and shaping -- to rewire cognitive skills, so that this added reading instruction is of more value. While most students need no further help after our programs, those that do continue with services can benefit immensely -- we constantly hear feedback from teachers about the acceleration of progress after Fast ForWord. Being able to clearly identify syllables and blends makes all the difference.
Elementary reading programs
Reading is lagging other subjects
For many students, reading at grade level is not a good outcome. Based on IQ and/or performance in math and other subjects, they have the vocabulary and understanding to be reading well above grade level. This is the definition of a disability or glitch -- under performance in one or more aspects of learning.
What's Going On: Many bright children disappoint because a slight glitch in learning is holding back reading skills, impacting overall progress. This often causes frustration and behavioral issues.
What Gemm Can Do: In most cases, the glitch is processing related, and once resolved, progress to grade level and beyond tends to unfold quickly. Natural smarts trapped in a flawed learning system is one of the best opportunities for Fast ForWord to make a dramatic difference.
Middle School & Older Reading Problems
Most students learn to decode by middle school, but they read slowly, which slows down homework efficiency and impacts their performance on tests. Slow reading is also a formula for eroding interest in reading.
What's Going On: Slow reading can be caused by two different issues; a deliberate decoding approach that requires too much concentration -- thinking about anything while you do it slows you down, and/or a constant need to re-read pages because nothing is retained on the first time through -- indicates weak reading comprehension skills or an attention deficit while reading, often related to an over-taxing reading approach.
Cannot read for long periods
Reading stamina is an important reading skill. Many children with reading problems can only read for a few minutes at a time, making it difficult to get through assigned material and the shortened periods cut down on reading practice.
What's Going On: A lack of reading stamina indicates reading inefficiency and/or poor reading comprehension. Inefficient decoding that takes effort and forces multi-tasking -- decoding and deriving meaning -- while reading is exhausting. Flawed reading comprehension makes text uninteresting or worse, unintelligible, either of which create the groundwork for a curtailed reading session.
What Gemm Can Do: By treating the underlying difficulty, our reading programs help make reading efficient and, with improved comprehension, more interesting and engaging.
Comprehension skills not keeping up
Many reading problems only surface in middle school, when more complicated content is more challenging to grasp when reading is flawed.
What's Going On: Reading comprehension requires automaticity in decoding, so that the mind is completely available for comprehension. In later grades, comprehension requires an interactive, metacognitive reading approach, where a student is able to define main ideas and think critically about text. These skills do not develop in students with reading problems.
What Gemm Can Do: While our early reading programs work on removing the underlying impediments to reading, the later programs use natural learning science to train reading comprehension with metacognition in an accelerated way.
Does not enjoy reading
Many students do not enjoy reading for any reason -- text books, assigned texts, novels, newspapers, and magazines.
What's Going On: While some students are just not interested in reading, it is also true that it is human nature to avoid doing things you are not good at -- if you are not a good reader, it is natural to avoid it.
What Gemm Can Do: Reading enjoyment is of course one of the holy grails for reading programs that address reading problems. It is a challenging goal as it often requires reversing a prior aversion to reading. While we have many testimonials where this has occurred, our strategy is to lay the foundation of sound reading skills so that reading can be enjoyable, hoping the student will run with it.
Reading programs for high school students
Reading problems contribute to difficulties with homework efficiency, test taking skills, and other learning skills. In addition, because our software works at a cognitive level, we can help language, focus and other learning difficulties.
Understanding your child's learning problems
Gemm Learning uses research based Fast ForWord, a series of reading programs that first treat the underlying cause of reading problems, followed by exercises that build reading fluency and comprehension skills.
Learn about our reading programs