The Writing Road To Reading

Book cover: 'phonics'
Romalda Bishop Spalding
William Morrow Co, New York
Number of pages: 
287 pages
Grade / Age level: 

Just as this book is much more difficult to use thanTeach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, it is also more difficult to review. A companion book by Wanda Sanseri, Teaching Reading At Home, organizes the information into a one page flow chart, then expands each item in the flow chart systematically so you feel comfortable with what to teach when. The Riggs Institute also has an extensive web site ( devoted to this and a lot of supplementary materials for the Writing Road To Reading.

WRTR is based on putting the 45 sounds of English into 70 phonograms or ways of spelling the 45 sounds in writing. A simple diacritical marking system is taught. An example of this is the letter a. It is introduced as the sounds of a (short sound), a (long sound), a (ahh sound) (the terms short and long are not used).The first sound of a is the most common so it is not marked, the second sound of a is underlined to show that it is saying the second sound and the third sound of a has a little number 3 written over it. By the way, consonant blends in which each letter still retains it sound are not taught.

The beginning of the program is the hardest. You introduce 4 phonograms each day by showing a flash card of the letter while saying the sound(s) of it. The student says the sound. You show how to write the letter. They are grouped by similar shape so you start with a, c, d, g and o which are formed similarly. There are detailed instructions as to presenting this. Being a "fine-motor-skill-challenged" family this was the most difficult. After three weeks the student should know the first 54 sounds. They then begin a spelling notebook. The words are dictated by the teacher. The students say each phonogram sound or syllable in it, then write each one, then read it. Then they mark it appropriately. After 150 words are presented by this method they then begin reading. They claim that reading is never taught, that after explicit, intensive phonics instruction and the encoding of words by spelling in this manner children are just able to read. They spell their way into reading. My children already read when we started this program so I cannot vouch for that. There are also 29 spelling rules such as the 5 ways silent e's are used in English taught along the way.

Spalding did not want children to be reading twaddle (not her word but appropriate here) but the finest in children's literature. There is a long appendix in the back of recommended books grouped by grade level.

120 pages of the book are devoted to a spelling list which is to be used for grades 1 through 4. Each year a new spelling notebook is begun using a sewn composition notebook. All the phonograms and spelling rules are reviewed by writing them in each year's new notebook. 30 spelling words a week are recommended by Spalding and 20 a week by Sanseri. With my children I use 20 per week. I introduce 5 per day M-Th then have a test on Friday. They are reviewed and practiced by being used in sentences, playing hangman, etc.

Even though my children were already reading when we began the program I feel it was very valuable to give a thorough review of phonics and to apply phonics in the spelling lesson, not in the reading lesson. I plan to continue using it as a long term spelling program. I think the way spelling is taught in this program makes sense. My children's reading continues to improve and we have become comfortable with using it. By the way Spalding says the lessons take 3 hours a day, Sanseri says that in a home situation it takes about an hour per day. So far with both children at 2 different levels entailing 2 separate lessons it has never taken more than 1 hour per day for us. This program was recommended to me very highly by many people and I am glad I took their advice. The key phrase which sums up this complex program is "spell your way into reading."

Additional notes: 

Copyrights: 1957 revised, 1990.

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