Judy McBride graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. degree in Elementary Education. For several years, I taught the lower elementary grades in Oklahoma and Michigan. However, my real education came when I was blessed with four of my own children who had trouble learning to read. It was not until my fourth child was actually diagnosed as being dyslexic that my education took a turn.
Mark was nine years old and starting the third grade reading on a pre primer level. We had held him back a year from starting school. Two years earlier the school had labeled him learning disabled and assigned him to a very nice resource teacher who did not know how to break through his disability. All summer he had said, “I am too dumb to be in the third grade.” I researched everything I could and had him tested at the Michigan Dyslexic Institute early September. After going over his test results the test administrator told him the most important information in the most interesting way. She told Mark,
“You have something called dyslexia. That means that the word part of your brain is like a very messy bedroom. Think of your clothes, toys, books, and puzzle pieces mixed up all over your bedroom. When you try to read, the letters are like the messy bedroom. We have a method that will help you organize your word room and reading will flow. It will be like organizing the bedroom with shelves for the books, drawers for the clothes, and boxes for the toys.”
A week later, Mark started to learn how to organize his word room with a “first time tutor” using the Orton- Gillingham method. In three months he was reading on grade level with his class.
One year later, I took the training and learned how to teach this special method and apply it to other students. During the last 25 years, I have worked with many various types of learning disabilities, regular classroom students struggling with whole language methods, ESL students, and adult literacy. No matter what level of reading a struggling student is on, the first thing an educator needs to do is organize the word room for decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling.) Once a student has the tools for word recognition, the other parts of reading fall into place.
The idea of Word House came to me one day as I was driving home from teaching in an elementary resource room and going home to my own tutor schedule. I thought about how I evaluated each student to see what syllable patterns they knew. I kept drawing the chart over and over for each student. BINGO! If each student had a workbook that progressed through the program, I would be automatically teaching and reinforcing at the same time. It needed to follow the Orton-Gillingham program in a way that any educator could use it. A lesson needed to cover reading, writing, spelling, and integrating into a sentence. And most of all, it needed to be fun.
Normal comment after finishing the first lesson,”Oh, I get it! That was fun! Can I do another page?”
Post note: Mark is now in medical school and has hundreds of words to memorize and spell correctly for each test. It is not easy; but, he IS doing it!