Reading Horizons Method

The Patterns of the English Language

The Reading Horizons method gives teachers a simple and comprehensive system for helping students identify and apply the predictable patterns that govern the English language to reading tasks. With this system, students develop automatic word recognition and spelling skills while simultaneously building fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.


Translating Reading Science into Reading Success

The Reading Horizons method helps educators translate the principles of reading science into practical classroom strategies that lead to reading success for beginning readers, struggling readers, and English Language Learners (ELLs). Research has shown that the structured literacy approach is the most effective for teaching foundational reading skills to all students but crucial for students with dyslexia and other learning differences. Reading Horizons teaches the elements of structured literacy using instruction that is explicit, systematic, cumulative, and diagnostic.

Unique Marking System

Reading Horizons employs a unique marking system to draw student attention to the structure and patterns of English and to provide visual cues that aid memory and improve pronunciation.

Multisensory Approach

Each of the skills taught in the Reading Horizons method is introduced using a multisensory process called dictation. This interactive process is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and helps students make connections between what they hear, say, write, and read. This process activates and connects all areas of the brain involved in accurate and fluent reading.

Teaching to Mastery

Because the Reading Horizons instructional sequence builds on previous skills, student mastery is important at each step. Instructional pacing should be determined by the ability to accurately apply skills to reading and writing—not a calendar. This allows instruction to move at the rate appropriate for each student.

Irregular Word Patterns

Literacy researchers have found that the majority of words in the English language are decodable with knowledge of the phonics patterns taught in the Reading Horizons method. The method also provides instruction for common exceptions and high-frequency words with irregular patterns. Because these are taught explicitly, students are better prepared to read the majority of words they encounter in text.

Lesson types

Phonics Skills, Sight Words, and Grammar

The Reading Horizons teacher's manuals and software programs include three different types of lessons as they engage students in structured literacy instruction:

Skill Lessons

Each phonetic sound, pattern, and skill outlined in the Reading Horizons method (42 Sounds of the Alphabet, Five Phonetic Skills, and Two Decoding Skills) is taught to students through explicit, systematic, and sequential lessons. These lessons are intentionally sequenced to move cumulatively from simple to more complex.

Most Common Words Lessons

To help students build automaticity with common sight words, the first 300 most frequently used words in the English language are taught through Most Common Words lessons. The words used for these lessons are based on the Fry Word List (Fry, 1980) and are divided into digestible lists that are embedded throughout the overall lesson sequence to provide multiple opportunities for reading and writing practice.

Reference Lessons

Students are introduced to basic grammar and syntax (e.g., parts of speech, sentence structure, prefixes/suffixes) through Reference lessons. These lessons prepare students for more complex grammar instruction and help improve reading fluency and overall reading ability.

View the full instructional sequence for grades K–3 and grades 4+.

Sound-Symbol Correspondence

42 Sounds of the Alphabet and Blends

In the Reading Horizons method, instruction begins with the alphabet. The alphabet is taught in letter groups that are organized in a unique but deliberate sequence. This sequence separates similar letters and similar sounds and only teaches one vowel sound at a time to reduce student confusion.

The letters are introduced with the name of the letter, the sound of the letter, and uppercase and lowercase formation. This process is systematic, supports orthographic mapping, and employs all of the sensory input and motor output involved in language.


After students have mastered the basic sounds of the alphabet, instruction continues by teaching students the remaining 42 Sounds of the Alphabet—the difference between short and long vowel sounds, Digraphs, Murmur Diphthongs, and Special Vowel Sounds. Students are also taught early in the instructional sequence how to blend sounds together.

Grades K–3

The Reading Horizons Discovery® program addresses seven areas of phonemic awareness (rhyming, syllable counting, initial sounds, blending, final sounds, medial sounds, and segmentation). The 42 Sounds of the Alphabet are taught and reviewed at a depth that is appropriate for each grade level. Separate instructional tracks are available for each grade, K–3.


Grades 4+

In the Reading Horizons Elevate® program for older students, alphabetic skills are abbreviated. Teachers can quickly assess students on the 42 Sounds of the Alphabet through the software component of the program to expedite alphabet instruction and to find the specific skill gaps that need to be filled.

Phonics Skills

Decoding Single and Multisyllabic Words

The Reading Horizons method provides a clear and consistent understanding of the structure of the English language. Once students have demonstrated mastery of the basic sounds and spelling patterns, they move to a simple process of decoding and encoding single-syllable words with opportunities for guided practice and reading connected text. Next, students gain the skills to decode multisyllabic words based on the patterns associated with syllabication.

Here is an example of how the method sequence progresses from simple to more complex:

Vocabulary, Fluency, & Comprehension

Transferring Phonics Skills into Fluent Reading

Fluent reading requires accurate and automatic decoding skills applied in authentic text. Systematic skill transfer allows students to move from the word level to longer and increasingly complex passages. Reading Horizons’ instruction utilizes a process that supports efficient transfer and includes the resources and activities that facilitate vocabulary acquisition, reading fluency, and comprehension.

Vocabulary Instruction

Students generally enter school with a much larger oral vocabulary than written. Teaching students phonics patterns help students accurately recognize and spell these words in print. Vocabulary is an essential component of literacy instruction and is best provided as students encounter unknown words. Reading Horizons’ instruction connects meaning to the words used for reading and writing by defining each word and using it in a context sentence. The Reading Horizons software provides decoding practice, definitions, context sentences, and illustrations for thousands of words.

Transfer Cards

To help bridge the gap between isolated words and fluent reading, Reading Horizons provides hundreds of Transfer Cards. These cards help students practice the skill they just learned with decodable word lists and sentences that incorporate the new skill. Teachers can also use these cards to assess student readiness to move on to authentic text.

Decodable Text for Grades K–3


The Reading Horizons Discovery® Little Books were written to emphasize each phonics skill using 90% decodable text and controlled vocabulary that matches student skill levels. These books help students in grades K–3 transfer decoding skills into fluent reading. The books include full-color illustrations that appeal to young students and a mix of both fiction and non-fiction stories. Each passage has been assigned a Lexile® measure and includes corresponding comprehension questions to ensure student understanding.

These books are available in print and can also be accessed on the software component of the program.


High-Interest, Low-Level Passages for Grades 4+

The Reading Horizons Elevate® Reading Library books provide 330 content-rich nonfiction passages for every reading level. The passages give students the opportunity to transfer foundational reading skills to text while learning about a wide range of topics that connect to core content and appeal to older students. Each passage has been assigned a Lexile® measure and includes corresponding comprehension questions to ensure student understanding.

The Teacher Guide provides the answer keys to the comprehension questions as well as recommendations for best using the Reading Library passages in connection with phonics instruction.

These books are available in print and can also be accessed on the software component of the program.

Lesson Framework

The Reading Horizons Core 4 Lesson Framework

The structure of a Reading Horizons lesson is based on a sequence of four steps that guide student learning. The Core 4 enables teachers to apply a gradual release of responsibility model that connects to previous skills and systematically introduces new skills.


Skill Review

To reinforce prior skills and assess mastery before moving to a more complex skill, each lesson begins with a short review of the previous lesson.


Explicit Instruction

As each new skill is introduced, the teacher provides explicit instruction and modeling aided by a step-by-step teacher’s guide. Instruction is designed to take approximately ten minutes in order to focus on a specific new skill and maintain student attention.


Guided Practice

After teachers complete their instructional modeling of each phonics skill, students receive guided practice through the multisensory process of dictation (described above). This portion of the lesson generally takes 10–15 minutes.


Skill Transfer

To help students apply each phonics skill to fluent reading, each lesson ends with activities that encourage skill transfer. This is done by using the transfer cards, decodable texts, and reading passages included with each teacher's kit and embedded in software instruction.

Grades K–3

For students in grades K–3, we recommend that teacher-led whole-class instruction (in-person or virtual) should be implemented as the primary source of phonics instruction. Ideally, this instruction is supplemented by Reading Horizons instructional software to assess student mastery, provide extra practice for struggling students, and to keep students on track when they miss class due to vacation or health concerns.


Grades 4+

Because older students have a greater variance in their skill gaps, we recommend software-led instruction as the primary source of phonics instruction in grades 4+. By reviewing student data, teachers can target the specific skill deficits of each student and provide differentiated intervention through individual and small-group instruction.



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