March 01, 2019

Reading Horizons Review: Dean Lessard

Tags: Direct Instruction, ESL Instruction, Implementation, Methodology, Professional Development, Results, Software, Special Education

Reading Horizons was first introduced to our school after a special education committee was developed to investigate programs that focused on building a strong foundation of phonetic skills. Reading Horizons came out as a strong contender, based on the Orton-Gillingham method.

The program we piloted was highly sequential, scripted, easy to follow, and came with black-line masters, games, visual supports, (and) charts. The online tutorial was most explicit and helpful to all teachers who would be involved.

A senior staff member who has taken a number of specialized courses to teach reading to challenged students has stated that of all programs she has used, this one has been the most successful for teaching students to decode and encode. The program components (games, display cards, and charts) nicely complement the scripted binder and workbook activities, (and) the program is easy to teach after a manageable online training session.

The students responded very well to the program, and what was most rewarding was the fact that the classroom teachers and parents were noticing changes in the reading ability and interest of their children within a very short time frame.

Several classroom teachers asked if they could purchase the program to use with their own classes, as they believed that many students who were not included in the withdrawal groups would benefit, as well.

Parents have been calling to inquire about the home program. Their children, who were once reluctant readers, have shown an interest in reading for pleasure, and those parents would like the program to be available to them over the summer months.

Teachers also commented that they themselves were learning rules of the English language they had never known.

A group of students was targeted to receive the computer component to supplement lessons. Those students progressed more quickly through the program. They found the software lessons very motivating.

We were particularly delighted when a First Nations teacher was hired to work with our ESL students to help them with their reading skills. After taking the online tutorial and observing the program taught by other teachers, she asked to use the ESL component with her charges. She feels that she herself would have learned to read English more easily had she been exposed to Reading Horizons.

The program is very user friendly, and a new teacher can easily manage the program once familiar with the tutorial and sequence. Supply teachers can use the scripted manual to guide them through the lessons with the students.

Classes can be scheduled to fit individual timetables. Though some students receive instruction two-to-three times weekly for 30 to 40 minutes, others receive 25 minutes on a more regular basis.

Finally, the technical support provided by the company has been outstanding in staff development and learning.

Grade Level: Elementary