I was first introduced to Reading Horizons in the early ‘80s when it was called Char-L Discover Intensive Phonics for Yourself. I went to a daylong workshop and was sure that this reading program was invented for special-needs students. The lady giving the in-service assured me that is was not, but, being the stubborn, opinionated person that I am, I just knew that this would work with my special-needs students. I loved the concept and simply had to have it! I called Char-L on the phone that evening and ordered the program.
I was, at the time, teaching reading and social studies to 6th-,7th-, and 8th-grade students who were mentally disabled and were functioning on a non-reader level. My principal agreed to allow me to vary from the adopted curriculum only if I agreed to do pre- and post-testing at the end of the first term; I willingly agreed. (I would have promised anything to be given permission to use this program.) Little did I know at that time that his request was the best thing that could have happened. I had no idea how to do a pre-test, so I improvised. I administered the SORT reading placement test and determined that this tool would serve as my pre- and post-test assessments. (Over 10 years later, when I purchased Reading Horizons, I found out that they, too, had picked SORT as their instrument to use as a pre-assessment tool, and it was on the computer!
Many of the wonderful things included with the Reading Horizons program were not included with the original program. I wrote letters to parents, introducing the program. I sent home weekly sight words for parent involvement. With each new rule learned, students were given the rule printed on an index card and placed in the student’s own file box.
Every day, each student was required to state the rule(s) on all cards in the box. (If teacher help is needed, I was certainly there to help, but I rarely remember a time that my assistance was actually needed.) The students loved this program. We set up a “Parent Day,” (which we held) one day each month. At this time, the parents would come to school during our regular Reading Horizons time and observe their child stating all rules and then doing daily board work with the teacher.
The students were so excited about this program! They loved seeing for themselves that they were in charge and knew what to do. They of course loved it when I announced that if they were really stumped, this was the one time that it was okay to look for help from their neighbor. The students actually started begging me to allow them to give up their lunch period and stay in my classroom to work on their reading program! I allowed them to go to the café to get their lunch, bring it to my classroom, eat it in 10 minutes, and then work at the board with me on the program for the remaining 20 minutes. This was one of my very best years of teaching. I, too, had a wonderful time.
Now, for the best part: My students’ scores in six months increased from two to six years’ reading levels. Please keep in mind that all of these students were nonreaders. When Char-L said, “If you work hard and learn all material to mastery level, you will be able to read anything you see and spell anything you hear when you finish this program,” she was not kidding.
This is the very best program I have ever used, and (I) feel that all teachers should be using this program.
Just a quick note to teachers of older students: In high school, I simply share with the students that no matter how silly the beginning of the program seems – and I know that it seems silly to them - but it is actually essential that we start at the very beginning to ensure that the person is hearing what I am saying and that they make the correct connection to written and spoken letter or letters.
P.S. I have also tutored two adult persons who were absolutely illiterate, and this program had them reading in under a year’s time when they were able to work with me on the program for two hours, once a week.