Why Johnny Can't Read
and what you can do about it
Phonics-First Reading Program
The Book: In 1955 Dr. Rudolf Flesch published his best-selling Why Johnny Can't Read and what you can do about it. The dual nature of the title reflects the dual nature of the book. Flesch first presents the Problem and then provides the Solution. The Problem was the look-and-say method and the Solution was Phonics-First.
The Proof: It is extremely easy to prove that Flesch is correct on both accounts by simply putting his phonics-first method to the test: teach some students with it. I have personally done just that many times and am thoroughly convinced that Flesch was correct. Mr. Edward Miller has found Flesch's phonics exercises very effective as verified by his test for artificially induced-dysleixa. MWIA 2016 Revision. Here is Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld's article, "Can Dyslexia Be Artificially Induced in Schools?"
The Method: Phonics-first means teaching phonics BEFORE any sight-words. To assist parents and professional educators who wish to save children from the ravishes of illiteracy, I am producing this easy-to-follow set of audio lessons (mp3 format) for teaching the five-steps of Flesch's phonics-first program. Flesch's program is unsurpassed for both beginning students and remedial students of all ages. Flesch's book can be purchased from your local book store or Amazon.com.
The Universal Security Net for Literacy. I would suggest that every school in America every year require every student from first grade through at least sixth grade to read through Flesch's Exercise once each year. The reading should be timed to make sure the students have established automaticity. This would fulfill three important functions:
1. It would provide universal screening that would instantly determine if a student has a reading problem.
2. It would provide all the necessary remediating to cure the reading problem, virtually eliminating the need of remedial
reading and dyslexia classes.
3. Good readers would have opportunity to further improve their decoding skills with a comprehensive program.
Audio Instruction for
The Five Steps of Flesch's Phonics-First Home Primer
Recordings can be downloaded and used for free
for non-commerical purposes only.
Copyright © 2005 Donald L. Potter. All Rights Reserved
- The Five short vowels and all consonants spelled with one letter. Exercises 1 - 12
- Consonants and consonant combinations spelled with two or three letters. Exercises 13 - 23
- Vowels and vowel combinations spelled with two or three letters. Exercises 24 - 39
- The five long vowels. Exercises 40 - 59
- Irregular Spellings. Exercises 60 - 71
My Natural Phonics Primer™ Materials,
which Analyze and Apply Flesch's Method.
h. Natural Phonics Primer List of Exercises: published 9/23/2006. Phonovisual correlation added in Feb. 2014.
j. Natural Phonics Primer™ Oral Reading Speeds. This is a Precision Teaching approach for automaticity.
k. Natural Phonics Primer™ Phonogram Chart This is for people familiar with Romalda Spalding’s Phonograms.
l. Natural Phonics Practice Sentences Reading practice with decodable sentences.
M. Transparency Masters. Flesch's 72 Exercises in large print.
Natural Phonics Primer: Preprimer
Notes to Parents and Teaches - From Teaching Johnny to Read (1956). These are the same exercises published in his 1955 book. Most people are not aware that Flesch published a separate reading method.
Phonovisual Charts While not a part of Flesch's program, I have found these charts very helpful when used in combination with Flesch's Exercises. First published in 1942, this method is still in print! Here is my Natural Phonic Primer: Phonovisual Chart Correlation.
Mrs. Lydia McGrew taught Flesch's program to her daughter Faith when Faith was very young. She has published her notes of that experience in two documents:
1. First Phonics Course for Young Children;
2. Advanced Phonics.
Flash Cards for Rudolf's Flesch's phonics words.
Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has headed up a team of experts to produce a sophisticated and powerful version of Flesch's phonics exercises. The program is called Reading Bear. i have produced a Scope & Sequence, Collation with Flesch, and Table of Contents: Reading Bear Scope & Sequence.
Flesch highly recommended the work of the famous American linguist Leonard Bloomfield: let's read: A LINGUISTIC APPROACH. It is highly valued because of its careful lingustic sequence and plethora of decodable text. Flesch said that he developed his approach from suggestions Bloomfield made in an essay on reading. The second edition was recently published by the Wayne State U. Press.
He personally used the 1936 Hegge-Kirk-Kirk Remedial Reading Drills. They are available for free from my website. They are highly effective. A "Teacher's Manual" is included.
An Immodest, But Realistic Proposal
I would like to invite anyone with lots of money and a heart to help kids to enable me to purchase tens of thousands of copies of Rudolf Flesch's Why Johnny Can't Read and what you can do about it to give to parents of school children across America. I wrote this suggested back in 2004, but no one seems to have caught the beatific vision of America free of illiteracy through Flesch's program. At least no one sent me any money for the project! Today, March 26, 2012, I would like to recommend that people of means purchase and distribute copies of Flesch's book on their own to as many parents, teachers, administrators, and even politicians as they can. The method works! I have tried it. I guarantee it.
With the help of the audio instruction I have published above, any parent can make absolutely sure that their child can learn to read well.
Cautionary Note: The Accelerated Reader (Reading Renaissance) program uses sight-word readers in kindergarten and first grade. Students must NOT begin the Accelerated Reader program UNTIL they have mastered at least the first 50 of Flesch's Exercises or another good beginners phonics program. I especially recommend avoiding having children read any Leveled Readers (including Guided Reading Leveled Readers) until the students have completed at least 50 of Flesch Exercises.
You can find the first picture below in A History of The Book in America, Volume 5. The Enduring Book, Print Culture in Postwar America, edited by David Paul Nord, Joan Shelley Rubin, and Michael, Schudson. The University of North Caroline Press, 2009, p. 416. I am honored to represent Flesch in the good light he so richly deserves.
Don teaching Flesch from an overhead. Don and one of his students.
A close up of Exercise 68, Review 21
Page last revised on April 2, 2016.