Through the Phonics Barrier

Phonics Reading System

Audio © 2003 by Donald L. Potter

Introduction: The first phonics program I published was Charles Walcutt's Through the Phonics Barrier. It was first published in his 1958 Reading: chaos and cure. Walcutt had taught it successfully for over 20 years. He said that he could teach a child to read in less time than it took to administer some of the reading tests. I originally created this webpage as an audio resource, but had not included the printed material (pdf files). Now all the materials necessary to successfully teach Through the Phonics Barrier are included in this single page (8/16/08). Many thanks to Mr. Walcutt's wife for permission to publish her husband's wonderful method for noncommercial, free download on the Internet.

Intended Audience: This method is geared toward home school parents, private schools, public schools, special education classes, bilingual classes. It would make wonderful source for any college of education program emphasizing the basic nuts-and-bolts of good phonics instruction.

Special Feature: Through the Phonics Barrier features a special "phonogram" method that is especially helpful for students teaching themselves to read with my audio instruction, without the presence of a tutor. 

 Student Book

Through the Phonics Barrier: Student Manual. by Dr. Charles Child Walcutt. This is the material to study with the student. Each student should have their own copy.

Teacher Resources

Phonics Briefing: This is a basic introduction on phonics for parents and teachers. It contains very important information on the general subject of phonics and good phonics teaching.

Step by Step Instructions: These are Dr. Walcutt's detailed, word-for-word instructions. I followed then very carefully when making the audio below. Author's Notes: These are valuable insights concerning the method that I gathered from various other publications by Dr. Walcutt. 

Word Analysis: This is a comprehensive study of all the words taught in this method with phonics. All the words are listed in alphabetical order. There are a total of 1,169 words. Students who can read and spell all these words will be very good readers and spellers. The word count is for the core program, it does not include the supplement for older students who are having reading problems.

Read Dr. Walcutt's 1965 article in the Michigan Quarterly ReviewThe Reading Problem: Its Roots and its Fruits. This article is filled with excellent insights expressed in Dr. Walcutt's inimical style. Dr. Walcutt presented the same material at the 1965 Reading Reform Foundation Conference: The Reading Problem: Its Roots and Fruits


Audio Instruction for Student and Teacher

Audio © 2003 by Donald L. Potter
with full permission for download and reproduction 
for noncommercial purposes.

To Teachers: Before teaching Through the Phonics Barrier: Student Manual, read carefully The "Phonics Briefing" and "Step-by-Step Instructions." Then follow along in the Student Manual while listening to the audio file. Just click on the page to hear it explained.

To Students: Follow along on the page in Through the Phonics Barrier: Student Manual while I teach the lesson. You will soon be able to learn to read much better, even if you do not have a teacher to help you.


  1. The Consonants and Rule 1  
  2. The Vowels
  3. Special Vowel Sounds and Special Consonant Sounds
  4. Vowel Digraphs and Rule 2
  5. Consonant Blends
  6. Odd ways of Writing Some Consonant Sounds
  7. Combining a Consonant with Long and Short Vowels
  8. Combining a Consonant Blend with Long and Short Vowels
  9. A/a Phonograms
10. A Words
11. A Words Continued
12. E/e Phonograms
13. E Words
14. I/i Phonograms 
15. I Words
16. I Words Continued
17. O/o Phonograms
18. O Words
19. O Words Continued
20. U/u Phonograms
21. U Words
22. U Words Continued
23. Y/y Words
24. Words with Vowel Digraphs: ay, ai, oa, ee
25. ea has three sounds
26. oe, ow, ie, igh
27. ei, ey, eigh, cei
28. Special Vowel Sounds: ow, ou; aw, ay; oi; oy
29. oo, ew, ue, ui, u
30. Odd Ways of Writing Some Consonant Sounds: kn, wr, gn, rh, gu
31. ph, gh 
32. Words ending in le
33. The sh sound spelled five ways: sh, ti, si, ci, ch
34. ch has three sounds, zh
35 A Spelling Rule
36. Homonyms 
37. Regular Irregularities: wor, er says air, ir says ear
38. Unaccented Suffixes have short vowel sounds.
39. Common Words with Strange Spellings
40. Find the silent consonants and Just Strange
41. Long Words
42. More Long Words
43. Unfamiliar Words
44. Congratulations from Donald Potter

I believe any teen or adult who will simply listen to the mp3 files and follow along in Through The Phonics Barrier will be able to learn to read. I pray that many will take advantage of these free materials to improve their reading. I also recommend writing the words in a journal.

Those interested in Walcutt’s 1963 Basic Reading program can learn more at my Basic Reading Resarch Files

Page last updated 1/29/2018.