How to teach adults to read

It prevents Alzheimer’s! Also, it makes you sexier.

How to teach adults to read

1. Reading can help prevent Alzheimer’s.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that older people who read regularly are two and a half times less likely to have Alzheimer’s. While that doesn’t mean reading alone will prevent Alzheimer’s, it does suggest that there’s a correlation between intellectual pursuits, like reading, and prevention.

2. Being a reader means you’re more likely to learn something new, like whether or not your cat is trying to kill you.

How to teach adults to read

Anne E. Cunningham wrote a paper called, “What Reading Does For The Mind,” and discovered that being an avid reader actually does make you smarter. It not only helps you retain information, but also helps you maintain that knowledge through old age. Whether or not you’re aware of it, reading fills your head with new information, and you never know when it will come in handy. Looking at you, Colonel Meow.

3. People who read are more likely to vote, exercise, and be more cultural.

How to teach adults to read

A study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that people who regularly read are much more likely to be engaged civically and culturally. Which means reading actually makes you win at life.

4. Reading a book reduces stress, and puts you in a better mood.

When you read, it transports you and your worried mind to another place, so you won’t feel so overwhelmed with the hardships of everyday life. And a 2009 study found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels up to 68%. Read on, anxious ones!

5. Reading can be therapeutic.

According to Cristel Russell, a consumer behavior researcher at American University, reading a book—much like listening to a song, or watching a movie—can be a way to relive past experiences and gain new perspective. So, if you’re going through a breakup and read a book in which the characters are experiencing something similar, it can give you insight.

6. Having trouble remembering where you put those keys? Reading enhances your memory.

How to teach adults to read

Every time you read, you create a new memory of what you’ve read—essentially exercising your memory muscles. With each new memory, your brain forges new synapses, strengthens existing ones, and helps to keep your memory sharp.

7. Reading actually does make you seem sexier, especially to women.

How to teach adults to read

A study found that intelligence—even just perceived intelligence—is one of the most attractive qualities to women. So, keep your nose in a book and you’ll have people falling over themselves to try and distract you!

8. Reading helps to boost your analytical thinking.

How to teach adults to read

That’s right, future lawyers and doctors! The more you read, the better you’re able to spot patterns, which helps to build those analytical thinking skills.

9. Reading expands your vocabulary, so you’ll sound like a smartie.

The more books you crack open, the more words you’ll be exposed to. Those words will eventually find a place in your own vocabulary. And since all of us need to use words at some point in our careers, reading makes it more likely that you’ll be promoted faster.

10. Opening a book makes you a better writer.

How to teach adults to read

A study at the University of California, Riverside, found that when you’re exposed to a great novel, the writing of that author will inevitably rub off on your own skills. The same way that listening to music can influence your own style, so does a great book.

11. Fiction books increase your ability to empathize with others.

How to teach adults to read

A study done out of the University of Buffalo proved that even though fiction is about an imaginary world, through reading you’re able to conceive of other possibilities, and a life beyond your own insular one. In other words, you may never have traveled to Europe, but by reading about a culture other than your own it helps you to understand their way of life. In that way, it helps you to empathize with other people and connect with different cultures.

Teaching adults how to read is different from teaching children. Even if an adult has the same language learning capacity as a child, there are psychological factors that will make teaching him more challenging. Teaching using the phonics systems available is a wonderful bridge for adults to learn reading quickly. Through phonics, adults who are just learning to read will be able to translate the sounds that they learn and relate them with spoken words.

Find a phonics system with which you will feel comfortable. There are many out there. Find one that makes sense to you and that you think you can teach to another person.

Read short stories or poems written in straightforward English such as those of Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost.

Make a game of finding words that rhyme. Start with a word the student suggests and take turns finding a word that rhymes with it. If she says tree, you say bee and stress that the words sound alike at the end.

Teach the concept of syllables after the rhyming. Use people’s names, places and jobs as a basis for saying words. If your student is adept at plumbing, use terms such as sink, toilet, plumber and show him how to count the beats of the words by tapping the foot or clapping for each syllable.

Teach the alphabet and let the student associate each letter with an object that begins with that letter. Use words with the long sounds of vowels such as eat, ate, union and open.

Put the letters together to make short words. You can start with three-letter words that rhyme. You can use the “–at” words to begin. For example, you could use words such as bat, cat, fat and hat. Once this is mastered go on to other three-letter words such as words ending in “–un,” “–in” and “–it.” Teach four-letter words with the same ending such as game, name and tame.

Use easy books such a collection of poems and short stories to teach phonics. Allow the student to recognize the letters and the small words. Go slowly on a pace that the student feels comfortable.

Use flashcards with the words she has learned at the beginning of each lesson to reinforce what you have done previously. Allow her to use the flashcards at home.

Keep the lessons consistent, no longer than 45 minutes and initially no more than three times a week.

Be patient. It is easy for a person who knows how to read or write a language to get impatient with another adult who does not.

I loved this course. The ” We All Can Read Online Phonics Program” starts at the very beginning. It was created for adults that have problems reading and spelling. The first 10 lessons are free and after that you pay by the month. I never had phonics as a child and spelling has always been a problem. How to teach adults to readCarole M. / California
(Select the above link to read the entire letter.)

Hello Mr. Williams,

I talked to you about 3 months ago about starting the course and I’m finally doing it! I have already looked at the first 10 lessons but I’m going over them again. I’m on lesson 5 and I think, no, I know I’m already a better reader. I’m very excited about being able to read a book and sound it out to someone. I feel like I’m stepping into a whole new world. I know it will help me and I’ll be forever in your debt for helping me reach a new level of skill and understanding.

This is what was suppose to happen 40 years ago and now it is going to come about. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with the ability to read phonically and the proper way. But I do know I’ll read a lot more and I’ll owe it all to you. Thank you for putting this course together, not for just me but for all those people like me. The left out. The forgotten and the dismissed. Those who society thought nothing of and expected nothing of in life. Even if you’ve only helped 1000 people you’ve done more than many people in life to make the world a better place. I think you should take pride in that and you deserve to do so.

This is without a doubt the best value for me to learn to read with phonics skills. I figured to get the same skill set from a personal tutor it would cost me at least $3000, maybe $4500 over a year. The course you put together is inexpensive and works! Just because it cost a lot to do something doesn’t mean it’s the best way or that it’s going to work. I know this course works already.

So to those who are interested in the course I have this to say. What do you have to lose by going over the 10 free lessons and see if it’ll work for you? It takes about as much time to do as it does to watch a long movie on the DVD player at home. This you can do on your cellphone riding in a train if you have the bandwidth and the Internet. Think about that.

Mr. Jim Williams thanks again for all your hard work setting this up online and I hope you have a great night and next day.

Your Most Grateful Student

ALLEN W YOAKUM / Kansas City, MO

Our first 10 online lessons are free!

How to teach adults to read

Teach Yourself to Read and Spell at Home

Subscribing to our online program is like hiring a full-time reading specialist available to work with you at home twenty-four hours a day/seven days a week.

The Internet has changed everything in education. Now for the first time ever in history, it is completely possible and realistic for an adult to teach himself to learn to read and spell in the privacy of his own home without an instructor. How is this possible?

Our online phonics program combines audio, video and text in 720 online lessons. Students watch a video introducing each lesson, then listen to the audio file in each lesson that corresponds to the text. All of the instructions, all of the information, all of the drills necessary for a student to master the reading and spelling process are presented in a tightly-structured format. Students proceed one-lesson-at-a-time through all 720 online lessons and complete the over 400 worksheets embedded within our online curriculum. Then approximately every third lesson a student is presented with a quiz he must pass with a score of 80% or higher before being permitted to proceed to the next lesson. 203 quizzes are embedded in our online program.

A student does not have to be computer literate to complete these lessons. All of our lessons are point and click. No other skill is required to be able to proceed through our online lessons.

With our online program you do not have to hire an instructor, enroll in a literacy class, or be placed on a waiting list for an available tutor. You can teach yourself to read and spell in the privacy of your own home! And you can access our program at any time day or night on your schedule – not someone else’s. No driving or finding other alternate forms of transportation to attend class is required. You learn at home!

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Our online phonics reading and spelling program really does work! Try our first 10 free lessons and get started today!

How to teach adults to read How to teach adults to read How to teach adults to read How to teach adults to read How to teach adults to read

The kids absolutely love this game – and they’re learning!

John Hole, Phase 1 Leader, Wray Common Primary School

How to teach adults to read

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the computer version free?

The game has been funded by the Usborne Foundation, a charity set up to support initiatives to develop early literacy.

Our mission is to help as many children learn to read as possible. The computer version is 100% free and we put profits from the app back into the Usborne Foundation, to continue to create new and exciting ways for children to learn.

The charity was founded by Peter Usborne MBE and his children, Nicola and Martin, one of the world’s leading children’s book publishing companies and Children’s Publisher of the Year 2012. He was previously one of the founders of the magazine Private Eye.

What age is it for?

The game is for children in the first stages of learning to read, or for older children who need a bit more practice. Read more details about the three games .

How do children learn from the game?

The game takes children on a magical journey, meeting colourful characters along the way and collecting fantastic rewards. When children are engaged, they’re motivated to learn.

As they progress, they rehearse a range of essential reading skills; matching letters to sounds, blending, segmenting, tricky words and reading full sentences.

Will it work on my device?

The game runs on any normal laptop or desktop computer (including Apple Macs) and the app works on iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle tablets.

Who are The Usborne Foundation?

Peter Usborne is the founder and Managing Director of Usborne Publishing, one of the world’s leading children’s book publishing companies and Children’s Publisher of the Year 2012. He was previously one of the founders of the magazine Private Eye, and was recently awarded an MBE for services to publishing.

An Exciting Adventure in a Magical World

How to teach adults to read

Create a monster and take it on an adventure through a magical world. Travel to exciting places, meet fun characters, play games and win prizes as your monster learns the first steps of reading.

How to teach adults to read

Minigames help children to develop speed and accuracy of letter recognition.

How to teach adults to read

Lots of blending, segmenting and tricky words.

How to teach adults to read

Read for purpose with magical little books.

A great way to help your children to learn to read.

I was stunned to see how much they enjoyed this. It blew me away.

Matt Lovegrove, Cippenham Primary School

Information for Teachers and Parents

Complements existing learning

For young children in the first stages of learning to read; both those who are on track and those who need extra support and motivation.

The series complements Phases 2-5 of Letters and Sounds and other major systematic synthetic phonics programmes.

Keeps children focused on rehearsing and consolidating what they learn in school.

Easy and Secure

The series takes children on a journey through the graphemes; rehearsing recognition, blending and segmenting with each one.

Children rehearse tricky words, plus reading whole sentences and captions.

Can be played independently by children either in school or at home.

Each child has their own login so the game can track their progress over time.

This is a fun and engaging way to help your child learn to read. My son warmed to the game quickly and didn’t want to stop playing it!

This is a curriculum for those teaching low-level reading to adult learners.

The author has teaching experience at The Community Center in Cambridge, MA where her students are at the beginning-level of reading (equivalent to grade 0-2). She is concerned about applying reading acquisition research conducted with children to teaching adults in ABE classes to read (these adults may or may not have learning disabilities).

The breakdown of topics covered in a typical three-hour class session is a clear indicator of the needs and curriculum she is addressing: 1) phonological awareness, 2) word analysis, 3) word recognition (“sight words”), 4) spelling, 5) oral reading fluency, and 6) comprehension. The article advocates and outlines an approach to this student population utilizing, systematic, explicit, direct instruction of phonics. Selected aspects of a number of multi-sensory structured language programs are utilized in this program and are introduced in this article: 1) Orton-Gillingham, 2) Lindamood-Bell, and 3) Wilson Reading System.

For each of the parts of her curriculum listed above, short descriptions are provided that could be good beginning guides for ABE instructors to use as personal “launching pads” in gaining additional knowledge for understanding and implementation. The author has apparently done her homework on the basic research base underlying her hypotheses regarding interventions applicable to her ABE students.

The resource is very brief and has a limited, though distinguished, bibliography. However, it may make a very good overview or survey of the type of curriculum applicable to many low-literacy-level ABE students and of which their instructors could profitably be aware. One only wishes it had been somewhat expanded in form regarding the word level reading components outlined.

  • A superficial overview of techniques is presented in the resource.
  • Depending on the depth to which knowledge and understanding of the suggested phonics techniques, training could be implemented variously.
  • For several of the MSL approaches noted, training is available from
    the publisher.

This very brief resource applies the synthetic (“bottom-up”) approach to teaching reading to adult beginning readers. The bibliography provides the theoretical and research support for this approach. However, the literature cited is based on work with children, assuming that the research findings are applicable to adults.

The author describes what she does in her classroom with a very small number of adults who are presumably learning disabled. (It should be stressed that this approach is probably most effective with native speakers who have failed to learn by other methods.) Instructional methods incorporate several commercial programs (e.g., Wilson Reading System). She identifies activities from these programs that she has found to be effective rather than following any program in its entirety.

She recommends that teachers use nonsense words and real words that are unknown to the learners (e.g., stint). So that students are forced to sound out words letter-by-letter rather than relying on sight recognition. She encourages students to use this approach even on high-frequency words.

Less explicit is how students are taught to successfully blend letter sounds to produce whole words except by recognizing certain syllable patterns. This synthetic approach to teaching reading can lead to slow oral reading that focuses only on so-called “Word Banking” rather than on comprehension. To counteract that difficulty, the author recommends explicitly teaching fluency and comprehension. The resource is too brief to elaborate on how these reading skills are taught.

This is an excellent article for teachers of beginning level adult readers. The most useful feature is the “typical lesson plan for a three-hour class.” The article is easy to read and engaging. This article could serve as a stand-alone or as an overview for an in-service on reading components and low level readers.

One of the most significant features of this article is that it is written by a successful, experienced reading teacher for other practitioners. It combines practical classroom techniques that captivate the reader along with references to research showing that those techniques have proven to be successful. The author cites reasons why she chooses specific instructional activities for each topic. Her approach verifies research done in the field on successful instructional strategies for teaching reading to low literacy learners and undiagnosed students with reading disabilities. These include direct, explicit instruction and multisensory instruction among others.

Of significance as well are her practices of utilizing a standardized routine, allowing sufficient time to review, mastering specific sub-skills, before moving on to the next skill, and including a writing unit and the Syllable Chart. The author includes teacher tips to show how she individualizes each component of reading instruction by incorporating pieces from other commercially produced programs.

Quoted student anecdotes are touchingly authentic and accurately document the difficulty involved in teaching to beginning-level adult readers. This article will resonate with readers who also teach this population.

How to teach adults to read

While students certainly need practice reading material in English, it is important that you include in your reading lesson:

  • Short speaking
  • Listening
  • Writing activities

The focus of the lesson may be on reading a particular passage but having a diverse lesson plan will enable students who are good at other aspects of English to still participate and feel confident in their abilities while working to improve an area they are weaker at.

How To Proceed With Teaching Reading

Warm up
Since students will mostly be sitting at their desks during a reading lesson, use the five to ten minute warm up period to get students moving and speaking. You are also going to want to generate some interest in your reading topic so that the warm up activity flows into your introduction of the material.

One way to do this is to have students stand in a circle and ask them to tell you what they know about a certain topic. This can be as simple as giving you some related vocabulary. After a student has given you a word or phrase you can write it on the board and he can call on a student to go next. If appropriate you can bring a ball to class and ask students to gently toss it to the next person. This is good because it actually gives students something to focus on other than the words being written on the board which you will be able to review later.

Your introduction may have been made quite easy by the warm up activity. Now, while students are seated, ask them to use some of the vocabulary they came up with in sentences and add any key vocabulary to the list. Now you can distribute the reading passage and ask students to read it silently to become acquainted with the new material.

Practice reading the material aloud. You can do this through a series of steps. First have students do some slash reading. You should read the passage aloud pausing where appropriate. Have students repeat each section after you and place slashes in their text.

A sample sentence might look like this “For Christmas dinner / I ate ham, / mashed potatoes, / and green beans.//” This will help students read more naturally. Now you can have students read the passage by repeating sentences after you and then call on students to read one sentence at a time. If students struggle with the pronunciation of certain words, take this opportunity to practice pronouncing them too. You may wish to have students read the passage again silently to focus on its meaning before moving on.

How to teach adults to read

Practice More
With reading lessons it is important to ensure that students understand the material as well as any new words. To check vocabulary you can ask students to match synonyms, antonyms or pictures or ask them to complete sentences with the correct vocabulary words. To check overall comprehension, you can start with some true or false questions. Be sure to ask students why a particular statement is true or false when checking the answers. You can also have fill in the blank sentences or basic comprehension questions in this section.

Prepare some discussion questions related to the reading and some that require students to use key phrases in their answers. For beginners, discussions will be quite challenging but intermediate and advanced students will gain a lot from discussing their thoughts and opinions. In smaller classes there will be more opportunities for students to share their viewpoints while with larger classes you may simply have to ask who agrees or disagrees with a particular statement and then call on three or four students to express their opinions.

Ask students to summarize the reading or what they learned in class. If you have not already done so, you can also have students search for the topic sentence and discuss why students chose certain sentences whether they chose correctly or not.

Reading is a key part of learning English and these lessons give you an excellent opportunity to introduce topics of your own. Be careful when selecting an article. It is important that your students are interested in the material. They will be more active in the discussion if they feel strongly about a particular topic.

While knowing the spelling and meaning of words are helpful, those aren’t enough.​ Children and adults who comprehend what they’re reading are engaging in the learned skill of co-constructing meaning and context within a sentence or paragraph.

In this way, reading comprehension may be considered transactional, i.e., the ability of a reader to bring experiences and purpose to what they are reading.

Reading comprehension and what a reader “gets” from written text also depends on their immediate needs and emotions. That’s why two different people reading the same thing can come away with contrasting perceptions of what they just read. Learning effective reading comprehension habits that promote literacy is more advantageous to natural learning than memorizing word meanings. Reading comprehension strategies, such as becoming familiar with word associations, how they are used in the context of a sentence, and grammatical distinctions applied to them provide a holistic reading education.

Visual and media literacy are skill sets vital to improving reading comprehension. Visual literacy is the ability to understand, evaluate and create/use visual media and images to impart ideas to others. This involves the use of paintings, drawings, language and digital images. Media literacy includes understanding when content is persuasive and biased, versus content that’s informative and neutral, by recognizing literary devices such as metaphors and rhetorical questioning. As students enhance their visual and media literacy skills, they can more effectively understand the content they read.

The ability to sit and silently read a text is a skill that all students will need as they move through secondary education and into college. Similar to learning an active reading strategy, students must have multiple opportunities each day to practice reading silently. And like all explicit instruction, we must make it clear to our students why this skill is important to them.

How to teach adults to read

As we assign silent reading tasks, provide a reading purpose (it’s best to use a writing prompt), set a benchmark for the reading, and check in with them to see if the amount of time we have assigned was enough. Remind students that this work is important. Acknowledge that reading aloud can be fun, but more time must be spent learning how to comprehend ideas through silent, independent reading.

Investigative Reading and Read 1, Speak 2, Write 3 are two literacy skills teachers use to engage their students in silent reading.

Pace the Reading

Although grade level and reading experience has a lot to do with how much time we ask our students to read silently, we should all begin by having our students read for short periods of time–no more than five minutes each time. Once they have read for a few minutes, have them talk (or write) about the reading.

The texts we assign do not have to be short. Students can learn to read silently with textbooks, novels, short stories, or newspaper articles. The length of the text does not matter. What matters is the time on task.

In college and at work, students are required to read complex texts throughout the week. They will not be asked to read out loud, nor will they be asked to call on a colleague to read. Students must learn how to comprehend texts on their own. They must develop the ability to stick with a text and focus on what it says over a period of time. As students develop proficiency in comprehending what they read silently, we should increase the amount of silent reading they do in class and at home.

Make it Engaging

Silent reading can be a real bore if you don’t have students periodically interacting with the text or each other. As part of the reading purpose, direct students to use Marking a Text or Writing in the Margins. Employing literacy skills like these will help students focus on the text while improving their comprehension. After a section of reading is complete, have them turn to their neighbors and talk about what they just read. This will help students process the ideas in a text and allow them to check in to assess what they understand.

Make it Relevant

When explicitly teaching this skill, make a connection to everyday life. You could say, “How crazy would the world be if everyone read out loud? People at the coffee shop would read the menu to those sitting and enjoying their coffee; customers at the grocery market would read ingredients and shopping lists to everyone nearby; and strangers on the bus would read the news to each other.”

There is a greater purpose to silent reading, however, that goes beyond not wanting to irritate our neighbors. Silent reading helps us read faster. It helps us make faster connections between words and it gives us the silence we need to concentrate and process information. We also know that reading out loud is a performance. The reader worries more about pronunciation than he does the ideas in the text. Our students need to know this. Find a fun way to teach this lesson to your students.

Manage the Reading

While our students read silently, walk around the room and observe what they’re doing. Some students will read with great proficiency while others struggle to understand. Struggling readers sometimes look away from the text as the teacher walks by. The student might be ashamed or embarrassed. Perhaps he doesn’t want his teacher knowing he’s having trouble. We can also recognize a struggling reader by how fast the student reads or how she is reading. Some students will use a finger or pen to keep the word(s) they are reading in front of them.

These types of observations are invaluable to teachers. If we know who is struggling in our classes, we can do something about it. If you do not know how to help, speak with experts on your campus who could offer some suggestions.