Teaching Reading

Dr. Frank Laubach spent almost his entire adult life teaching thousands of illiterates around the world to read. He taught in more than 313 alphabetic non-English languages and even invented an alphabet for 220 of these languages. In some of the simpler languages, such as one or more dialects of the Philippine language, he could teach an adult illiterate to read fluently in only one hour! In 95 percent of these languages he could teach students to read in from one to twenty days. In 98 percent of these languages he could teach students to read in less than three months. As far as grammar and syntax is concerned, English is neither the easiest nor the most difficult. It is easier than several of the European languages, every one of which can be learned in less than three months.

Most students who learn to read English need at least two years to learn to read and the Adult Literacy in America study, the most extensive and statistically accurate of U.S. adults ever commissioned by the U.S. government, proves that a shocking 48.7 percent of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate, defined as being unable to read and write well enough to hold and above-poverty-level-wage job. In Dr. Laubach’s two books, Teaching the World to Read and Forty Years With the Silent Billion, he never mentioned even one student that he could not teach to read. On page 48 of Dr. Laubach’s book, Forty Years With the Silent Billion, he stated, “If we spelled English phonetically, American children could be taught to read in a week.”

Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc., two non-profit educational corporations, collaborated over the last several years in perfecting a simple spelling system such as Dr. Laubach recommended, a spelling system called NuEnglish.

Teaching NuEnglish will be very easy. The first step, of course, is to teach the student(s) the letters which represent all of the sounds (or more particularly, phonemes) in English words in the following NuEnglish spelling rules. A phoneme is the smallest sound in a language or dialect that is used to distinguish between syllables and words. There are 14 vowel phonemes and 24 consonant phonemes needed for effective communication in NuEnglish. Five of the vowels are single letters and nine are digraphs (two letters), unless macrons are used, then it is 9 single and 4 digraph. There are 24 consonant phonemes, six of which are digraphs. (The 38 phonemes used in NuEnglish are in bold, italic, underlined capitals for emphasis. No emphasis — bold, italic, capitals, underline, or even color — affects the pronunciation in NuEnglish.)

NuEnglish Spelling Rules

1. Each letter or combination of letters has only one sound, as follows:

5 short vowels: use A, E, I, O, and U for the more-often-used sounds, as in “That pet did not run.”

5 long vowels: Ā, Ē, Ī, Ō, and Ū use macrons [mākronz] (lines over vowels) for the less-often-used sounds, as in “Thā ēt frīd tōfū” (“They eat fried tofu”), or add an E to the vowels (AE, EE, IE, OE, or UE) if macrons are not available, as in “Mae Green tried roe glue”.

(Note: “short” and “long” as used here are traditional and popular, but not phonetic, terms.)

4 other vowel sounds: use AU, OO, OI, and OU for the sounds in “Haul good oil out.”

18 consonant sounds represented by a single letter: B, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, S. T, V, W, Y, and Z, use the letters that are used most often as in “Yes, Val ‘Zip’ Kim hid our big fan-jet win.”

6 consonant sounds represented by digraphs (two letters): (1) use TH and TT for the sounds as in “then” and “thin”, respectively; (2) use C ONLY in CH as in “chip”; (3) use SH and NG for the sounds in “wishing”; (4) use ZH as in the English word “muzhik” (= a peasant in czarist Russia), for the sound of Z in “azure”, of S in “treasure”, and of G in “massage”.

Use Q ONLY as follows: use Q (not QU) for the KW sound as “qit” (“quit”).

Use X ONLY as follows: use X for the KS sound of “exit”, as in “suxes” (“success”) and for CS, which has a KS sound, as in academic subjects: “fizix”, “mattum*atix”, and “ekon*omix” (“physics”, “mathematics”, and “economics”). Use KS instead of X for plurals and possessives ending in K, as in “duks” and “duk’s” (“ducks” and “duck’s”).

The two “long U” sounds: There are two “long U” sounds in English, as in “fuel” and “sue”. To distinguish them, NuEnglish spelling of the English word “fuel” is “fyūl”. This is equivalent to adding the sound of the letter F before the English word “yule”.

The WH consonant blend: All WH- words with the W- sound are spelled HW- (the actual sound) in NuEnglish.

2. There are no silent letters and no double letters that make a single sound, except OO and TT—and EE if macrons aren’t used.

3. All sounds must be shown, except for the NG sound in NK and NX, as in “bank” and “jinx”.

4. For consistency, the “-able” and “-ible” suffixes are always written “-ubul” in NuEnglish, as in the words “kāpubul” and “terubul” (“capable” and “terrible”).

5. So that no words seem foreign, all words, including proper names and trademarks such as “Jon” and “Drānō” (“John” and “Drano”), are spelled phonemically.

6. When proper nouns and trademarks are first used, for clarity and legality the traditional spelling will appear between square brackets after the proper noun or trademark, as in “Mattyū [Matthew]” and “Tīlunaul [Tylenol]“. The only exceptions are the names of the months and days (“Janyūarē”, “Mundā”, etc.), and proper nouns used as common nouns, as in “Mok” (“Mach” number).

7. An asterisk (*), pronounced “star” when spelling aloud, immediately precedes a primary stressed vowel(s) or semivowel, as in “qōt*āshun”, ;”sur*ound”, “dāb*yū” (“quotation”, “surround”, “debut”), unless the primary stress is on the first syllable, as in “hapē” (“happy”).

8. Compound words (words composed of 2 or more words) are hyphenated, as in “hot-daug” and “finggur-print” (“hotdog” and “fingerprint”). A prefix is considered a separate word when its meaning is clear and the meaning of the rest of the compound word is clear also, such as “a-”, “anti-”, “dis-”, “non-”, “re-” and “un-” in “ā-mōrul”, “antī-statik”, “dis-up*ir”, “non-profit”, “rē-dū” and “un-butun” (“amoral”, “antistatic”, “disappear”, “nonprofit”, “redo” and “unbutton”). This special consideration for prefixes will improve sight understanding, and may not burden a word with more punctuation, as the hyphen may substitute for a star. Chemical names hyphenate all prefixes, such as “polē-tetru-flōrō-ettilēn” (“polytetrafluoroethylene”).

9. Use an apostrophe to show contractions, as in “kan’t” for “kan not”, or possession, as in “Tom’z” (“Tom’s”).

10. The only deviation from phonemic spelling is for numbers. Thus: “U 3-fōld inkrēs”, “1 and 1 iz 2″, “Sum-1 iz at thu dōr”, and “Īl bē u-wā fōr 4 dāz”. The reasons are because numerals are universally understood, are very compact, and are easily distinguished from “won”, “to”, “too”, “for”, “fore”, and “ate”. Ordinal numbers are written as a numeral plus “tt” or “ett”: “4tt”, “10tt”, “100tt”, “20ett”, “30ett”, excepting “1st”, “2nd”, and “3rd”, and the pronunciation of “5tt” (fiftt). The use of numerals instead of spelling the numbers is optional and should not be used when filling out forms such as bank checks which specify spelling out the numbers, or whenever the number 1 could possibly be confused with the letters I or L, or when the letter O could possibly be confused with zero.

After learning these ten simple, unvarying rules, you can remember the pronunciation of the NuEnglish graphemes by learning two memory aid sentences. The first sentence has all fourteen vowels in alphabetical order: long vowels, short vowels, and then four other vowels. The first sentence also has three consonant blends: GR, BL and ND. The second sentence contains all of the consonants represented by digraphs. The two sentences together contain all the consonants represented by a single letter.

Mae Green lied, “Joe Blue and Kevin ‘top gun’ Wood haul our oil.”
Qit mezhuring fish hwich yuez this ttin box

The spelling rules to be taught first, of course, are spelling rules 1, 2, 3, 7, and 10. The other rules were added to make NuEnglish consistent enough to prepare a computer program for converting traditional English into NuEnglish and can be taught last. Begin by teaching only one student at a time. If you are an accomplished teacher you might be able to effectively teach five or six students at a time.

Spelling rule 1 shows the phonemes and the letter or two-letter combination used to spell each phoneme. The important thing to know is to teach the students four or five phoneme spellings every few days and do not progress to the next phonemes until they have mastered the ones already taught.

The Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis Teachers’ Guide and the Beginners’ NuEnglish Workbook will give you all the guidance and teaching materials you need. Even without these resources, you will be able to teach most students if you make certain that every student quickly and unfailingly pronounces all 38 phonemes correctly when they see its NuEnglish grapheme on a set of flash cards you have made. Frequent review is important and should be done after learning each group of about five pronunciations of the graphemes. This involves teaching the student the SOUND of the phoneme NOT the NAME of the grapheme (letter or letters) that represent the phoneme. The names of the English letters, especially the letters H, Q, W, X, and Y, give little or no clue as to the sound they represent.

Many, if not most, of the students will have been “taught the alphabet” —that is, they will know the names of the letters—before you begin teaching them. As a result the very first thing you must teach the students is that the names of the vowels are only vowels but the names of the consonants consist of the consonant AND a vowel because many of the consonants cannot be said without a vowel. Tell the students that from this point on in their reading classes they should refer to the graphemes by the phoneme they represent rather than the name of the letter. (A grapheme is a letter, combination of letters, or a symbol used to represent a phoneme, syllable, or word.) They should be taught to say the consonant phonemes of all consonants graphemes except the letter X by following the consonant with an U sound, as in the word “nut,” by placing as little emphasis on the U as possible. The Q blend will be pronounced KWU and the X blend will be pronounced UKS.

Spelling NuEnglish words.

When spelling NuEnglish—other than orally—the student will simply record, in consecutive order, the graphemes for the phonemes in the word. When spelling orally, the student should consecutively pronounce the phonemes in the word NOT the letter names. They will already have learned the grapheme (letter or letters) used to represent these phonemes. For example the oral NuEnglish spelling of the words spelled “exquisitely formed” in traditional spelling would be “e-uks-kwu-i-zu-u-tu-lu-ee fu-oe-ru-mu-du,” placing as little emphasis on the U sound in the consonants as possible. The Letter names should only be used when referring to the physical letter’s form or when referring to abbreviations such as FBI, CIA, FDA, TV, OK, ASAP, etc.

Teaching the phonemes that the graphemes represent could take as much as three weeks, especially if you do not teach them every day. The remainder of the teaching time will be needed to help the students blend the phonemes into words. Begin this process by teaching the students some of the consonant blends. The following figure shows the fifteen most-used consonant blends, so these should be learned first. These fifteen consonant blends are all of the blends that occur in more than one percent of the words in a typical portion of English prose.

Frequency of Occurrence of Two or More Adjacent Consonants

Percent of Test Sample Blends

TH 33.1
ND 8.4
NG 4.5
TT 3.9
SH 3.2
RD 3.0
ST 3.0
NT 2.7
HW 2.5
FR 1.8
CH 1.6
LD 1.3
SP 1.3
NS 1.3
RZ 1.2
LZ 1.1
RLD 1.0
NGZ 1.0
BR 1.0
TR 1.0

The phonemes are in bold italic.

The twenty blends in this figure (which include the HW blend and five phonemes) made up roughly 78 percent of the blends in the sample text. Concerning the two sounds unlike English: (1) the TT phoneme makes up only about 4 percent of the total blends, and (2) the Q blend makes up less than 1 percent of the total. Note that only two three-letter blends (RLD, as in world, and NGZ, as in things) appear in the list—each of them occurs in only 1 percent of the consonant blends.

The following table shows the 100 most-used words in typical English prose. By learning these words, the students will know about 54 percent of the words they will see in most written material, so the students should be taught these words first.

The most important idea to impart to the beginning students is that reading is fun and exciting. This will primarily be true if you choose reading material that is of interest to the students. This means that you should use children’s classic literature appropriate for the age range of your students who are children. Do not be concerned about choosing reading material with a very limited vocabulary because most six-year-olds have a speaking vocabulary of 24,000 words or more.

The One Hundred Most-Used English Words*

Columns 1, 3, and 5 are English, columns 2, 4, and 6
are NuEnglish, if different, listed in order from the
top of the first column to bottom of the last.

the thē, thu has haz she shē
of uv one 1 made mād
and our other uthur
to an into in-tū
a ā, u been ben men
in no must
that their thār people pēpul
it there ther said sed
is iz were wur may
I Ī so man
for fōr my about ub*out
be if over ōvur
was wuz me some sum
as az what hwut these thēz
you would wood two 2
with witt who very verē
he when hwen before be-fōr
on him great grāt
have hav them could kood
by her hur such
not war waur firts 1st
at your yur upon up-on
this any enē every evrē
are or more mōr how hou
we now nou come kum
his hiz its us
but time tīm shall shal
they thā up should shood
all aul do then
or ōr uot like līk
which hwich can kan well wel
will wil than little litul
from frum only ōnlē say
Note that 25 percent of the words in this table are spelled the same in English and NuEnglish. These 100 words constitiute 54.3 % of the individual words found in the 100,000 word sample. The first ten words make up 26,677 of the entire 100,000 words (i.e. 26.677 percent).

Almost any student, except the most seriously mentally challenged, will be able to learn to read NuEnglish in one to three weeks. Due to (1) the very serious physical, mental, emotional, medical, and financial problems for every functionally illiterate person in primarily English-speaking nations, (2) because of the monetary cost of illiteracy for both the illiterate and the fluent readers (at least $5,000 each every year), and (3) for the well-being of the nation itself, ideally, the spelling of all English words will eventually be NuEnglish spelling.

Until that change is made, however, students will have two choices, (1) continue reading only NuEnglish material — which will become increasingly available or which the student can produce by scanning traditionally spelled material into a computer file which is then entered into the Respeller program available for free at http://NuEnglish.org, or (2) attempt the difficult task of learning traditionally spelled material. For most students, this will require a one-on-one tutor for at least one year.

Although some students will be able to make the changeover to traditional spelling without too much difficulty, others will not. The lack of logic and consistency in traditional spelling can be a serious problem for some students, including some very intelligent students. In fact, some of the more intelligent students will have trouble because they look for logic and consistency when learning something new — and failing to find logic and consistency can be a severe source of frustration for them.

This is the reason that some of the spelling systems designed to be a stepping-stone to traditional spelling — such as Initial Teaching Alphabet— have been abandoned. This is why Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc. are proposing that our chaotic, ridiculous spelling system be replaced with NuEnglish, rather than using NuEnglish as a stepping-stone to traditional spelling for beginning students. This is why Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis was written and provides overwhelming evidence to justify the change. This breakthrough books provides details that most blog readers do not want to spend the time studying on the internet. The Amazon.com detail page for this book contains an editorial review and numerous customer reviews — one four star review and nine five star reviews (the maximum) — as well as other valuable information about the book and how it came to be written. Click here to go to the Amazon.com detail page.

About bcenglis

Bob Cleckler is a retired Chemical Engineer. In 1985 he read Jonathan Kozol's shocking new book, "Illiterate America." He decided to use his research skills as an engineer to see if there was a solution to the problem. He spent more than a year in his research. He read EVERY book he could find on the subject of his research. He read dozens of books from the large Marriott Research Library at the University of Utah. Based upon his findings, he developed a solution to the problem of English illiteracy. It is a PROVEN solution. Dr. Frank Laubach spent his entire adult life teaching adult illiterates around the world how to read in more than 300 alphabetic languages. Dr. Laubach proved that he could teach students, in 98% of the languages in which he taught, to read fluently in less than three months. His books, "Teaching the World to Read" and "Forty Years With the Silent Billion," never mention being unable to teach ANY of his students to read fluently.

Cleckler collaborated with Gary Sprunk, M.S. English Linguistics, to perfect his solution based upon Dr. Laubach's experience and findings. Two non-profit educational corporations were formed. Cleckler is the CEO of Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and Vice Pres. of R & D of NuEnglish, Inc. Gray Sprunk is President of NuEnglish, Inc. Cleckler's award-winning book, "Let's End Our Literacy Crisis," originally published in 2005 is now available on our website, http://LearnToReadNow.org, without cost or obligation for the Second Revision, released in late 2012. This breakthrough book covers:

A. the tremendous need for improving English literacy. Cleckler found research proving (1) that 48.7% of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate, defined as being unable to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job, (2) that 31.2% of these functional illiterates are in poverty, and (3) that they are more than twice as likely to be in poverty because of their illiteracy as for all other causes combined. Furthermore he found at least 34 types of serious physical, mental, emotional, medical, and financial problems that illiterates must endure every day of their lives that we would consider a crisis if we had to endure them. Cleckler also found that illiteracy costs EVERY U.S. adult -- readers and non-readers -- an average of more than $5,000 each year for government programs that illiterates use; for truancy, juvenile delinquency, and crime directly related to illiteracy; and for the higher cost of consumer goods due to illiterates in the labor pool and in the workforce.

B. the causes of illiteracy. Before any problem can be solved, you must find the cause. Otherwise you can spend huge amounts of money fighting the symptoms of the problem without preventing the problem from recurring.

C. the preferred, proven solution to the problem. We have been fighting the symptoms of the difficulty in learning to read English for almost a century. Although numerous changes in American education have been implemented in the last century, none of them solve the foundational cause of the problem. Almost half of U.S. students never become fluent readers, and most of the ones who do become fluent readers require at least two years to learn to read well enough to continue increasing their reading skills after third grade, when most reading instruction in school ends.

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