Everyone Can Read is a structured programme for teaching reading. It is used mainly
with pupils with poor reading skills in secondary schools, but is promoted for all
ages from six years old to adult.
Suzanne Attwooll, author or Everyone Can Read, began to develop the programme when
she found pupils at primary and secondary schools in Australia and England who could
not read well enough to cope with the curriculum. She is one of those few people
who could see what was wrong with fashionable teaching methods thirty years ago and
was able to develop something more effective.
Everyone Can Read is an impressive programme and I am happy to recommend it. This
may come as a surprise to those who, like me, promote synthetic phonics as the best
way to teach reading. The lists of ‘consonant blends’ to teach and the ‘400 Words
Sight Vocabulary Programme’ do not look like synthetic phonics. However, a closer
look at the programme gives a different impression.
What is good about Everyone Can Read
· It is particularly suitable for upper primary and secondary school pupils with
reading ages of 7 to 10 years. There are several excellent synthetic phonics programmes
on the market for younger children and for older pupils with poorer reading skills,
but not as many for this group.
· It is practical and obviously written by someone who understands what it is like
to teach pupils with reading difficulties in school and how to encourage those pupils.
· The resources are well organised and easy to follow. They include manuals for the
teacher, workbooks for pupils and CDs with optional resources, including templates
for making games and resources to use with an interactive whiteboard.
· Assessment sheets are provided to establish a starting point for the programme.
· Central to the programme is the teaching of letter-sound correspondences, put to
immediate use to read words by blending sounds and spell words by listening for the
sounds in the spoken word.
· It teaches the alphabetic code, progressing from simple to complex, in a highly
· Every lesson includes revision, letter-sound correspondences, word reading, handwriting
if necessary, word and sentence dictation and activities to reinforce learning.
· Lessons are interactive, multi-sensory, fast paced and follow a routine teachers
and pupils can get used to.
· Words and sentences for reading and dictation include almost exclusively letter-sound
correspondences that have been taught.
· It systematically teaches frequently used words with unusual spellings.
· Prefixes, suffixes and compound words are introduced early in the main structure
of the programme, so pupils are able to read long words that include only what has
been taught. In addition, two sections of the programme are devoted to reading, spelling
and understanding multi-syllable words, by building from root words, prefixes and
suffixes and discussing their meanings and derivations.
· A section on reinforcement activities has practical suggestions to supplement lessons.
Concerns about Everyone Can Read
· The section ‘400 words Sight Vocabulary Programme’ is partly based on the National
Literacy Strategy High and Medium Frequency Word Lists, with no distinction made
between words which are easy to decode and words with unusual spellings. Nowhere
is it suggested that teachers should encourage pupils to use the phonics they know
to read the easy words and help pupils identify the ‘awkward part’ of the words with
unusual spellings (as recommended by the Reading Reform Foundation). However, a pupil
following the core phonics programme is likely to use phonics to read the easy words
and so to gain confidence. It is less likely that teachers help pupils to use phonics
to identify the awkward parts of words with unusual spellings, although Suzanne tells
me that she does do this.
It should be noted that there are similar lists of common words in ‘Letters and Sounds’
(the government’s synthetic phonics programme). It is true that teachers are clearly
told in the guidance that “it is advisable to start from what is known and register
the ‘tricky bit’ in the word”, but this guidance is not in the same place as the
lists and there is evidence that teachers do not always take notice of it.
· With synthetic phonics, the emphasis is always on the phonemes in words and not
on larger units. Everyone Can Read’ is based mainly on phonemes but it also teaches
consonant blends, prefixes and suffixes as units.
There is a grey area between asking pupils to memorise numerous consonant blends
and asking pupils to practise blending consonants so that they can read words fluently.
On balance, the way consonant blends are presented in this programme is likely to
help pupils blend sounds more fluently. The effect on spelling is more of a concern.
Pupils are asked to ‘tap’ out the words, but they use one tap for each consonant
cluster and not one for each phoneme. I would expect this to increase the risk of
a child missing one of the consonants. For example, when spelling ‘splash’, one tap
for ‘spl’ instead of three might result in ‘spash’. Suzanne has told me that this
is not a problem; if a child misses a consonant, he is simply asked to listen to
the word again more carefully; the teacher emphasises the sounds, and the pupil then
There is no advice given as to how to teach pupils to read prefixes and suffixes
that have letter-sound correspondences not yet taught (e.g. ‘-er’, ‘-ly’). For spelling,
pupils are told to refer to the board where they are written.
· Some of the games and reinforcement activities depend on teachers finding time
to photocopy, cut and laminate resources. This is time-consuming and a problem for
busy teachers. It is a problem with other phonics programmes too.
Evidence of Success
I have seen data from two small groups in different settings, showing remarkable
pupil progress. The fifteen pupils involved started the programme with reading ages
of 7 to 11 years and, after about three months, all except one showed good progress
in standardised reading comprehension tests (NFER and GRT) and ten of them made over
two years progress.
I spoke to a special needs co-ordinator from a large secondary school that uses Everyone
Can Read. The school provides three half hour lessons a week for the weakest pupils
in Years 7 and 8. They use the lesson structure and the games from Everyone Can Read
and have found the programme practical and successful. A teacher from another department
reported that one boy involved in the programme was really excited to find he could
read a book in her lesson that he could not have read before.
To find out more about the programme and training, email email@example.com
or telephone 024 766 74841.