Sing, Spell, Read & Write

In 1982 I met Sue Dickson at a Reading Reform Foundation conference in Toronto, Canada.  It was my first contact with the many creative authors of reading programs.  I had just become the Director of the National Institute for Education at the U.S. Department of Education and was most interested in learning more about how reading instruction was taught in U.S. Schools.  Sue invited me to visit her classroom in Rahway, New Jersey and I did that in 1983.  What I saw in that classroom has stayed with me ever since.  The students were excited to have class begin.  As the lesson unfolded I watched as one student would stand in the front of the class and point to letters on a large, colorful chart called the Ferris Wheel.  Pointing at a letter the student would lead the class in singing the sounds of each of the letters identified by the long pointer, and the bright eyed students excitedly repeated the song and the letter sounds.  Students vied for the opportunity to be the “leader.”  As the class progressed the intensity and excitement and learning become infectious.  I felt like i wanted to participate!  It was of particular interest to me that the  students were already reading some of the interesting books in the class.  As a result of this first hand experience I became a believer that learning to read was not just a boring process, but rather one that engendered excitement and participation by ALL of the students.  Since then Sue’s program has progressed from being the creation of one teacher to a very successful reading program that is being used all across America and in many foreign countries as well.  Chicago schools announced earlier in 2014 that Sing, Spell, Read and Write was being adopted in 90 elementary schools.  Pearson Publishing Company now owns the rights to this program.  However, Sue retains the rights to the Winning program that uses the same foundational principles, but is designed at an interest level for intermediate students and beyond.