The “No Gaps” Approach to Reading and Spelling

Closeup of cartoon girl climbing ladder

Does your child have gaps in reading and spelling?

Hundreds of thousands of children struggle to learn to read and spell. They spend hour after tiring hour being fed information, only to eventually be tagged as “unable to read” or labeled with a learning disability that keeps them from being able to spell.

It’s hard to believe, but according to statistics reported in 2019, more than 60% of fourth graders in the United States were reading below proficient levels.1 2

That’s a staggering number.

Let’s think about that for just a moment.

If you lined up ten random fourth-grade kids from across the United States…

… only four of them would be able to read at a proficient level. Just four. Six of the children would only be able to read at a basic level or below.

Cartoon lineup showing 6 of 10 kids below proficient reading level

But if you live in certain states, it’s even worse: 72% of fourth graders in Michigan read below proficient levels. In New Mexico, it’s 77% of fourth graders. Among black students, it’s 81% of fourth graders. (Check out the reading stats for your state as reported by the U.S. Department of Education.)

However, these grim statistics don’t tell the whole story.

The Problem: Gaps

More often than not, the problem doesn’t actually lie with the child. Most reading and spelling problems are caused by gaps in the reading or spelling curriculum. Gaps are created when programs don’t follow incremental steps, or when information is taught in an illogical sequence. Such programs don’t build sequentially upon the information the child has already mastered. These gaps can cause lots of problems for kids. Here’s why…

Confused cartoon boy looking at ladder with missing rungs

Imagine Climbing a Ladder with Missing Rungs

You’re in front of a tall ladder, and you’re expected to climb to the top. There’s a reward up there, and you’re excited to grab it. You don’t know it yet, but this particular ladder has a few problems. In fact, the ladder has some missing rungs. But it’s your job to climb it, so you begin.

Climbing the first and second rungs of the ladder doesn’t present a problem—the rungs are adequately placed, and you can put one foot ahead of the other. But when you lift your foot for the next step, you hesitate…because there is a gaping hole where the third rung should be. In order to take the next step, you have to really stretch. You have long legs and a strong upper body, so you can do it—but it isn’t easy. You make that big step and pull yourself up the ladder.

But wait! When you take the next step, you realize that there is another missing rung in the ladder. Good thing you are up to a physical challenge! Reaching and stretching, you eventually climb to the top of the ladder and claim your reward.

But What If You Can’t Overcome the Missing Rungs?

What if your legs aren’t long enough to stretch over the gaping holes? What if you don’t have the upper body strength to pull yourself up to the next rung? You will likely become discouraged and defeated, and may eventually give up. Should you be labeled as having a ladder-climbing disability for not being able to climb the ladder?

You may think it’s your fault that you can’t climb the ladder, but it’s not. The cards were stacked against you from the very beginning. The ladder wasn’t well constructed, so the designers of the ladder are to blame for the failure. The problem isn’t with you; the problem is with the ladder and its missing rungs.

A properly designed ladder makes climbing to the top possible—even for a person with challenges that would make climbing a faulty ladder impossible.

Cartoon girl climbing ladder with no gaps

Learning to Read and Spell Is a Lot Like Climbing a Ladder

Each rung on the ladder represents an important concept that helps students get closer to the goal of fluent reading and spelling. If a rung (or concept) is missing, climbing (or learning) is harder than it needs to be. And as you can imagine…

…it’s much easier to climb a ladder that has all of its rungs.

For some children, a reading or spelling curriculum with missing steps is not a problem. Just as your long legs would help you climb a ladder with missing rungs, some children are able to intuitively fill in the gaps in a reading or spelling program.

But for many children, those missing steps present an insurmountable obstacle. Just like some people don’t have the physical makeup to climb a faulty ladder, some children aren’t wired to make the big jumps that many reading and spelling programs require.

Your Curriculum Choice Can Make the Difference Between Success and Failure

When I developed All About Reading and All About Spelling, I had a clear image of a ladder in my mind. I spent thousands of hours analyzing each and every step, making sure there were no gaps. I wanted every child to have the benefit of clear, concise, well structured, and fail-proof teaching.

(Click here if you’d like to view samples of my “no gaps” approach.)

All About Reading and All About Spelling teach through a research-based, logical sequence with NO GAPS. Both programs are “ladders” with precisely placed rungs that make it easy for your student to climb to the top, regardless of his age or ability. With this approach, kids can successfully climb to the top of the ladder—step by step by step—and reap the rewards of mastery in reading and spelling without all the struggles along the way.

We guarantee it!

Download my free e-book to discover twenty more tips for teaching reading and spelling!

Free report - '20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling'

1. nationsreportcard.gov. Accessed 12/4/2019

2. McFarland J., et al (2019). The Condition of Education 2019 (NCES 2019-144). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, page 91. Available: nces.ed.gov.

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please help. i want to write on reading but would like to know the gaps that really makes reading to become so difficult in foundation phase. teachers are teaching but learners cant read why is there no corellation between the two. what causes the gaps

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That is an excellent question, Gloria. There has been extensive research in recent decades into what methods of reading instruction works with the vast majority of children, but sadly many school districts are not using these methods. As this blog article explains, many programs have gaps that leave children leaping or guessing to be able to move forward with reading. Some children are able to make those leaps, but many need to be taught every little step and concept to be successful. Programs like All About Reading that are based on the The Orton-Gillingham Approach ensure each little step is covered thoroughly.

In addition, often when an older student is struggling, the focus will be to try to get the study reading grade-level materials. But students struggle when they are missing foundational skills and concepts. Instead of grade-level intervention, they need to go back to the foundation and work with a Mastery-Based approach.

If you want to research the issue further, look into the term “The Science of Reading.”

I hope this helps, but let me know if you have further questions.



Hi……my son fail grade 7end he’s 16year this year, plz hepl me , I’m looking for slow learner school around cape t town or East London

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope you can find a school to meet your son’s needs, Amanda. You may find our Signs of a Reading Problem blog post helpful as well.

Azhar Ansar


very useful explanation with simple example.
thank you very much.
we expect more from you.

Cassandra M


Thank you!

Malissa Diver


My daughter is 10 and has dyslexia. She struggles with reading and spelling. This year we are homeschooling because 100% online wouldn’t work for her. She did the placement test for spelling and I bought the book but now I’m wondering if the reading program would work for her. What would you suggest?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, All About Reading will help your daughter as well. It focuses on all aspects of reading, not just decoding but also vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, figurative language like personification, and more.

Start with our All About Reading placement to help you determine which level to begin with. But if after going through them, you have questions, just let me know and I can help you narrow it down.

Let me know if you have questions or need more information.

Aneeta Khoso


Lovely thanks so so much for sharing. God bless you



I have 3 boys. They are 8, 10, 12.
I have two that hearing impairment and my oldest has focus issues. My middle struggles with reading and they all have issues with spelling. What would you recommend. This will be my first year homeschooling. I found they need another way to learn.
Any suggestions or recommendation is appreciated.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We recommend All About Spelling with all of your boys, and possibly All About Reading with the younger two. We have placement tests to help you determine which levels to begin with.

Those that struggle with spelling almost always need to begin with All About Spelling level 1, but older students can move through that level faster by quickly skimming the things they already know and slowing down for the concepts that are new to them. Our blog post Using All About Spelling with Older Students details how to do this.

All About Reading’s and All About’s Spelling focus on multisensory learning, using sight and touch as well as hearing, helps make them very helpful for students with hearing impairments. In addition, we have been told from hearing impaired students that our focus on rules and patterns, such as syllable division rules and how they affect vowel sounds, is a great help. It gives a visual or tactile means for determining vowel sounds the majority of the time.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information. I’m here for as much help as you need before, during, and after using our products.

susie n weaver


Do you have a placement test available for older students?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Our placement tests are the same for students of all ages. Take a look here. You may find our Using All About Spelling with Older Students blog post helpful.

However, since you are coming to All About Reading or All About Spelling from another Orton Gillingham program, we may need to work together to help you decide the best level to begin with. If you need help beyond our placement tests, email us at support@allaboutlearningpress.com.

Christine Schendel


great info , very helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad this was helpful for you, Christine. Let me know if you have any questions or need more information.

Becky H


I absolutely love this program. I’ve been homeschooling for 30 years. I bought this program to use with my youngest. I wish I had it for my other children when they were learning to read and spell. It is so much better than any other program we have used. He’s in 2nd grade and reading proficiently at a 4th grade level. It is easy to use and my child really enjoys the stories in the readers. He has a solid foundation that will serve him well for life.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing this, Becky. With so much experience under your belt, your opinion means a lot!

Michelle Burke


Thamks…vital informstion.



I would love if you could develop a program online so kids could be taught and use the letter tiles on the computer.



I’m pretty sure they have an app for All about Spelling that you can do this with. I haven’t tried it yet but saw someone post about it under a different blog.



I love this concept of no gaps; I’ve been teaching for six years; three of those have been with two children ages 12 and 8. My eight year old can read well but the twelve year old struggles and I don’t know where to start! What level would benefit my kids the best level to start with for them both?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We have placement tests to help you choose the best levels of All About Reading to start each of your students with.

However, if one of them struggles and the other reads well, it’s unlikely that one level will be best for both of them. Our blog post Tips for Teaching Multiple Kids Together covers the issue involved. If you must get just one level, use the placement tests to choose the one that will help the struggling reader since the younger is reading well.

Please let me know if you have any questions.



I thoroughly enjoyed going through the program reading. I definitely can relate to the contents and strategies. My experience with struggling children see great improvement once the logical approach is applied. I see a boost of confidence being regained. I wish My region would begin to understand the issues and challenges that we set out for our children as we teaches them to spell thinking this will aid their ability to become better readers.. I began using the program with 3 pre- K students between 12 -6 months ago and I am so proud of the progress . All 3 are reading with confidence at their level and are enjoying it. The samples are very useful and I plan to purchase the program soon.

Elizabeth Be


I love this curriculum! I have a younger girl (7) who is reading above her grade level and an older daughter (9) who is reading below. Both have been on this program, but because they are so different I would have been lost as to what I was doing “wrong” or “right” with each child had it not been for AAL. I have assurance that they do not have gaps, whatever their level, and I remind myself that each child learns at their own pace. I am very thankful I have AAL resources to encourage and guide me through this. :) Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m very happy to hear that All About Reading has helped you to have confidence in teaching your two different learners each at their own pace. Thank you for sharing this.



Im so grateful for the resources here!

Amy Rapp


Can these programs be used to fill in the gaps for a struggling reader?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes. All About Reading and All About Spelling have both been used successfully to help students that can read but struggle to become confident, successful readers. Often, when a student struggles it is because he or she is missing foundational skills. All About Reading and All About Spelling allow you to move at your student’s unique pace, going faster in the areas he or she knows well and slowing down when needed to master a concept.

We have placement tests that can help you determine where to begin in each program. If you have any questions or need more information, please let me know.

rachel Dupar


I’m have to say this is all so true! I’m a homeschool graduate and dyslexic and using AAR/AAS for my four kids and it’s been a HUGE blessing. It’s the #1 curriculum I recommed! No Gaps, well scripted, easy to use, fun and all you need for teaching reading and spelling!!



As a license teacher I did months of research of the type of curriculum needed for creating a solid foundation for my child to use throughout his homeschool education. I found All About Reading and Spelling to fit the idea of a multi-sensory approach.

Tamirah Williams


We love AAR and AAS. When I pulled my children out of public school and decided to homeschool I had researched many curriculums but quickly knew this one was going to be the right fit for my children and I wasn’t disappointed. My children went from not liking reading to now loving it. They have excelled in so many ways in reading and spelling since we’ve started this curriculum. Their confidence in reading is at an all time high and now writing has become something they have grown to enjoy due to their increased confidence in spelling.



This helped me understand my oldest sons struggle . He is in 5 5th grade but his reading and comprehension is way below. Being a reader myself I never understood it. Thank you.

Lynette Hunt


We love AAS. Rules go along with the lessons for a “no gap” approach.

Lauren M


Thankful for this program!!

Shellie H


I started a reading program with my daughter and quickly learned about gaps when I couldn’t answer why some followed the two vowell rule and why some didn’t I love this program so far

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I had a similar experience. It frustrated both my son and me that almost every story that came with the program we were using had a “rule-breaker” or exception that wasn’t taught beforehand. He did learn to read well, but what was frustrating for him was impossible to learn from for my younger children. All About Reading made all the difference for them!

Sally Rogers


Such a fantastic program. The statistics are likely the same in Canada. I teach students up to grade 8 who can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell, can’t add single digit numbers … This is so sad! The school curriculum is focused on pushing students through to achieve expectations — doesn’t really matter what level they achieve at, so long as they have the opportunity to learn. No time to address gaps. I use AAR privately and I so like the step by step approach. My goal is to fill in missing gaps.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

A wonderful goal, Sally!

Shelli A.


We love all about spelling. I started level 1 this year with my 4th and 2nd grader. My 4th grader flew through it and just started year 2. My 2nd grader i still working through it together. It’s great for filling those gaps!!

Sherry Fiscella


Love using AAR for our elementary program at our classical academy! No gaps is our goal!

Jennifer Storey


I love that you compare learning to read to a ladder. It makes the concept a lot more concrete.



Great article!! I’ve always felt that the reading method they are teaching my child at school had gaps…

Stacy Wiley


3 of my kids are in AAS! I learn from the rules myself as well

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