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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'

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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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Pamela Parker

says:

I love your analogy! You are so right about the “gaps”! What I find frustrating is that students are not given enough time/practice to master each rung… The fast pace in which a curriculum is taught can have detrimental effects on many kiddos… Thanks for sharing your wisdom! I am so excited to try All About Spelling! I have a feeling that it is just what I need!
Pam :)

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Pam! Yes, moving through material at the right pace is crucial for learning success. Too slowly, and students are bored and don’t make their best progress. Too quickly, and the material isn’t mastered and there are holes in learning. All About Spelling is designed so that you can move through the material as quickly or as slowly as your child needs to allow for the best success for each learner!

Veronica Robbins

says:

Yes please

Katelyn Evans

says:

There was definitely a lot of gaps in my boys reading skills. So happy that I switched to AAR! It has been so thorough!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Great to hear that All About Reading has been thorough for your boys, Katelyn! Thank you.

Justina

says:

This article is very helpful!! I love using All About Spelling and All About Reading with my kids!

BK

says:

Enjoying AAS. My 1st grader just finished Level 1! The rules are complimenting the Language Arts curriculum we are using and she is flying through!

Robin

says: Customer Service

It sounds like your 1st grader is doing so well, BK!

Julie

says:

My son is excelling in reading and spelling thanks to this phenomenal program!

Robin

says: Customer Service

So great to hear, Julie!

Tracy Lynn

says:

This is why we’re switching to AAR after using another curriculum.

Christine

says:

We are so looking forward to using AAR again and starting AAS. Both my kids currently attend public school but we will homeschool them the last half of the year. I definitely feel as though my son has gaps in his learning. He is only six and gets frustrated with the idea of doing more “school” after a full day of being at school so I haven’t fully introduced the AAR program to him yet aside from having him read the level 1 stories after school. He reads them willingly and independently which I know is a huge confidence builder for him. Unfortunately, he is sent home with leveled readers for the AR program at school and he was using all the tricks to “read” like guessing and memorizing because there were just too many words that he did not know the rules for yet not to mention the length of some of the texts were far too long. It became very frustrating for him. I am looking forward to helping him grow in his love for reading and learning through AAR and AAS.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Christine,
I am so sorry your son is having to experience the frustration of being asked to guess and memorize to be able to read. I am glad to hear that he is doing well with the All About Reading Level 1 stories though.

Cherry Thorpe

says:

This article is very relevant. Many children do have these missing gaps. I am experiencing this with some of my students. I am doing my best to help fill this gap. Thanks for highlighting this problem.

Robin

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this article is relevant for you, Cherry. It is sad but true that many children do have such gaps in their learning, but wonderful to hear that you are helping them fill the gaps!

Misty

says:

This is a great article. My daughter is behind in all subjects since the pandemic.

Robin

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s gaps, Misty. Please let me know if I can help in any way.

MS

says:

We’ve started using this program and love it!! It’s making all the difference in my home!

Robin

says: Customer Service

I’m so pleased to hear that our program is making a difference! Thank you!

Jo

says:

Yes no gaps! My 1 & 3 grader had gaps in school, so now homeschooling them in grades 2 & 4. We’ve started on level one for reading and spelling and each are going through at different speeds. They can sense the momentum they are gaining with the mastery approach, and as they reach gaps they currently had they gain excitement & confidence over mastering them! They are excited to continue progressing in their skills! It’s exciting as a parent to see them get excited for reading and spelling!

Robin

says: Customer Service

This is so exciting and wonderful to hear, Jo! I love that your children can sense their own momentum and how excited they are and gaining in confidence! Great work!

Cindy Hardy

says:

As a parent of 3rd, 5th & 7th graders, I see gaps in their reading & spelling education. These were more obvious after the Covid lockdowns. I enjoy knowing that we can use these programs to better assist them now that we homeschool.

Teresa

says:

This program has really helped my son catch up on his reading.

Kim

says:

Program makes my teaching job so much easier

Kim

says:

Love the sequential spelling program!

Sarah

says:

So thankful for the products you offer. My daughter and son are benefiting greatly!

Lynda

says:

What a great analogy. It’s easy to understand and picture.

Jen Fischer

says:

Just discovered this program and it is high on my list for a spelling curriculum next year!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Wonderful, Jen! Let me know if you have questions, need help with placement, or anything else.

Martha

says:

Spelling is very difficult for a child with speech development problems. We are hoping this program will be beneficial to some degree for our child.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Martha,
We have had great reports from parents that All About Spelling being very helpful for their children with speech difficulties.

jess

says:

good article.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Jess!

Cindy

says:

I’m making sure that my child doesn’t have these gaps. Thank you for this article!

Robin

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Cindy!

KaraLynn

says:

I’m currently researching a spelling curriculum for my 4 kids, and this one has really been intriguing lately! I just started my 4 yr old boy on the All About Reading Pre-Reading level, and the spelling is next on my list to look at.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Let me know if you have questions, KaraLynn, or need help with placement or anything else. I’m happy to help!

Emily

says:

Great article! My son is bright but has a lot of gaps due to the pandemic. We are supplementing his education with homeschool resources including your All About Spelling program. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Emily!

Sarrah

says:

I’m considering this program for my child. He is an exceptional reader but struggles with spelling. Is the format laid out so that a left handed student can use it easily? I’m hoping to close spelling gaps.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Sarrah,
Yes! All About Spelling is designed to be used with letter tiles and paper and pencil. It is equally as effective for left or right handed students.

Melissa

says:

My child is above reading level but still struggles with his spelling. I hope this program will provide my son with the “missing ladder rungs”.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
It happens surprisingly often that a person reads very well but struggles with spelling. The two subjects are related, of course, but different enough that mastery in one does not assure mastery in the other. My second child had this difficulty.

Let me know if you have questions about placement into All About Spelling or anything else. I’m happy to help!

Liz

says:

Love All About reading! I have two kids doing the program and I can finally see progress in their reading. thanks to this amazing program 🙌 Thank you Jesus!

Robin

says: Customer Service

I’m so happy to hear that your kids are progressing, Liz! Wonderful!

Amanda

says:

So excited I found this curriculum! My son had and IEP in public school and when we pulled him I realized he has huge gaps! The curriculum we initially chose for him just wasn’t working so we decided we needed something that would work better for his learning needs. We start tomorrow!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
Please know that we are available for help if you need any. I hope your start went very well!

Katie Gindin

says:

This is a helpful analogy.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Katie.

Bree

says:

Great information. Thank you!

Robin

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Bree!