Snipplets from Tonight with Trevor McDonald
Trevor McDonald
Excerpts from:
Tonight With Trevor McDonald

Produced by: Granada Television
Episode: 'The Right to Read'
Aired: 27 July 2000


Reporter: "Highridge Infants is one of the schools that has chosen to take part in the trial. Nobody knows if any of these children are dyslexic, and if they are its unlikely that they would be diagnosed for years. But the theory is that the system will be beneficial for the whole class - and the task of introducing the new system has fallen to reception class teacher - Sarah Herring."

Sarah Herring (Bristol teacher): "I was very skeptical the morning I went on the course - thinking yet another course to go on but as soon as I sat down and listened I realised that it would be a really beneficial way of teaching reading."

Reporter: "Sarah Herring teaches a class of four year olds - obviously one on one teaching is not possible - But the Phono-Graphix method also allows strategies for whole class teaching."

Sarah Herring: "I have been doing it for four weeks at the moment and the progress is quite amazing - even parents are commenting that they've seen progress in their children."

Sarah Herring: "It's such a simple method of teaching reading, it's so uncluttered. They didn't understand that they were reading until we got a big book and we looked at some of the words and I said you can read this word. And then they realised that they were actually reading - and the sense of achievement then was phenomenal - we're reading, we're reading - it was lovely."

Trevor McDonald: "Bristol Education Authority has now analysed the results from its first year trial. It says pupils using Phono-Graphix were able to read new and unfamiliar words almost three times as well as children taught by other methods."


Reporter: "Lily Campbell was diagnosed as dyslexic five years ago. She knows what it is like going through school not being able to read."

Lily: "I tried to pretend to be ill on spelling test days so I wouldn't have to do it 'cause I got really, really, really nervous and I would start sweating. But this day we had a surprise spelling test. And she marked the test and she said all the marks out loud so every one can hear and I got 1 out of 20 which was so embarrassing and so horrible I just wanted to die. Everyone got 17, 18 and I just felt like crying and I was so upset.

Reporter: By whichever method Lily was taught, her reading improved only very slowly. As a last resort, her mum took her to the United States and Lily's reading age went from nine to 12.5 in one week."

Reporter: "Lily's reading age went from nine to 12.5 in one week. Lily was fortunate - her mum had found Carmen McGuinness, a teacher in the United States who developed Phono-Graphix."


Sarah Horner (Frankie's Phono-Graphix tutor): "I feel that he's done really well - he's worked incredibly hard in the sessions that we've done together and he's made a lot of gain in confidence and how he fells himself as a reader. "I offered him a book the other day and he literally leapt at the bookcase which was really lovely to see and I am not sure he would have done that. Frankie's underlying skills are now nearly perfect. His spelling has come up really well. He was spelling at the equivalent of a six year old child and now he's spelling at the equivalent of a seven-year-old child - so that's a gain of a year over about three months."

Reporter (to Frankie): "Tell me what [Phono-Graphix] work you've been doing at the Bloomfield Centre. "

Frankie: "Reading books and doing work on paper."

Reporter (to Frankie's mum): "What makes you so sure it's the Phono-Graphix system that's helped him and not just the one-to-one tuition with a teacher?

Mum (Tracey Stinson): "Because Frankie's brother Sean went to the Bloomfield Centre - he's been going for six years twice a week and until he started the Phono-Graphix system although he made progress it was very, very slow. And since he's been doing the Phono-Grpahix system he's come flying ahead."

Trevor McDonald: "Before using Phono-Graphix, his [Frankie] average mark for core reading skills was 32 per cent. Now, it's 96 per cent."


McGuinness: "The trick to Phono-Graphix is revealing that in a way that makes sense to him and very, very quickly. We were frustrated with the other methodology. Nothing worked with every single child - they weren't reliable enough to be able to look a parent in the eye and say we will be able to help your child."

Reporter: "Traditional methods teach that letters have sounds. This is the word, these are the letters, these are the sounds. Often taught through word families, it's several weeks before all the ways to spell one sound are taught, a method Carmen believes confuses some children. The method she's developed is based on the fact that children already know the sounds - they talk all day! They just don't know what symbols represent them in the written word. The key is to teach the child to break up the word into its sounds, explaining what letter combinations represent them - combinations Carmen calls "sound pictures"."

Reporter (to McGuinness): "How does the system actually work?"

McGuinness: "What we are doing is teaching children how to read and spell by analysing the pictures of sounds in words."

Reporter: "For example?"

McGuinness: "For instance, take the word "please" and how many sounds are there in "please" can you count them for me?"

Reporter: "P", "L", "EE", "ZE"

McGuinness: "Very good! Here is a picture of the sound "p", [McGuinness writes P on chalk board] the sound the "l" [McGuinness writes L on chalk board] the sound "EE" [McGuinness writes EA on chalk board], and the sound "ZE" [McGuinness writes SE on chalk board] . Plllllllleeeeeasssssse. And here we would teach the child to say each sound and then pull it all together until he has a meaningful word. In this case 'please'."

Reporter: "Carmen believes the child needs just three skills to learn to read. The first is segmenting - break the word into its component sounds. The second is blending - putting together sounds to form the word. Finally, after learning that letters can represent different sounds, being able to manipulate these at will [the third skill]. And certainly the results that Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness are claiming for their system are hugely impressive."

McGuinness: "Many systems can't teach some number of children to read, where we keep succeeding over and over and over. The children who come to us from all over the place, they have been through everything, they are the worst of the worst. We are getting kids who have tried everything. And they are all succeeding."