January 24, 2015

If you are the parent of a child who is about to start or has just started public school, odds are your child will be exposed to ineffective teaching methods - especially in reading and arithmetic.

If your child has developed a good fund of general knowledge and a large vocabulary, he or she has an excellent chance to succeed or even thrive at school and eventually be claimed by the system as one of its successes.

However, there is also the possibility that your child will not do well in school, especially if he is a boy who lisps or is immature.

There are steps that parents can take to ensure their children's success in school. Whether or not your child falls into a high risk group, he or she will benefit from appropriate “schoolproofing” - which means either giving preschoolers a head start on reading and arithmetic or providing struggling students with effective out-of-school instruction.

The Society for Quality Education recommends the following resources to parents wishing to schoolproof their children, and we are delighted to be able to provide free e-mail support on request. Click here to ask for help with a specific problem or situation.

The Stairway to Reading and Stairway to Math programs listed below are supplied free-of-charge by SQE. The other materials listed are available for purchase from the sources noted. SQE does not benefit financially from any purchases made at these sites.

This page is provided as a free public service by the Society for Quality Education.


For Children Already in School


This is an easy-to-use program for developing phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency and (to a lesser extent) vocabulary and comprehension from levels K-3. The lessons are clearly laid out in an easy-to-follow fashion. The program developer, Dr. Michael Bend, has drawn extensively from the best features of Lindamood-Bell, Phono-Graphix, Direct Instruction and recent research on fluency and accelerated learning to incorporate the critical components in an easy-to-use way. The materials are inexpensive, and the author answers questions and runs a Yahoo group to assist users of the program, whether they are parents, teachers or tutors.  


Funnix is a beginning reading program developed from the extremely effective Direct Instruction (DISTAR) reading programs which have been successful with tens of thousands of disadvantaged, learning disabled and special-needs children. DISTAR has also been used to accelerate the progress of young gifted students. Funnix is for parents or tutors and is a CD-based program. The adult controls the mouse, and proceeds to the next part of the lesson only when the student is successful. There is a workbook for Funnix 1 and a storybook for Funnix 2. Funnix 2 takes students to a late second grade reading level. Fluency work and writing skills are incorporated into each lesson. There is a placement test and parent instructions included with the CD, and the authors are responsive to questions through the web-site.

Academic Success For All Learners

Dr. Alan Hofmeister at Utah State University took some of the federally-developed linguistic phonics materials from the 1970's and re-issued them with support materials for parents and teachers. These are very engaging little decodable books with plenty of practice built in as children learn to apply their phonics skills. Included are sound and word review pages and periodic benchmark tests. There are many free resource materials on the website, and Dr. Hofmeister or his staff will answer questions and are very helpful on the telephone. The quality of the books is very high: nicely-printed on sturdy, glare-free heavy paper, designed to withstand repeated use.

Reading Success (for reading comprehension -- Grade 3 & up)

Dr. Bob Dixon, author of several Direct Instruction programs, has turned his talent to producing some materials to teach reading comprehension strategies to middle grade students who have difficulty with summarizing, finding the main idea, inferring, and so forth. The materials have a lot of Canadian content. Direct instruction strategies are used. The teacher/parent needs to explicitly demonstrate the strategy, do it with the student, and then monitor as the student applies it independently. This product is for students who have at least Grade 4 level decoding skills. Rewards (decoding skills for older kids, plus non-fiction reading strategies) This is an excellent program for helping middle and secondary students develop their skills in fluent decoding of long words -- circumnavigation, heterogeneity, transcontinental, etc. -- which make up such a large part of content-area reading. REWARDS Intermediate teaches the same word decoding strategies, but with vocabulary appropriate for students in grades 4-6. The later lessons in each level concentrate on building rate and fluency. These programs are designed for whole class usage (students can work in pairs on the timed reading segments), but can easily be used by tutors or parents.

Sound Readers Crazy Cards

Kids love to play these card games, which practise and reinforce their ability to decode words with various vowel sounds.

Stairway to Reading

This is the only free program that we recommend. It is the Society’s own reading program, for one-on-one use with students who have received some instruction but are struggling with reading. The program’s logic is similar to that of Phono-Graphix, and includes a teacher’s manual, student reading material, lessons, and supplementary activities. All components can be downloaded from the Internet free of charge, and it is very easy to follow.

Teach Your Children To Read Well

Michael Maloney, of the Quinte Learning Centre in Belleville, Ontario, has developed this program (grade 1-8) for home-schoolers. It combines Direct Instruction and Precision Teaching techniques in a user-friendly way. There are many free resources available on the website as well, and the author is responsive to questions via e-mail or the 800 telephone number. A condensed version, Toolbox for Literacy, is aimed at tutors working with older students who need intensive reading assistance and rapid skill development.

On-Line Practice and Games

For Preschoolers

Anchors and Sails

The author is a teacher who taught her own children to read. Her relaxed, fun, pragmatic approach is very suitable for young children.


Headsprout Early Reading is aimed at children aged 4-7, but can also be used with older struggling readers who lack decoding skills. It teaches the essential skills for reading in an engaging way (the music and graphics are outstanding), and both school- and home-users are offered a money-back guarantee (some conditions apply). Children can do the online lessons independently, but need to be monitored by an adult to ensure they are following directions and reading out loud. The stories can be printed out and need to be read with a parent or other adult. The first half of Headsprout is appropriate for 4-5 year old children; the second half takes readers to a middle second-grade level. There is a great deal of information for parents and teachers on the website, and the research base is extensive. An internet connection is required, as the instruction is individualized to each child and delivered "live." Customer support is outstanding.

Leap Frog Learning DVD's

Children love these DVD's and ask to watch them over and over. Before long, they know their letters.

Primary Phonics Decodable Readers

These charming little stories are beloved by young children, and help to ease them painlessly into literacy.

Teach Your Child to Read in Just 10 Minutes a Day

This book outlines Sidney Ledson's simple but effective and fun approach to teaching very young children to read.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is an earlier adaptation of DISTAR reading for parents, and is very popular in the home-schooling community. On this site Dr. Phyllis Haddox, a co-author, offers other resources and some training materials to help parents using the book, which is aimed at very beginning readers (ages 4-6).


City Creek Math

These games use a "fun way" approach to addition and multiplication tables, engaging students by connecting facts to visual images, stories, and songs.


JUMP Math is primarily intended to be used by teachers in the classroom. It offers a complete package of resources intended to cover the curricula for grades 1 to 8. While JUMP Math has developed into a mainstream set of curriculum-based resources, it is intended to be flexible and can be used as a support in after-school tutoring by schools and community organizations, as well as by parents at home.


Math·U·See's goal is to help produce confident problem solvers who enjoy the study of math and can apply what they learn in everyday situations. The students learn their math facts, rules, and formulas, and are able to use this knowledge in real life applications. The program includes memorization, but it also encompasses learning the concepts that are critical to problem solving. Each level is an integral part of a complete and comprehensive K-12 curriculum. While each book has a specific theme, Math·U·See continuously reviews and integrates previously mastered concepts.

Saxon Math

Saxon Math is a complete K-12 program. It is the only major math program that systematically distributes instruction, practice, and assessment throughout the academic year, as opposed to concentrating related concepts into a short period of time - usually within a unit or chapter. Saxon Math's unique approach to ensures that students not only gain but also retain essential math skills.

Singapore Math

Singapore students were in first place in the 1995, 1999, and 2003 TIMSS international comparison of math achievement, and a close third in 2008. The Singapore students who took the test were using the Primary Mathematics series. Singapore Math is suitable for classroom, home-school, and enrichment settings.

Stairway to Math

This is the Society's own free program. It is not an effort to reinvent the wheel by presenting a comprehensive course for the elementary grades, but rather provides free mathsheets with practical help for that parents who wish to work with their children on basic arithmetic concepts. Teachers may also get some good ideas from our mathsheets on how to present and practise certain key concepts.

On-Line Practice and Games

For Preschoolers

Anchors and Sails Math

The author is a teacher who taught her own children math. Her relaxed, fun, pragmatic approach is very suitable for young children.