Improve Reading and
Language Skills

Notes toward an experimental or
demonstration remedial program

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

We may finally be getting an opportunity to demonstrate some of the more ready and powerful ways to improve reading skills. Some of this bears not only on reading but on language skills and learning skills generally.

A few of the notes we've put together pursuant to this project, we've decided to air out here in hopes that educators, clinicians, professionals and schools everywhere may decide to look into more effective approaches than those they have been using.

It doesn't really matter whose method works, so long as the job gets done:  so long as millions of human beings become much more fully able to participate rewardingly in our human civilization and to make their contributions therein.


"If all you have is a hammer,
everything begins to look like a nail."

Most schools, clinics and professionals have only one method or set of methods for remedying reading or language problems. Students who don't fit that particular problem-profile.....well, somehow it's their fault they aren't "getting fixed," and not the provider's. We respectfully submit:

Reading problems (and language skills deficiencies, and learning deficiencies generally), have a multitude of possible causes just as a headache has a multitude of possible causes. Treating of all remedial reading problems with one standard method is akin to treating all headaches with an aspirin.

Some very basic causes of such problems aren't even touched by most standard remedial programs.

o   Shortwindedness
For example, half or more of all remedial reading students in high schools appear (by incidental observation pending any scientific surveys) to be shortwinded. As the breath acts as pace-maker for attention span and awareness span, shortwindedness means that many sentences break up in meaning before the person can listen or read to its end.

This dynamic is easily tested in your immediate personal experience by running or some other aerobic activity until you are panting, then trying to read or do some other focused-attention task before your breathing settles down.

o  Impaired eye coordination
Another example of how a major cause of reading problems is missed in standard reading programs: the victim's two eyes tracking a moving target wobble, stutter, jump, blink from discomfort, or otherwise are impaired in their ability to read out information on a page, and the information-accessing brain functions associated with various reflexive eye-movements are correspondingly impaired.

Getting 20/20 corrected-vision eyeglasses doesn't touch this more fundamental eye problem, nor do the drills in conventional remedial programs. As many as half the participants in remedial reading programs appear to suffer noticeable impairment of coordinated eye function.


The first two methods cited in the menu below, between them, should address directly the problems of a substantial majority of the test populations involved.

Regarding the tests, you need two forms of the same test — one for before and the other for after the intervention. Some considerations in designing a program of testing:

  • A must — high performance ceiling, or no ceiling. Have room to show up large improvements in performance, not merely small ones. We've seen studies with such low test ceilings that NO improvements could show up, the experimenters then announcing authoritatively that no improvement or benefit was found with the item tested!
  • Prefer broad spectrum of relevant skills being tested, not just narrow bandwidth on one skill.
  • Prefer we collect anecdotal data as well. Results will vary widely individually, and it'd be nice to develop further information on the super-breakthroughs.
Regarding test groups:
  • The experimental group, on whichever method or methods cited below, should number 15 or more participants for statistical purposes.
  • The control group, 15 or more participants, standard treatment under best conditions.
  • The other control group, pursuing a different accepted method which FEELS experimental to the participants and, if possible, to its instructor, but yielding a known value. Comparison between this group and the true experimental group eliminates "experimental aura" and gives a truer reading of the results.

Menu of Project Renaissance methods
for improving reading

Underwater Swimming
Screen participants for shortwindedness. Any whose comfortable breathing span is less than 40 seconds, put into a program of held-breath underwater swimming, building toward the point where they can reasonably hold breath underwater for two to two and a half minutes.

All participants can gain somewhat from such a program, but the main impact on reading scores is on persons with a short breathing span. Please see details on this approach free on this website, in Two GUARANTEED Ways to Profoundly Improve Your Intelligence. (You are welcome to print out that article to include in the printed submission of this proposal to third parties if needed.)

Ping Pong
Set up several ping pong tables and encourage all experimental participants to get as good as they possibly can at ping pong. Screen all participants for how smoothly and comfortably their eyes track after a moving target.

All participants whose visual tracking problems are deep and/or who don't rapidly improve with the ping pong, are to be reviewed and treated by a developmental optometrist or developmental opthalmologist (listed on the Web as "behavioral" optometrists and opthalmologists). Do not confuse these with "regular" optometrists and opthalmologists.

A more detailed description of this aspect will become available with completion of the new edition of our popular book, How to Increase Your Intelligence.

Describing aloud
Arguably the most powerful builder of language skills (including reading) is to attempt meaningfully to convey experience to another person by describing it, through a succession of experiences which increasingly challenge one's very ability to describe.

We can provide a series of paired-partner and small-group descriptive exercises, both oral and written, which produce this increasing challenge from whatever level. The advanced, high-level challenge form of this procedure, at the very upper end of ability range, is illustrated by the "Beautiful Scene Describe-Aloud" procedure provided in our book Beyond Teaching And Learning.

This procedure is fairly motivational. After a story has been presented, one is asked to make believe he is one of the characters in that story. He is then to make-believe he is in one of the scenes in that story, and to describe in as good a detail as he can what's going on and what's in that scene there for him as that character.

He then is asked how he, as that character, feels about this or that in the scene, which he then describes. Then he is asked why, as that character, he feels this or that way about this or that in the scene.

By this point, your subject is giving pretty sophisticated responses to the story and, more important, is beginning to experience the story as a human experience, that he could be part of such events, that stories and literature are a meaningful way to experience things and to learn about them.

Discussed in our listserve, Image-Streaming, this process is an expansion on the initial strategies outlined in the first chapter of Beyond Teaching And Learning. That chapter is free online as Two GUARANTEED Ways to Profoundly Improve Your Intelligence. You are welcome to print out that article to include in the printed submission of this proposal to third parties concerning this project.

Subject is strongly encouraged and guided to visualize as he goes, what's being said in the story. This may make slow going at first but brings subject strongly toward the fiction-reading patterns of fluent readers, and helps motivate. In language skills generally, we think it best to build fluency first, THEN work whatever corrections to bring responses toward correctness.

As abilities improve, we can engage Freenoting, mostly orally but eventually written. This exercise should be useful not only for its own sake, but because many beginning and remedial readers are deeply inhibited when trying to express themselves in writing. They may have much going on in their heads, but they'll stare at a blank sheet of paper, convinced they can't think of anything to say. Addressing this inhibition directly, and getting them into the flow of writing and communicating, is one of the keys to success in this program.

At somewhat higher levels, once participants have been taught to Image-Stream, have them predictively pre-vision the contents of challenging textual material they are about to read. This exercise greatly improves both reading comprehension and reading speed and is an important secondary reason for teaching the experimental subjects to Image-Stream. The primary reason is that the practice improves the general abilities of the participants across a broad spectrum of skills and functions, integrating the brain toward better levels and qualities of performance.


General considerations
All our methods and techniques are gradually being reworked in keeping with what has evolved in our Feed-the-Loop theory and model, which are laid out in some significant detail and also may be printed out as part of a proposal submission to third parties.

Wherever opportunity arises, with whichever methods are in use in the experiment, find ways to increase and improve the output of learners, clarify their feedback, and/or otherwise support the flow of traffic back to that main point of learning and growth, where the learners are taking back in some portion of what they have been putting out.

We must note that other methods just as effective, perhaps even more effective, can be derived from the same principles, especially if the researcher in search of such methods goes through several rounds of the Toolbuilder procedure provided on this website. We care more that the reading, language and learning problems of human beings get solved than who gets credit for solving them.

One other practical note — children 6 months to 4 years old do best with whole-word and pattern recognition, similar to the Glenn Doman method. This may hold, at least in part, for subjects who are at an equivalent mental age. Children and adults 6 years of age or older, who are just starting to learn to read, will definitely need some help from phonics instruction.

I presume most or all participants in this first study will be of an age or mental age appropriate for phonics, such as Bird-Stick-Ball or Hooked-On-Phonics, and that some phonics instruction of some professional form and calibre will be included in the general course of remediation even with the truly experimental group.

We believe prevention of reading problems is far better than remedying them after they've happened. Please see in this regard the Winsights column, "Readiness". We will be happy to help researchers who complete studies in this topic to publish their results. We are happy to advise schools, clinics, and researchers undertaking such a study. Please address your comments and questions to Win Wenger. Thank you for your consideration.


Comments to
Win Wenger

You may freely copy or even publish this brief, including its copyright notice and this note, in whole but not in part.
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