(The following was written in 2008);
I have been a high school English teacher for 14 years. I remember in college wanting to
know how to teach children to read. I went to a teacher college established in 1910. The
school had one of the oldest colleges in the country. Its College of Education
enjoyed an excellent reputation. I asked three different professors how do you teach
reading I received three different vague responses.
After I completed my second year of teaching. I realized that my students could not read. I
taught grades nine through twelve. The second year, I had three classes of ninth graders. I
assigned the novel To Kill a Mocking Bird for them to read. I realized that most of my
students could not read the novel’s literate narrative.
It was during this time that I heard Samuel Blumenfeld interviewed on shortwave radio.
At this time the Rodney King verdict had come in and there was rioting in the streets of
LA. He said that the reason the people were rioting was that they did not have jobs. They
did not have jobs because they were illiterate. He said you could tell they were illiterate
by listening to the lyrics of the songs they listened to and by the way they talked.
I was intrigued by what he said because it verified my experience as a high school
teacher. He then said the schools were at fault because of the way they taught reading. I
was again intrigued because of my experience in college trying to determine how to teach
children to read. I was never taught it in college.
Mr. Blumenfeld had made two provocative statements on the radio, but I knew them to be
true because of my personal experience. I then decided to buy a couple of his books,
including Alpha-Phonics. My third year of teaching, I had a class of ninth graders that
consisted of the worst performing students in the school These students were in the
dropout prevention progI3IIL They were waiting until they turned sixteen to drop out of
schooL I teach in our state’s poorest county and our district at that time had a high drop
out rate. Also in the class were several students from Mexico and one from Haiti. These
students were speakers of other languages (ESOL). Their only problem was that they had
a limited understanding of English. Every day in the class was a strugg1e with disruptive.
behavior, and if I could finish class without a student being sent to the office for
discipline problems, I considered it a success.
(Sam Blumenfeld teaching children)
The students bad chronic discipline problems; they bad trouble with the law, every
problem you could imagine. After two months of getting absolutely nowhere with the
students I decided that I would try an experiment. I was going to use Alpha-Phonics
beginning with lesson one to teach those that wanted to learn how to read. I told the class
that those that wanted to learn would sit 0n this side of the and those that did not
were to sit on the opposite side of the 100m. The only rule was a student could not
interfere with the Alpha-Phonics lesson.
Until this time, everyone sat scattered around the back of the room, as I did not have a
seating chart. Any student, when given the option will not sit in the front of the room
with the teacher. The stage being set, I began the first day by reading the directions from
the “Teachers Manual” to Alpha-Phonics and beginning with lesson one. I wondered
what response I would get.
I was shocked by the response of the students. Nothing could have prepared me for what
happened. If someone had told me what would happen I would not have believed them.
With the exception of a few students who sat on the other side of the room because they
did not want to participate, all of the students followed along as I wrote the lessons on the
board. l would write the lesson on the board, read it out loud, and then have them read.
The students leaned forward in their desks and followed along.
The next day the students all sat in the front of the room. Everyone would raise their band
and want to read. Indeed, after the first few days, the students would fuss among
themselves to read out aloud. They fought over who could write the lessons on the board..
Everyone wanted to read aloud. Everyone sat in front of the room. There were no
discipline problems. The entire class had been transformed. I bad discovered a disturbing.
We worked through the book; and about halfway through the book, we began reading
Sounder and The Old Man and the Sea.. One youth in the class who could not read and
who had been a behavior problem told me that every night he would sit with his dad as
his dad read the sports section ofthe papers.. He said be always wanted to read the paper
with his dad, but he could not because he did not know how to read.. A few weeks after
starting Alpha-Phonics, be entered the class one day and told me that as he was driving
down the road be began to sound out the words on the signs.. He was excited because he
was never able to do that before.
We had started Alpha-Phonics in October and the semester ended in December. I would
not be seeing the students anymore. We had completed about three-fourths of the book
and read the two novels. I would begin each class by doing about 15 minutes of Alpha-Phonics and then read from the novels. The students were eager and well behaved. The
youth who began reading the signs told me that in evening he could now sit with his dad
and read the sports section along with him. They would talk. about what they had read.
Three: Spanish-speaking students learned English this way
The following year, I tried another experiment. I had one student who was identified as
having ADD/ADHD. He was notorious. He was a ninth grader. This was his first year at
our school. I had another student who was in trouble with the dean’s office constantly. I
gave both of them Sam’s Blumenfeld Oral Reading Test (BORT), and they scored
between the 1st and 2 grade levels. I made an arrangement with other teachers to have
both students come to my class fifteen minutes while I did an Alpha-Phonics lesson
Because I began in August, I was able to finish the whole book with them by Christmas. I
gave both students the BORAT test. One boy had doubled his reading score and the
other was close behind him. The boy with ADD/ ADHD was never antsy or hyperactive
when he was working on the lessons. He was a completely different child when he was
with me. 1ndeed, his teacher would often allow him to stay the whole hour with me
because he bad many behavior problems in her class. He never bad a behavior problem
when working on Alpha-Phonics, neither did the other child who was constantly getting
into fights and being When these two youngsters worked on Alpha-Phonics
with me they were totally different children.
The following year, I worked with some other children. I had developed a system where I
would set aside ten minutes each class period and do a few lessons while the rest ofthe
class would work: quietly on their own at their desks. I would use the BORAT to identify
the illiterates in my class. I would then ask them if they bad ever had an A in English.
Invariably they would say, “‘No.” I would ask them if they would want one. They would
say, “Yes.” I then would say that all they had to do was work with me for ten minutes a
day on Alpha-Phonics until we were done with the book. When we were done with the
book, I would choose several pages at random for them to read from. If they could read
the pages to me., they would receive an A. I told them that that was all they had to worry
about in the class. I was not interested in what they did regarding the usual coursework..
That was the incentive I offered them. It was up to them.
One youth bad failed the ninth grade and was taking his ninth-grade English class over
again with me. He was also taking his tenth grade English class. His tenth grade class met
next door to mine first period. He would then come to my class second period. His tenth
grade teacher was the same one he took the year before, the class, which he bad failed. He
was working ten minutes a day on Alpha-Phonics for several weeks, when one day the
door that communicated between my room and the neighboring room opened. It was his
tenth grade teacher. She called me over to her and asked what it was I was doing with
him. I told her Alpha-Phonics. She said, “Look!” The whole class was watching Channel
One and chatting. It was during homeroom. The whole class, except this youth, who was
busy reading a book I had given him. The teacher was flabbergasted. She knew he was
illiterate and could not believe that be was able to read.
One day I was working with this boy at my desk when we had a new student enter the
class. He had just been released from a juvenile detention. He knew the youth I was
working with and sat by him as we worked together. He was curious about what we were
doing, and I explained it to him. He said that he could not read either. He explained that
he started having trouble reading in the third grade. He said that when the time came to
read aloud be would intentionally get into trouble so be would be sent to the office so that
he would not have to read. He could not take the embarrassment. He did not want anyone
to know that he could not read. The boy I was working with chimed in and said that he
was the same way. They both recounted events when they would get into trouble on
purpose so they could avoid reading. They wouJd even start fistfights. The boy who had
been in juvenile detention was sent there because be bad set fire to the junior high school
The following year I had finely established my regular ten-minute routine in my class,
and every year after- that I would have students who would participate. One year I was in a
staffing meeting for a boy who was labeled as a special education student with learning
disabilities. The special education staffer, whom I had never met before asked me what I
was doing with the boy. The reason she asked is that she was with the boy’s science
teacher when the science teacher had reported that the boy began volunteering to read
aloud. The science teacher was astonished. We live in a small community and the teacher
had known the boy ever since kindergarten and had known that he could not read, thus
the placement in the special education program: Here he was volunteering to read aloud
in her class. I told them what it was I was doing.
There is one case that haunts me. I had a big strapping youth who was seventeen years
old. He had failed ninth and tenth grade English because he could not read. He was in my
ninth grade English class. I had given him the BORAT test, and he was at about the 1-2
grade level. A typical case. We began working ten minutes a day. After a month I gave
him the book Sounder, and he told me he was reading it at home. We wen: about halfway
through the book when he no longer showed up in my class. I learned that he had moved
away. I do not know if he ever completely learned how to read. He was a decent well-mannered youth who would show up ever day, was polite and carried a big stack of books
with him. He was waiting for someone to teach him to read.
My daughter was born in 1996. I remember seeing the little girl read in the Hooked on
Phonics commercials and wished my daughter could read like her. When she was two, I
began to teach her how to read during my summer vacation. She would take naps then,
and I followed the advice in the teacher’s manual. I set up a routine. Every day, before she
took her nap, we would sit together. Following Sam’s advice, I appealed to her intellect. I
said, “”It is time for our lessons.” I began by following the alphabet pre-reading exercise in
the back ofthe book. Again, following Mr. Blumenfeld’s advice, I did not pressure her or
scold her, regardless ofher behavior. Some days, she wuuId kick at the book and giggle. I
would say, “You did a good job today!” And I put the book away. We would continue
tomorrow. It went on like this for several months.
When school started again, she would do the lessons with me before we went to bed. She
enjoyed the routine and the lessons. One evening, while my wife was in tbe room, she
took out the book on her own and began reading from lesson two: “Am, Sam, Hear the S
sound,” she said Then, – “Sam sat.” My wife could not believe it. “Did she
memorize those words?” She asked. “No,” l replied, and then explained the method.
When she was three, we were driving down the road when she said, “Look Momma,”
pointing to a sign, “‘Marshal’s, there is your store.” My wife could not believe it. When
she was three, there was one occasion when our daughter was at Sunday school. Her
teachers were arguing over whether or not she was reading the colors on the crayons..
‘”She’s memorized them,” said one. “‘No, she is reading them,” said the other. The colors
she was reading were purple~ fuchsia and magenta. Magenta was her favorite.
The spring before my daughter began kindergarten, she could read fluently any word in
front of her. We were at a spring festival when my daughter and her friend bought soft
drinks. My daughter” read the inside ofthe cap, whicb told whether or not you had won a
prize advertised on the side ofthe can. My daughter read the label effortlessly, which
included the words vacation and discovery. “‘She is a genius!” exclaimed the father.
My daughter’s friend asked her dad to read the soft drink label to her. I told the girl’s
father that his daughter could read as well if he used Alpha-Phonics with her. I said,
“‘Follow the lesson manual and be patient, do not pressure your child, as Mr. Blumenfeld
said and in a year or so she will be like my daughter.”
That fall I saw the girl’s parents and asked how she was doing. He said his daughter had
not really taken to the book yet. (His daughter” had just started kindergarten, as mine had.).
I said “be patient and keep going. ” Meanwhile, my daughter” was reading at 2nd grade
level; and during kindergarten reading time, she would go to a second grade class for
reading instruction. The following year I saw the girl’s dad again and asked him how she
was doing in first grade. He said that his daughter was reading at a second grade level and
was being tested for gifted and talented.
Meanwhile my daughter entered the first grade and soon afterwards was referred to the
gifted and talented program. She won the spelling bee and Math bash just as she did in
kindergarten. I used Samuel Blumenfeld’s How-to-Tutor to instruct her in math. In
second grade, she read at the seventh-grade level and won all of the reading, spelling and
math prizes and was elected to the school’s hall of fame. She has bad straight A’s in
every class. She learned to read with Alpha-Phonics and learned math with How-to-Tutor.
While my daughter was in first grade, I was asked to sit on a parent teacher committee.
While on the committee, the mayor of our town complained to the principal that be had
been on the committee for three years and that the committee was always talking about
doing something outside of the box when it came to improving the school’s reading
scores. Regardless of what the committee did to improve reading scores., they were
always the same. The principal said that he was open for suggestions outside of the box.
No one had any suggestions so I said that I was familiar with the method of reading
instruction in the public schools and that was what was at fault I said that I had a method
that worked better. Indeed, I said that I drop my daughter- off at school at 7:30, I could
walk into any class, give a ten-minute lesson and still arrive at the high school where I
teach in time to sign in a 8:00 am. I said that if anyone doubted me, I get a paycheck.
every two weeks with a comma in ii. ~ let’s put it on the table and keep the tourists out.” I
wanted to let them know my intentions were serious.
. They took me up on the offer, and a first-year teacher volunteered her class. I began the
first Monday after spring break. I only had six weeks to work with the children. I made
transparencies of the Alpha-Phonics lessons and followed the teacher’s manual. I only did
a ten-minute lesson. The teacher combined her bottom students with the reading
teacher’s bottom students. After two weeks, the mother of one of the children
approached me. She said, “‘I am glad you are working with my daughter. A while back the
school called me up to their office and told me there was something wrong with my
daughter. She bad a learning disability. I cried for two days,” she said. I told her not to
listen to anything the schools told her, to be patient and to watch what happens.
A week after school was over, I saw the mother again and I asked her how her daughter
was doing. She said that the school had called her up again and told her that they had
given her daughter an end of the year reading test showing that she had a 40%
improvement in her reading and they and were going to put her into an advanced class.
The following year, I was asked to do the project again with a first-grade class. I worked
ten minutes each morning. I was only able to complete three-fourths of the book. The
school’s diagnostic test revealed that of the children who were able to complete the
project successfully, not one had a reading disability. The makers of the diagnostic test
said that you could expect 20% of the children to have reading disabilities.
I once was explaining to a student why children have reading problems. When I finished,
a girl from the other side ofthe class, who I thought was not listening, said, “This is what
happened to my brother. He is in the fourth grade, hates to read and gets stomach aches
and headaches.” I told her that his troubles were over and gave her a copy of Alpha-Phonics. Four months later, I asked how was her brother doing. She said be completed
the book and reads just fine.
I had the same success with students in special education, who were labeled as
learning disabled or educatable mentally retarded. I have 100% per cent success with
every student. The only variable is the speed at which students progress. You must follow
Dr. Blumenfeld’s advice and be patient. Do not pressure the child.
I have many other- heartbreaking stories about children who have quit school because they
did not know how to read, and no one will teach them. I have had children take a copy of
Alpha-Phonics and keep it to teach friends they know, how to read. I encouraged
everyone to try Alpha-Phonics. The results you see in the child are truly miraculous.
It must be seen. to be believed.
(Copies of Alpha-Phonics can be ordered from Camp Constitution’s on-line book store: http://campconstitution.net/product/alpha-phonics-by-sam-blumenfeld/
And, the free on-line version with all 128 lessons in either video or audio: http://campconstitution.net/blumenfelds-alphaphonics/