Acorn to Tree LLC was created by NYS certified teacher and mother Patrice Badami.
Patrice Badami has a Masters in Elementary Education and Special Education. She has advocated for families of special needs children as well as for her own children with special needs.
Acorn to Tree Learn and Grow was created to help all children and their families have access to free educational and recreational resources.
Certified reading and dyslexia specialist and developer of The Learn Reading Program
Today we spoke with April McMurtrey, a certified reading and dyslexia specialist and developer of The Learn Reading Program. We discussed how her program is a multisensory approach to reading. We discussed specific methods for teaching reading: including learning words with precise vowel placement at certain times to encourage children to feel confident in their reading. April has recently written a book available in January about evaluating your child for dyslexia at home. If you would like to be put on the waitlist for that book, you can follow the link here.
Here’s the link where people can find my resources and place themselves on the book waitlist: https://linktr.ee/LearnReading
You can get in touch with April by contacting her at her website:
You can find April on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/learnreadingofficial/
Patrice Badami 0:02
Hi, this is Patrice Badami with Acorn to Tree Family Podcast. Today I have April McMurtrey; she’s here. She’s a certified reading and dyslexic to close; excuse me, dyslexia specialist. She’s a developer of the Learn Reading Program. And she’s here to talk to us about multi-sensory reading programs for struggling or dyslexic readers of all ages. Thank you for joining us today; excuse my little slip of the lip there. She’s going to talk to us about multi-sensory reading. So what is that precisely? What does the program entail?
April McMurtrey 0:37
So multi-sensory Reading Instruction includes using more senses than just one. So many people think that reading instruction or that reading has to do with your eyes, what you see on the page, and how you decode or decipher what you see in the printed text. But reading has more to do with auditory processing than visual processing. And so part of the multi-sensory instructional experience includes a strong foundation in phonological and phonemic awareness because a student has to have, mainly a dyslexic student, they have to learn to isolate, discriminate and manipulate all the tiniest units of sound within a word. So that when they look at the printed word, they can understand that each of those graphemes has a job and a sound that goes with it. So if that phonological processing part and then being able to decode those sounds, all in order, and accurately understanding why those sounds say what they do, that has to be part of the experience, plus, multi-sensory experience, especially in the Learn Reading Program includes a lot of tactile stuff, you know, we want to include as many senses as possible, at the same time, so it has a better chance of connecting a connection, all of those senses connecting, to create a beautiful whole experience.
Patrice Badami 2:11
I will say I’m working with my daughter and using your videos. I’m explaining to her how, rather than to memorize the many, many sight words they call it, sometimes they call them snap words; there’s a that the teachers have encouraged me to put up a word wall; it doesn’t have meaning if they can’t read something separate from memorizing it, they’re not going to be able to make maybe, maybe they’ll memorize certain words, but they’re not going to be able to take their knowledge of breaking down the sounds and move forward with a word they’re not familiar with. If they can sound out each letter and put it together, they can move on and read anything you put in front of them. It’s a crucial thing to understand. Exactly. Well, that’s what I Yeah, that’s what I’ve wholly absorbed from this, and I even created a book with the different concepts that you have. What is there’s one thing that stood out to me, which was pencil reading; what exactly is pencil reading?
April McMurtrey 3:11
So that’s part of that multi-sensory experience. So this is teaching them. First of all, we’re teaching them how to identify. So when I talk about a grapheme, I’m talking about a letter or a set of letters that makes one sound. So it can be a grapheme, or just the letter P can be a grapheme. A vowel team like AI can be a grapheme, and even try a grapheme like tch or D GE. So it’s a letter or set of letters that makes one sound. So we have we teach them what each grapheme is and what sound it makes based on where it is in the Word and the surrounding letters. And then that teaches them how to read like you were saying, not how to memorize and not how to guess but how to read, putting that pencil in their hand, and then having them dot place a dot underneath each sound, as they look at this at the graphene. And as they say, it is all at the same time. That’s three senses, at least. Sight, audio, and tactile. Yes, I said the audio word, right, but oral and tactile all the same time that kinesthetic, visual, and auditory work simultaneously to connect that connection. And then, they put a dot underneath each grapheme, as they say, the sound, and then they associate those dots slowly, all in one breath, to keep those sounds in order so they can decode a real-world word or nonsense word.
Patrice Badami 4:46
Right? Yeah, and definitely, the other thing I want to validate is having a tactile piece for a child with ADHD, sensory issues, and that type of stuff. That’s something they’re coping with; it will give them something physical to be doing. And they like to keep moving. And so if they’re able to as, they’re saying it, yeah, it has more meaning it’s, it’s what you’re doing, you’re providing them with not just the information, but you’re reinforcing it by using different senses. So you’re reinforcing by giving them three other senses to deal with, then they can really help them to make, they’ll be able to make the sound and have a more engaging experience. It’s crucial for children with special needs.
April McMurtrey 5:36
There’s something about putting that pencil in their hand because some teachers will demonstrate that, you know, they will put a dot underneath each sound, and that’s good. Let’s take it a step further and put that pencil in the child’s hand so they can understand what the graphemes are and what they say, and connect them all together.
Patrice Badami 5:57
The whole concept behind multisensory is to provide them with more than one way to absorb and make the information meaningful. So yeah, I was going to say, what exactly is the McMurtrey method?
April McMurtrey 6:13
So it combines three techniques; pencil reading is the first technique. The second is called the vowel placement strategy. It’s what I call the vowel placement strategy. And that is what you must know before you can even pencil read. That is to understand what those vowels are going to say based on where they are in the Word and the letters that surround it so that when they go to pencil read, they will know what that vowel is going to say without having to guess without having to run through all of their sounds before they find one that makes sense. So, for instance, they will know that if they come to this, for the most part, this is typically written English as full of Rule Breakers. But typically, if they come to a vowel, and the next two letters are consonants, that vowel will make its short sound. If they come to a vowel, and one of the next two letters is about another vowel, that person will probably make its long sound. Other examples are if they have to see if they see an A at the beginning or toward the beginning of the word. And they see a vowel two doors down, that first day will make the schwa sound. Right? See an A at the end of a word like America, Panda, China, or Dakota? That will make the schwa sound the same if it comes almost to the end of a multi-syllable word and the last few letters or consonants that will make the schwa sound. And we have all these rules for what the hell was going to say when. So that appeals to their logic and their intellect. And it turns reading into more of a math problem with logical equations that they just have to figure out, which they can; they’re smart. Somebody just has to teach them the why of all these things. And then they can read it without guessing.
Patrice Badami 8:00
Just as you said, this idea came into my head. The sound is very similar to the concept behind touch math. It takes that concept home and makes the child own it because they’re touching the dots in the sense of the math and making that doctor; they’re feeling more in control. And by backfilling and control. They’re feeling independent by feeling independent; they’re going to be prompted by their feelings to move forward and learn more.
April McMurtrey 8:31
Yes, we’re giving them ownership and control of the word.
Patrice Badami 8:34
Yes, absolutely. So what are monster letters?
April McMurtrey 8:40
Okay, let me give you that third part of the McMurtrey method. And that’s the give-a-goal strategy, a good segue into Monster letters that provide a goal strategy when a child makes an error while reading a word. In most situations, we will tell them the error rather than the word itself. So, for instance, I’ll answer both questions while bringing in those monster letters, L and R, which will make up most of the errors students will make while reading. I call those the monster letters so students can be aware of what they are, and it’s the letter’s fault, not their fault. They are four “monster” letters; those are LNR and S, and new readers will slip those sounds into words where they don’t exist, they will slip out of words where they were intended, and they will be transposed and slip around within words. And so when we “give a goal back” to the McMurtrey method, a student reads the word blend. When the word was actually bend, they said blend, but the word was bend, then what you would say is, “You know what, there was an L that got in right after that, so when we read this word this time, make sure that your tongue doesn’t go between your teeth after the sound, but it goes straight up to the air.” This gives them more feeling, more multi-sensory experience because they’re taught when they’re thinking about how that word feels and looks on their face and their patient, and give them a mirror. So giving them a goal puts them in charge of their reading progress, instead of us just saying, “that’s wrong,” you know, the reader is trying again, they’re like, well, right, what’s wrong with it? If you tell them what happened and where then they can try it again, concentrating on fixing what happened the first time.
Patrice Badami 10:43
And that’s especially important. Because if you have a child with speech, delay, or speech issues, or they have a, perhaps tongue tie, or tongue breast, and they already are struggling with the AR and the L, which my daughter does, they’ll get frustrated. If you say, say it again, do it again, because she does get frustrated. So by putting the mirror there, she can look at her face and begin to see what it looks like and feel her face. You can have her put her hand on her face with see what it feels like. And by saying it’s a tricky letter. It’s better than saying; I don’t understand what you said; say it again because that’s where you start to lose.
April McMurtrey 11:23
Yeah, so you can say, it was that spot that “he” tried to get in right here. We have to take these “monster letters, LNRS” and put them to the side, I have my students put that l in time out. Okay, you are going to put “him” over there, and you will be in charge of that LMRS; “he” is going to try to get into your word, but you are not going to let “him”. And yeah, so we concentrate and learn reading on showing the shape of the sound, feeling the shape of the sound, knowing precisely what shape your mouth should be in when the correct sound is formed. So when there’s a tricky spot in a word, you will tell them that your mouth has to go from this shape to this shape without anything else happening with the tongue, the lips, and the teeth. And if they can transition from one shape to another, those sounds come out perfectly.
Patrice Badami 12:15
Right? Yeah, I created these letters shaped like monsters. I don’t know what one day I just made these. And it’s one of the free resources on my website. Printing them lets you pull out the L, N, R, and S, and you will see that they are already cute monsters and can engage your child immediately. I did that because I thought it was cute. But it is just as I just said; you know what? Putting the “monster letters” in front of them makes your child feel validated in their reading attempts. But they understand; it’s the “monster letters” fault, and you’ll make it a game. And they’re very colorful. So that’s a thing you could do to help with this process. So here, how does teaching each letter sound in a word help a child read any word as compared to memorizing sight words or snap words? We discussed that. But how would you elaborate on that?
April McMurtrey 13:06
We teach well, in. In my adult and advanced classes, we only teach nonsense words; I only teach nonsense words; I have a list of 100 nonsense words so they can learn the rules for what each letter says. And apply it to a word that is not “real” so they can have confidence when approaching the real world. Real-world words prevent when you have nonsense words; prevents familiarity; it prevents them from thinking that they’re all they know this word; it just starts with the first couple of letters must be this because we’re not talking about “real” words. It prevents guessing because you have to figure out what each grapheme says to be able to read that nonsense word correctly. And that helps them approach “real” words more confidently.
Patrice Badami 14:03
Right? That’s terrific. I love that idea. Because then they don’t have to get stressed that they’re not saying the word. If you put that in front of them, they might not be able to say it in his in the proper way grapheme that is with the th, but if you have so, they’ll get they’ll be concerned. Sometimes they might shut down on certain sight words because they’re unsure. So if you have nonsensical words, they’ll be able to focus on the sound; you’re not worried about anything else. That will take away the pressure and the worry because they worry about these things that are fumbling.
April McMurtrey 14:41
Right is teaching them to read, not to guess in memory.
Patrice Badami 14:47
When teaching an emerging reader, why should you put the vowel in the front?
April McMurtrey 14:54
Okay? Because that was in the beginning and the middle and make a very different sound and Bell As at the end, let’s take the a at the beginning and middle of the next two letters are consonants are going to say, I already talked about when a is going to change to the schwa sound, and it has its own rules, but a at the end will always say ah. “E” at the end is usually silent. If there are no is at the end, only the word Hi, though the sound I at the end is spelled with a Y Oh, is it the end say oh not ah, and there is no use at the end of words. So, if we’re going to, we want to teach them all of the because is reading all over the wires. And so if you put values at the end, you’re teaching them incorrect rules is going to say something other than what the let that vowel was intended to convey if you’re teaching the short vowels. You put that at the end; then you’re going to have to reteach them that will that vowel at the end doesn’t say that. So it’s essential to keep those ballots in the beginning in the middle and progress systematically through the reading rules so that they can continue to apply them without having to be Miss taught and have that.
Patrice Badami 16:08
That makes sense, especially with the letter Y. I see that would be confusing. So yeah, teach that words with the vowel at the end after going through the middle and beginning.
April McMurtrey 16:21
So every like and learn reading, we teach each grapheme-phoneme combination in frequency order that it appears in everyday authentic reprint with the vowels and the grapheme. The consonants being introduced are mixed because they’re all in frequency order. So sometimes a P would come before an O, a long O comes before a short oh, it just depends their stack layer upon layer, in, in the order that that rule or that sound for that letter appears in English print. So every grapheme and every sound of it will get its lesson. So why at the end of a multi-syllable word usually says? E that’s going to get its lesson lie at the end of a multi-unit syllable word, monosyllable word, a one syllable word usually always says I, that’s going to get its lesson why at the beginning of a word as a consonant, or at the beginning of a syllable is going to get its lesson in the order that they appeared, Pierre so that all of those rules can be learned systematically, and be able to build upon themselves and not break each other’s rules they’ll learn.
Patrice Badami 17:34
Because once you start showing them words that are breaking the rules, you’ll lose the capacity to do that later wholly; you don’t want to do that because then they’ll start becoming very uncertain about what they’re doing. They may shut down, and we don’t want that.
April McMurtrey 17:49
So that’s why controlled text, what I call controlled text, is very important not just to throw any book at them as you’re teaching them these things, but they have to be words that they have learned the rules for how to read so that they will not rely on guessing.
Patrice Badami 18:04
Right, right. How can you teach a child to watch the shape of their mouth, the mouth that their mouth makes, when they’re reading a word, if they are adding an L, it is essential for them to understand the shape of their mouth, which can be life-changing. We discussed already that having a mirror in front of them helps them to see. And then having them touch their face allows them to feel. And so that’s important, because then once again, we already spoke about the monster, the monster words that monster letters, pardon me, when you put them in front, they’ll be able to discern one from the other, if they have these different ways of checking themselves if you will.
April McMurtrey 18:47
Make that yes, and have them tell you what’s happening with their mouth. So once they pronounce the letter appropriately, like, like a, like an F sound. Ask them to tell you exactly what’s happening in their mouth. Where are their lips? Where are their top teeth in relation to their bottom lip? What’s happening with their voice box? What’s happening with their tongue? That way, they can, as long as they’re pronouncing the letter correctly, then they will generate those answers for themselves. And then that will just deepen the understanding of what’s happening.
Patrice Badami 19:22
And they’ll make the connections between the sound and the feeling. So the connections are the most important thing you want them to do. You want them to make those on their own as individuals so they’ll have an aha moment. Understanding it’ll cement it in their eyes, in their mind. What is Why is it a good program? Why does that include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension? Why is it?
April McMurtrey 19:51
Well, because it’s it wouldn’t be comprehensive if it didn’t, and all of those things need each other. So, for instance, in the Learn Reading Program, each lesson has a phonemic awareness exercise page. Because if you don’t have solid phonemic awareness skills, nothing else matters in reading. So we continue to strengthen that with every single lesson. And then there is a sight word page which now you just have to know that I call sight words different than what other people might call sight words. What I mean by sight words is not anywhere that can be decoded but only words with irregular spelling, and there are very few of them. So we teach that has its own page, then we teach pencil reading or decoding applied, phonics has its own page. And then, we work on vocabulary and reading connected texts. So we take the words from isolation and put them in connected text, which helps them to comprehend. We have so many different comprehension strategies that appeal to the different student’s skills and talents so that they can make that connection that you were talking about. So you can’t have good comprehension without a good vocabulary. You can’t have a good vocabulary without good comprehension. And you can’t develop fluency without reading the text, right without passages, reading things in context. And you can’t read words in context without understanding what they are in isolation and how to read each phoneme. So they all just kind of build on each other. And to be a comprehensive program, you need the whole package.
Patrice Badami 21:36
Yes. Many people don’t understand the phonics piece from years ago, phonics; they taught it differently. Phonics, now they’re taking it and incorporating it with the other skills. So they’re putting it all together at one time they had, they taught phonics in isolation when I was a kid, they didn’t include these other pieces, by including all these pieces, in addition to having the multi-sensory experience, it’s going to hit this concept of literacy in a global sense, it’s going to make a lot more meaning for the child. But it will have the child not just make the sounds in the phonics piece. Still, they’re going to have the comprehension; they’re going to end by you taking it once they learn it and putting it with a few other words to make it contextual, meaning that’s important for them. So they’ll just that’s why you have to be very careful when you’re trying to give the readers. If people sometimes ask me, “Well, there are only three words on the page,” some parents feel there should know more than that. You can’t have too many words on a page for beginning readers; it will overwhelm them. Three words on a page will provide meaning for the word they’re trying to learn. You don’t need to have a whole paragraph. That’s the entire point of it being the beginning stages of the reading. Yes, early diagnosis and intervention are crucial, changing the Predict trajectory of the dyslexic student’s academic career. There are many early signs of dyslexia; if you suspect it, please do your child’s favorite and pursue a dyslexia screening. What would information could you offer families about that?
April McMurtrey 23:18
It is in it is imperative to know if your child has dyslexia or not so that they can get the kind of instruction that is appropriate for a dyslexic learner and which is also, I might add, suitable for every learner, but a dyslexic learner has to have. So the earlier you can screen somebody for dyslexia, the less they will struggle in school because they will be able to progress just as well as their peers. With that understanding of what is happening, Dyslexics have to know the whys, which is so as a dyslexia specialist, this is why I designed to learn radio program, excuse me, the Learn reading program the way I did, so it will, it will be appropriate for dyslexic and all learners. So screenings. I have all people that message me almost daily asking how can I get my child’s screen. There are several answers for that, but this is why I have just submitted a book to the publisher they’re working on right now, so I am going to give the screening power to the parents. So this book is about screening for dyslexia and won’t be available until January, but it will. It will have a dyslexia screening for every age, from age five to well through adulthood to age 105, so you can screen for dyslexia at home. Know what it Is that your child needs to succeed. And the earlier, the better.
Patrice Badami 25:04
Right? Because I was going to say, I since I, since I’m in a position where my daughter was, we were determined that she’s early dyslexic as well. We did a neuropsychological evaluation, but your tool of having this in a book will be much better because you can do it yourself. No one knows your child the way you do. And the idea that you can continue to go back to this as a resource that’s there. It’s terrific.
April McMurtrey 25:36
Yeah, so it’s, it’s inexpensive, you know because it will just be a book. But it is also essential, and I have this in several places in the book; they must know it needs to be a comprehensive assessment. Because it is not, it doesn’t include an IQ test. Yeah, which can only be done by certain professionals, is a comprehensive screening so that you can know for pretty sure if your child is or is not dyslexic; there are nine different screening tasks in their super comprehensive questionnaire. And by the end of that whole process, they will know if their child is not dyslexic, and then the book will tell them what to do if they are; it will not be appropriate to demand formal accommodations on an IEP in a public school system. It is more for homeschooling and private school use because it is not. It’s, it’s done by us untrained, professional parents.
Patrice Badami 26:36
Yes, but it’s always important to have that type of resource on hand to validate something you possibly already suspect for yourself. And remember, when a child has dyslexia, that doesn’t have anything to do with their IQ; their IQ could be pretty high. They need to look at things differently. It’s like driving to the mall; you need to have a backup, another idea of how to get there; if there’s congestion, you’ve taken another route; it’s another route for them. It’s not that it doesn’t limit them; you shouldn’t be concerned if they do have it; the fact that you’re reading these materials, you’re ahead of the game because then you’re going to validate their needs.
April McMurtrey 27:13
That is beautifully put. Yeah, and so several parts of the book talk about the benefits of dyslexia, how their brain is different, and how they have strengths and talents that the rest of us don’t. Right. So it’s a cause for celebration.
Patrice Badami 27:31
Cher is dyslexic. As a side note, I just threw that in because I’m a Cher fan. But the point is that your child has to have a different route to get to where they need to be; you’re there to help guide them. And what I would like to talk about is how April McMurtrey is a wonderful resource. I want you to look for her on Instagram; you’ll be able to find her on social media and tell us some other places.
April McMurtrey 27:58
So on Instagram, it’s called Learn Reading Official. Okay. YouTube, I believe I am “Learning Reading Official” on Tik Tok, and I am “Learning Reading” on Facebook My website is “Learneading.com.”
Patrice Badami 28:20
Right? Can you provide the listeners with a link for the show notes so they can pre-order your book and get any information about it on your website and social media? What we’re going to have in the show notes is we’re going to have all of the links that April just spoke up about; we’ll have all the information you can reach out to her. I’m so happy to have had April McMurtry on today, teaching us and explaining to us what multi-sensory reading programs are, why they are essential, and how they can help your child. And I’m so glad everyone joined us and listened in. Thank you so much, April, for joining us. And you’ll have all the information once again in the show notes. And you can find us on every platform for podcasts. And it’s also going to be on the website. So on my, that’s equal to three.com. So once again, thanks for joining, and you can reach out to April with any questions or concerns about what we just discussed. Thanks a lot, April. Thank you