ALTA - Academic Language Therapy Association

Recommended Reading

ALTA members, their families, and their students recommend the following books about learning differences. Most are available from Amazon.

Overcoming Dyslexia

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Overcoming Reading Problems at Any Level

by Sally Shaywitz, M.D

This book is a must read for anyone whose life is touched by dyslexia--parents, educators, dyslexics, doctors, administrators and others.

Overcoming Dyslexia is a comprehensive, up-to-date and practical book that helps readers understand, identify and overcome reading problems. Dr. Shaywitz demystifies reading difficulties and explains how a child can be helped to become a good reader. She lays out an instructional home program for parents with exercises, teaching aids and invaluable resources that include a year-by-year, grade-by-grade, step-by-step guide.

Dr. Shaywitz dispels myths and shows how the effects of dyslexia can be overcome. The book also makes clear how the latest research, including new brain imaging studies, is uncovering the mechanisms underlying dyslexia and has led to effective treatments of all age groups.

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Unlocking Literacy

Unlocking Literacy: Effective Decoding & Spelling Instruction

By Marcia K. Henry, Ph.D.

Book Review written by Regina Cicci, Ph.D., Review Editor, Perspectives, Fall 2003, The International Dyslexia Association

The author discusses the processes of decoding and spelling and offers a brief history of written English. She then writes of her work regarding the layers of language--the Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Greek layers. We have heard Dr. Henry's presentations about these constructs and read her articles and chapters. To have these ideas as a foundation for the rest of the book is a treat. Each linguistic layer is reviewed.

Classroom suggestions regarding phonological awareness and language stimulation are given for early stages of reading/spelling instruction. For beginning readers the Anglo-Saxon layer includes consonants, vowels, spelling rules, recommendations for spelling, irregular words, syllables, morpheme patterns, interventions for fluency, and reinforcement at home are among the topics covered.

Advancing readers is a time for the Latin and Greek Layers. Subjects are: common morphemes, beyond phonics, Latin roots, Greek combining forms, and practice reading and spelling longer words. The chapter about competent readers extends the Latin and Greek layers.

Bits of Word Wisdom, which stimulate interest and fun with language, are peppered throughout the book. One hundred thirty-two pages form the appendices, which have brief surveys of language knowledge and word lists for the topics and rules covered in the body of this text.

The structure of Dr. Henry's approach is so good because it is clear and sensible. It is of great value to have the approach expanded at book length. Most of the reports I write about children include recommendations referring to her work. Some of us have been waiting a long time for this book. It is most welcome.

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Improving Reading Comprehension

Improving Reading Comprehension: Research-Based Principles and Practices

By Joanne F. Carlisle & Melinda S. Rice

Book Review written by Regina Cicci, Ph.D., Review Editor, Perspectives, Fall 2003, The International Dyslexia Association

This is a book for everyone who teaches or, in any way, works with children who read and/or experience difficulty with reading. A strength of the book is the authors' understanding of not only reading but also with the population of those who have difficulty with reading. Many books about reading and reading comprehension focus on either the process of reading or on developmental reading in regular learners.

These authors discuss the effects and interrelationships of language comprehension, language competence, and language use as related to reading. They tell differences and overlaps among the terms oral language, verbal ability, and metalinguistic awareness with metalinguistic awareness including both grammar and morphology. The breadth and depth of theory combined with practical suggestions for teaching makes this a unique book.

The book is designed so that each chapter begins with a set of questions that will be answered in the chapter, and chapters conclude with answers to commonly asked questions. The volume is well written, so it can be read by researchers, clinicians, teachers, and students studying reading and reading problems. Each chapter's text provides what the chapter titles indicate. (Often a chapter's content does not match the chapter title.) Chapters include: Instruction in Reading Comprehension: Goals and Challenges, The Nature of Problems with Reading Comprehension, Fluency and Its Relation to Reading Comprehension, Comprehension Strategy Instruction, Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension, Sentence Comprehension Instruction, Texts and Discourse Comprehension, Teaching Comprehension at the Elementary Level, Comprehension Instruction in Content Areas, Assessment of Reading Comprehension, Implementation of Effective Practices in Schools, and Grappling with Decisions about Reading Instruction for Struggling Readers.

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Reading David

Reading David: A Mother and Son's Journey Through the Labyrinth of Dyslexia

By Lissa Weinstein, Ph.D.

Book Review written by Regina Cicci, Ph.D., Review Editor, Perspectives, Fall 2003, The International Dyslexia Association

This is a warm, sensitive, honest expression of the parental joys and frustration of living with and loving a child with dyslexia (and the child's reactions to it all). The boy's remarks are presented in a different font allowing us to know a bit about what he thinks and feels. The book covers the ages from 4 to 11 years.

The mother is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with children with learning disabilities for many years. She feels that she should be equipped to manage her son's dyslexia with some ease. Because of the reflection that her training has given her as a professional and her willingness to be so honest, she is able to share feelings that parents have but may not want to admit to others or themselves.

The father is a professional as well, and although involved, seems somewhat removed about accepting David's learning strengths and quirks. He does attend conferences about his son, and sometimes the consultant talks more with the father than the mother, when she is there as a professional as well as a mother.

David talks about the horror of trying to learn the alphabet song in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. He offers advice to other kids with dyslexia. For those in second or third grade he gives advice about getting out of, or delaying, homework that includes: "Start a fight with your brother" and "Ask them [parents] a question that has nothing to do with homework." He also advises that when you start to learn to read, find reading material that interest you. Reading is hard enough without wasting time on the uninteresting. When his mother showed him a list of famous dyslexics, he told her that the reason they were successful is because of the dyslexia. " . . . Winston Churchill . . . Nothing to fear but fear itself. Well he already knew fear. They probably made him read out loud in class."

I found this to be a wise and witty book. It has much to offer parents and professionals and parts of it should be read aloud to children with learning problems. As the mother says at one point about how hard David is trying, "Being learning disabled is a full-time job."

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Language Visible

Language Visible: Unraveling the Mystery of the Alphabet From A to Z

By David Sacks

Book Review written by Regina Cicci, Ph.D., Review Editor, Perspectives, Fall 2003, The International Dyslexia Association

This is a fascinating book of interest to all who have spent time thinking about the human achievement of acquiring language. Perhaps even more amazing is that we invented those arbitrary marks that we made or make on stone, paper, or computer screen to represent the sounds of speech - the letters that form our language. This book discusses each of the 26 letters.

For example, we learn that not only is e our most frequently used letter and represents about 15 sounds but that it has become part of current communication used for electronic. Hence, e-mail, e-Bay, e-Decor, e-Travel and E for an abbreviation of the drug Ecstasy.

The history, derivations, changes from one alphabet to another, and symbolic usage of the letter are offered for each letter of the English alphabet. The book is not written in the somewhat obscure style of linguists but in such a way as to be understood by even a casual reader. I think students would be fascinated by some of these tales about the letters that they struggle to read and spell.

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The Language Police

The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn

By Diane Ravitch

Book Review written by Regina Cicci, Ph.D., Review Editor, Perspectives, Fall 2003, The International Dyslexia Association

This book tells how language used in schools and in textbooks purchased by school districts have been required to change to meet certain politically correct standards. The author offers examples from both the political right and left. Some of the changes, such as getting rid of many gender-specific references and negative portrayals of ethnic groups are consequential. (Some banned phrases include: "girlish laughter," "old wives' tales," "workmanship," "turn a deaf ear.")

However, some of the changes mask or delete important parts of our history so children grow up with distorted perspectives. Some terrible events have occurred, but failing to teach children about them will not equip them to face future problems. Failing to show women engaged in certain, sometimes demeaning, jobs in the past gives an unrealistic view of history. Outlawing certain pieces of literature deprives students of the many ways of understanding others and causes them to miss out on the beauty of our language.

The appendix offers a glossary of banned words, usages, stereotypes, and topics. Sources of the rulings that banned such words and topics are included. Also included is an annotated list of classic literature for home and school for students in grade 3 through high school, which provides a reminder to us of favorite books and stories that we may have forgotten.

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Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

By Daniel Goleman
Reviewed by Diane Rutkofsky

Daniel Goleman defines his concept of Emotional Intelligences and professes his theory that Emotional Intelligence is a better predictor of success in life than IQ. Studies of peers in job performance, education and IQ at Bell Labs illuminated the importance of Emotional IQ as the differentiator which separates the star performers from the average ones. The author assures us that our emotional patterns can be altered during the course of our lives and the last chapters of the book examine those possibilities and leave the reader feeling empowered. Any parent or professional interested in how children best succeed in life might benefit from reading Emotional Intelligence.

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Transforming the Difficult Child

Transforming the Difficult Child : The Nurtured Heart Approach

by Howard Glasser, Jennifer Easley

On the book jacket we read, Transforming the Difficult Child brings to life a new way of shifting intense children to a solid life of success. The Nurtured Heart Approach puts a refreshing spin on both parenting and teaching and reveals new techniques and strategies that create thoroughly positive behaviors.

At a Howard Glasser seminar, his Polaroid, Kodak, and Canon moments as ways to respond to the acting out behaviors of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ODD (Opposition Defiant Disorder) CD (Control Disorder), and other difficult kids were explained in detail. The fact is: these techniques work. Start complimenting children profusely for their positive actions and see what happens. It's all about catching kids being good (no easy task sometimes) and telling them as exuberantly as possible why they're appreciated. Teaching a behavior comes only when the child is behaving appropriately - not in the middle of a disciplinary action, as we often do. Time outs still exist; but as a consequence, not as a punishment. Requests from the parent/teacher need to be clear and explicit: "I need for you to."

Parents and teachers who feel they have tried everything; and behavior seem to stay the same or get worse, need to read this book. It requires some effort to change discipline techniques, and often requires some real humor (mostly internal) finding moments to reward; but the results are worth it.

Readers of this book should not think Howard Glasser is proposing the elimination of medication for these difficult children. When I asked his opinion, he commented that these behavior changing and management techniques are meant to be a part of, not necessarily all of, a child's behavior management plan.

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Straight Talk about Reading

Straight Talk about Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years

By Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats

Hall and Moats have co-authored a handbook for navigating the murky waters of childhood literacy in the 21st century. This comprehensive book inspires and equips parents to personally make a difference in the lives of their young readers. Encouraged to adopt a proactive stance toward their child's reading instruction, parents are introduced to three key roles; that of Coach, Monitor, and Advocate. An appendix of supplemental resources for books, videos, websites, research literature, as well as booklists of recommended titles for prereaders through grade three is included in "Straight Talk about Reading."

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Speech to Print

Speech to Print

By Louisa Cook Moats, Ed.D.

A well-written book that presents the organization of written and spoken English. It identifies the connection between language structure and how individuals learn to read. The author provides helpful chapter exercises and self-tests to ensure mastery of the language skills presented. The book includes sample lesson plans and adaptations that apply the concept of language. Dr. Moats' book will enable you to recognize, understand, and solve the problems individuals with or without diabilities may encounter when leraning to read and write.

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Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills

Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills

Judith R. Birsh, Ed.D. Editor

Published by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., P. 0. Box 10624
Baltimore, MD 21285-0624

In the new book Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, Dr. Judith Birsh has succeeded in bringing together the expertise of a constellation of respected and well-known contributors to produce what will undoubtedly become a highly prized and much-used text/reference book in the field of dyslexia and learning differences. Calling on various authorities to write sections in their area(s) of greatest interest and strength, she has developed a greatly needed resource for understanding, teaching, assessing, and parenting those who have dyslexia and related disorders.

Beginning with the definition and characteristics of dyslexia, a discussion of the latest research in the field, and the need for all teachers to understand the structure of the English written code, the book gives the prospective reader an overview of the eighteen chapters by offering chapter summaries. Other aids for the reader include extensive references for each chapter; graphics and other illustrations; a glossary of key terms; and a most carefully organized appendix of materials and sources.

In an enlightening and forthright discussion of multisensory instruction, the authors of the first chapter address the issue of lack of research studies concerning the efficacy of multisensory teaching. They conclude, however, that there is theoretical support for this approach and that, until research is able to confirm or disprove the effectiveness of multisensory instruction, it behooves teachers to rely on their own experience and professional judgment, as well as on the professional judgment of others who, over the years, report student success when multisensory instruction is used.

The Chapter One discussion of multisensory methods provides the platform upon which the remainder of the book is built. Subsequent chapters proceed logically from the role of oral language to the importance of phonological/phonemic awareness and alphabetic knowledge in the teaching of accurate decoding and reading fluency. A most helpful treatise on the teaching of reading comprehension follows discussion of these vital elements of effective reading from a multisensory perspective.

Readers will also find instructive and well-written sections on such subjects as multisensory mathematics instruction; oral language; phonological awareness; spelling; handwriting (including the multisensory presentation of manuscript letter forms); organization and study skills; and several other subjects. In addition, chapters dealing with adult and high functioning dyslexics, parenting issues, and transition to the general classroom and content areas present materials of high interest and utility.

Instructors in university undergraduate and graduate classes will find this book to be an excellent choice as the text for reading disability courses. It is suggested that the editor and publisher consider developing an instructor's manual and, perhaps, a student guide as supplementary materials for this book.

Having just ordered five copies of this book for use in our university classes for training dyslexia specialists, this reviewer submits that those who deal with learning different individuals will find this book to be a goldmine of theory and practicality.

Note- Judith Birsh is a Certified Academic Language Therapist and Director of the Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills series in the Program in Learning Disabilities, Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. The course series is an ALTA accredited center.

Reviewer: Jo Polk, CALT, Director
Learning Therapist Certificate Program
Southern Methodist University

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Teaching and Assessing Phonics

Teaching and Assessing Phonics: Why, What, When, How

by Chall, Jeanne S. & Popp, Helen M.

Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service, Inc., 1996.

This book is for the teacher and anyone who desires a better understanding of phonics from the early level of phonemic awareness to the advanced level of decoding multisyllabic words. Based on research, this book addresses the questions, why, what, when, and how? The teacher will gain information on the essentials of phonics in a balanced reading program as well as information on literature-based programs. This resource includes word lists, remedial procedures, and alternate approaches.

Jeanne S. Chall, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at the Harvard University Graduate School of Eduction.

Helen M. Popp, Ed.D., is a former Associate Professor of Education at Harvard University.

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Dyslexia Over the Lifespan

Dyslexia Over the Lifespan: A 55 Year Longitudinal Study

by Rawson, Margaret Byrd

Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service, Inc., 1995.

Margaret B. Rawson, 97 year-old pioneer in the field of dyslexia, and editor emeritus of the International Dyslexia Association, extended her study of 56 dyslexic and non-dyslexic boys. She has closed the longitudinal study which spanned 55 years. This work reflects on the lives of the subjects of the study and the implication in the field of dyslexia.

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The Many Faces of Dyslexia

The Many Faces of Dyslexia

by Rawson, Margaret Byrd

Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service, Inc., 1992

A selection of writings by Margaret Rawson.

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About Dyslexia

About Dyslexia: Unraveling the Myth

by Vail, Priscilla L.

Rosemont, NJ: Modern Learning Press/Programs for Education, 1990.

Priscilla Vail presents in clear and concise language insights that will change attitudes regarding dyslexia and its effect on the LD child. She offers suggestions to turn failure into success and weakness into strength. The book provides easy to understand information for those struggling with learning disabilities.

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All Kinds of Minds

All Kinds of Minds

by Melvine Levine

This is a book for children as well as for parents. It helps a child and his parents to deal with the sting that goes along with being learning different. Children with learning or social disabilities often suffer tremendous loss of self-esteem. This book, written from the perspective of 5 elementary students who share a class at their neighborhood school, enables a young reader to gain insight and understanding of their "kind of mind" as they come to terms with either attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, language disorder, social or motor skills deficits. Honestly and sensitively written, each child discovers the unique strengths which enable him or her to overcome the difficulties caused by having a "different" kind of mind.

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Phonemic Awareness in Young Children

Phonemic Awareness in Young Children

by Adams, Marilyn Jager, Ph.D., Foorman, Barbara R. Ph.D., Lundberg, Ingvar, Ph.D., Beeler,Terri, Ed.D.

Baltimore, MA: Brookes Publishing Co., 1998.

According to Joseph Torgesen, "This is the curriculum in phonemic awareness that many teachers have been waiting for." The classroom curriculum provides activities and games to develop phonemic awareness. It can be used in general, bilingual, inclusive, and special education classrooms. The sequence follows a school calendar year. Assessment activities help teachers evaluate language and listening skills.

Marilyn Jager Adams is Visiting Scholar at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.
Barbara R. Foorman is Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.
Ingvar Lundberg is Professor in the Department of Psychology at Goteborg University in Sweden.
Terri Beeler is Assistant Professor of Urban Education at the University of Houston's

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What's Wrong with Me?

"What's Wrong with Me?" Learning Disabilities at Home and at School

by Regina Cicci

Regina Cicci explains mild to moderate learning disabilities, offering suggestions for teaching in the classroom, clinic, and tutoring session, and ideas for parents. She discusses the preschool years and diagnosis of learning disabilities. Ms Cicci explains spoken language, reading, and writing disorders, and addresses emotional and behavioral issues. This book includes advice directed towards middle and high school students with learning disabilities.

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The Misunderstood Child

The Misunderstood Child : Understanding and Coping With Your Child's Learning Disabilities

by Larry B. Silver

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Negotiating the Special Education Maze

Negotiating the Special Education Maze : A Guide for Parents & Teachers

by Winifred Anderson, Stephen Chitwood (Contributor), Deidre Hayden (Contributor)

This book is a useful resource for the parents of a child in special education. It explains the processes involved, what the schools are and are not permitted to do, what the school and the parents must do for the child to achieve. This book gives you the base you need to fight back on behalf of your child's future. No parent facing a school's 'child study team' should be without this. You'll learn about the rights you and your child have. You'll have the knowledge to have your rights actualized.

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Driven to Distraction

Driven to Distraction : Recognizing and Coping With Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood

by Edward M. Hallowell, John J. Ratey

This clear and valuable book dispels a variety of myths about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Since both authors have ADD themselves, and both are successful medical professionals, perhaps there's no surprise that the two myths they attack most persistently are: (a) that ADD is an issue only for children; and (b) that ADD corresponds simply to limited intelligence or limited self-discipline. "The word disorder puts the syndrome entirely in the domain of pathology, where it should not entirely be. Although ADD can generate a host of problems, there are also advantages to having it, advantages that this book will stress, such as high energy, intuitiveness, creativity, and enthusiasm, and they are completely overlooked by the 'disorder' model." The authors go on to cite Mozart and Einstein as examples of probable ADD sufferers. (The problem as they see it is not so much attention deficit but attention inconsistency: "Most of us with ADD can in fact hyperfocus at times.") Although they warn against overdiagnosis, they also do a convincing job of answering the criticism that "everybody, and therefore nobody" has ADD. Using numerous case studies, and a discussion of the way ADD intersects with other conditions (e.g., depression, substance abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorder), they paint a concrete picture of the syndrome's realities. Especially helpful are the lists of tips for dealing with ADD in a child, a partner, or a family member. --Richard Farr

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