The Whole Word Reading Method

The Whole Word Reading Method
By Ashley Allgood
My oldest and youngest children really struggled with learning to read. I also struggled to read as a child and later was diagnosed with dyslexia. When my oldest was learning to read I tried so many different curriculums and each one failed. Our morning school lessons would almost always end in tears for both of us. I was at my wits’ end and was positive my daughter would end up in public school because I’d failed her.

Things turned around though one day while doing a Little House on the Prairie unit study. The unit study had a sample page of a McGuffey Reader. The page showed a few simple words such as cat, rat, and fat. Then it had a little simple story to go along with it. I showed the page to my daughter and pointed at the words. We said the words together, then I helped her read the little story. When her dad came home from work she proudly read the story to him.

I was so happy, and my daughter was just glowing with self-confidence. She begged to read more stories! I couldn’t believe she finally wanted to read! I got on the computer to see if I could get a copy of a McGuffey Reader.

I discovered my daughter learned better with what is called the “whole word reading method” instead of phonics. So many of us are in the mindset that kids must first learn all the letter sounds, learn how to blend the sounds, and then put all those sounds together to form a word—and many children do learn that way. But not all kids learn that way. I will never forget sitting next to my daughter trying to get her to sound out the word “cat.” I would count the sounds out on my fingers and point to the letters as we said them. Then I’d tell her to “say it fast” as we blended the sounds into a word. But, she could never seem to hear the middle or last sound. I could not understand why she couldn’t hear it, and as many moms might do, I blamed myself. I must be teaching her wrong. But, the problem wasn’t me or my daughter. There was no problem; she just learned differently.

Although McGuffey Readers are considered “phonics based,” I didn’t use them that way. As we worked through the McGuffey early readers we also used other books that focused on whole word reading such as Dick & Jane and Dr. Seuss books. My daughter was proud of her success and so was I. I worked her whole word reading into spelling lessons too, I would have her copy the new words she learned onto paper. As she got a little older I’d have her create sentences with the new words.

My daughter was thrilled to see kids on the Little House on the Prairie television program using “her school book” as she called the McGuffey Readers. We had family and friends who were impressed that we were using such old books in our homeschool. My grandmother was very interested and often asked questions about what my daughter was learning from the books. She loved the great character stories and godly lessons that were found in the pages of the McGuffey books.

As my daughter grew older I did teach her to sound out words phonically. This is important in learning to spell, but even now that she is in college she says she still learns better by looking at the whole word instead of breaking it into parts.

My son also is a whole word reader. He is now fifteen and still struggles at times with reading and spelling. We are currently using a book called Sequential Spelling for his spelling and reading reviews. I don’t use the book as directed though. I just use it as a list of words for him to read aloud each morning and copy onto paper. The book teaches words in word family form or word patterns. The book is suggested for students with dyslexia but also helps those who just struggle with spelling. I can already see a big difference in his reading and spelling.

So if your child learns to read differently, don’t let it get you down. Get creative and find out what works best for your child.

Ashley Allgood is a Christian wife married twenty-two years to Michael. They have three children ages 20, 17, and 15. They live in Georgia where they homeschool their youngest two children. Ashley is a distributor for Young Living oils. She has always loved writing and storytelling. Read her blog, Thoughts Of Faith, at
Whole Word Reading

2 thoughts on “The Whole Word Reading Method”

  1. Thank you, Thank you for this information!!! My youngest son is struggling with reading and I’m finding out that whole word reading is the best way for him to learn right now.

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