Reading Teaching Tools, Part I: Miss Letterly

Reading Teaching Tools: Miss Letterly

By Kathy Kuhl          This post is the first of two, highlighting resources to help kids and teens with dyslexia. Today’s resource is geared towards younger learners.

Miss Letterly Stories

Learn to Read and Spell with Miss Letterly is a charming, child-friendly introduction to the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading. (It is also called Multisensory Structured Language, or MSL.) Alyssa Hubbard has written a collection of stories to introduce the concepts that she understands so well from her years working at the Triad Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a nationally accredited program for students with dyslexia. Triad is one of only thirteen schools in the US accredited by the Orton-Gillingham Academy.
Miss Letterly

(If you attended THRIVE!, the convention of the North Carolinians for Home Education in May 2017, you may have met the author there.)

The stories revolve around a kindergarten class on the playground. The teacher is Miss Letterly, and her 26 students are different letters of the alphabet. The illustrations are sweet and simple.

Beginning with letter sounds, the book takes a comprehensive approach. From vowel sounds, the author then moves to long and short vowels. Next she covers open and closed syllables, initial blends, final blends, blending open (consonant-vowel) and closed (consonant-vowel-consonant) syllables to make two-syllable words, and much more, including:

  • pluralizing (how to know when to add an –es instead of an –s)
  • how to know whether a word starts with a c- or a k-

Like other Orton-Gillingham approaches, she also carefully explains exceptions to helpful rules, such as: Though vowels use their short vowel sounds in closed syllables, “i” can be long when followed by –ld and –nd, as in ‘wild’ and ‘kind.’

Good for Homeschoolers

At first, I wondered if having a schoolteacher as the central character would seem odd to homeschooled students. But this kindergarten teacher is similar to a co-op teacher, mother, or Sunday school teacher. Because the setting is a playground rather than inside a classroom, it isn’t jarring or odd for homeschooled kids. The focus of the book is not on the teacher, but the letters and letter combinations.

When you start this book, don’t rush! I imagine reading the first six to eight pages the first day. After that, I’d plan to review those pages and work on each new concept for days. Concepts are generally on two-page spreads. While Ms. Hubbard has written this book as a collection of stories, this is not a storybook to read in one sitting, or even one week.

Born from Experience

The author explains that the inspiration for the book came when she first studied Orton-Gillingham principles of teaching reading. She found herself wishing she’d known them when teaching her sons to read, or when teaching elementary school—or when learning to read herself!

She goes on to explain:

I developed Miss Letterly’s playground adventures while making daily lesson plans for my early elementary language students at Triad Academy, a division of Summit School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Desperate to make dry language concepts meaningful and memorable, I created fictional stories set on the playground of Sunshine Elementary. My students were thrilled to be able to think about the playground while learning how to read and spell. The playground scene became a helpful memory tool and provided continuity as we quickly reviewed old concepts before hearing the next adventure. With each lesson, we were solidifying previously learned concepts and spiraling through our Orton-Gillingham based scope and sequence.

Readers can identify with simple emotions and relationships between letters as they absorb critical concepts supporting their emerging decoding and encoding skills. This book helps teach children (and even adults) how to read. It is designed to be read aloud by a teacher or adult, supporting the learner as they work through concepts and word groups.

On her MissLetterly website, the author also provides coloring pages to accompany the book.

This book looks like a good way to introduce reading concepts to any child. The MSL approach doesn’t just help dyslexics; it’s also a great way to teach anyone. The book comes highly recommended by William Van Cleave, a renowned master teacher in the Orton-Gillingham approach.


Dysgraphia expert William Van Cleave suggested I examine Miss Letterly, because he thought homeschool parents would appreciate it. (William has spoken at homeschool conventions—don’t miss him if you get the opportunity! He is the author of Writing Matters, Sentence Sense, and other books, creator of the Words at Work and Sentence Stretchers card games, as well as other materials I recommend. See his website below.)  I requested a copy of Miss Letterly, making no promise to like it or to review it. I received nothing else from Ms. Hubbard.

More Resources

Next post, I’ll talk about some resources for slightly older students, though this one could be used with any age.

What resources do you like for helping dyslexics learn to read? Please comment below.

I get no benefit from your use of these links, except the satisfaction of sharing some useful tools.

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