Daring to Read with Reading Mastery V

April 6, 2017

For three months now, Robert and I have been reading story after story from old Reading Mastery V Rainbow Edition Textbook. This out of print SRA reading curriculum that includes Skillbook and Workbook, two Presentation Books and a few additional books had been waiting on a shelf for a few years before I dared to introduce it to Robert. I doubted Robert’s ability to understand the stories. I also distrusted my ability to guide Robert through reading in a way that would enrich his life.

To put it simply, I was afraid of his and my failures.

I didn’t know if Robert was armed in prerequisite skills that would make it easier to take a plunge into this program.  After all, I didn’t work with Robert on any of the lower level curricula.  We didn’t have Reading Mastery IV or III  or any other. They were too expensive to purchase.  The one in our possession was  bought in a second hand store for a fraction of the original price.

Moreover, I felt intimidated by different approaches to reading comprehension. I read The Power of Retelling and The magic of Story.  They described very sound methods and yet I knew that it would be almost impossible to use them with Robert.  His ability to formulate sentences is so delayed that it renders him almost speechless.  All too often, the deficiency of speech is misconstrued as the lack of ability to think and/or to understand. That happens specially when the reading instructor doesn’t have tools to asses student’s comprehension of a particular text.

Those were the reason I didn’t start Reading Mastery years ago. Meantime, we went twice through some of the texts in Horizon Reading to Learn. We completed a few of the Spectrum Reading workbooks.  Some matched Robert’s developmental and personal needs, some didn’t.

Finally, I pulled the huge binder of the shelf, studied it for a while and presented the first story The Secret Cave to Robert. We analyzed the pictures that introduced the settings and characters. Then,  I read a paragraph.  Robert read the next one. The following paragraph, we read together. We kept switching until the end of the first part. Next, we worked on workbook and skillbook tasks that addressed comprehension in a few of its basic aspects. Mainly “WHO” “WHAT” and “WHERE”  Less of “HOW ” and “WHY”, as those questions would require longer verbal utterances which would immediately  discourage Robert from reading.

As we followed the textbook with The Wizard of OZ and other stories, I stopped using Presentation Book. Although that decision might have reduced Robert’s learning opportunities, it also simplified our reading process.  So, we just read together and then answered the questions as they were presented in student’s materials.  Some of them related to maps representing settings.  Some of them asked which character said something or could have said something.  Some asked if an event happened at the beginning or the end of the stories.   It was easy for Robert to answer because he didn’t have to string words into complex sentences.   It was reassuring to me because I  finally had a tool to check some aspects of Robert’s comprehension and assert that yes, he grasps many elements of the story.  He understands and /or remembers enough to let me go to the next story in the textbook or to the next event in our lives.

Since Robert’s language is delayed so severely that it interferes with expressing his thoughts, the options to answer in one word utterances to demonstrate his level of comprehension was rewarding to both of us. Finding the answer easy to say or write helped build his confidence.  He didn’t have to struggle with multiple syllables which always came out scrambled beyond recognition.  He could clearly say or write a word and be understood.  And I could clearly recognize and appreciate his level of comprehension.

So we kept reading and enjoying it more and more with every new story.


It came to my attention that Reading Mastery Rainbow Edition differs in some aspects from Reading Mastery Signature Edition.  For instance at least some of the stories in level V of an old edition are in level IV of a new edition.