Magic Penny Reading Overview

Humans have an intrinsic capacity for spoken language but not for written language. The structure of the English alphabetic system must be understood before developing instructional methods for teaching reading. Written English uses the phoneme to construct words. The 43 phonemes (basic sounds) of the English language can be easily learned and recalled. Unfortunately, the reading techniques in common usage today were developed without consideration of how written English was developed. As with all codes, the decryption algorithm must mirror the encryption algorithm. Thus, if the English language was encoded using phonemes, then it must be decoded using phonemes. Instruction in reading (decryption) and spelling/writing (encryption) must be logically integrated. The Magic Penny Reading Program applies this approach in a systematic and explicit manner that has been shown to effectively and efficiently increase reading proficiency for children in Kindergarten through 3rd grades in a variety of school settings and has achieved a success rate of 100% proficiency in 3rd grade as measured on the New York State English Language Arts examination that assesses reading comprehension, writing, and listening.


Reading programs in the United States use a variety of instructional methods including sight reading, whole language, traditional phonics, and the “phonologic” approach (not to be confused with the Magic Penny Reading’s phonemic approach), as well as a combination of these methods. Although early research concluded that the reading method is not important for success (Bond and Dykstra, 1967), many communities unfortunately still experience low 3rd grade reading proficiency.

Education research first demonstrated the strong positive correlation between phonemic awareness and reading skill in the early 1970s (Rosner and Simon, 1971). In 2000, the National Reading Panel (National Reading Panel, 2009) identified over 2000 studies in the area of phonemic awareness and made recommendations for the teaching of this skill in early literacy programs. Phonemic awareness is now recognized as the best predictor of early reading success and most reading programs have since added phonemic awareness to their materials. However, adding a phoneme awareness module to a reading program that is not phonemically driven will not significantly improve low proficiency rates. This was confirmed by the recent findings of the Institute of Educational Progress (NAEP, 2009) that reported that only 66% of American 4th grade students are performing at or above a basic level in reading.

Phonemic awareness is a highly trainable auditory skill; however, improving a child’s phoneme awareness will not have much of an effect [DS3] on the child’s success in reading if that child continues in an ineffective reading program. Since the phoneme is the basis for written English, the phoneme must define our instructional strategy throughout all early literacy instruction. The Magic Penny reading program is based on a systematic and integrated phonemically­driven methodology.

The Magic Penny Reading Program Solution

The English alphabetic writing system must be carefully taught beginning with the phonemes that are the basis for the system. Early instruction in phonemic awareness should emphasize listening to the phonetically correct pronunciation of the phonemes. Then the letters that represent the sounds, beginning with the simplest, must be systematically taught. As soon as the first subset of sound/letter correspondences are understood, the child should be taught to use them to encode (spell) and write words; the child then quickly progresses to decoding words, reading their first book, reading comprehension and writing activities. This exposes the child to one of the most basic features of any code, the concept of reversibility of the encoding and decoding processes. Furthermore, reading comprehension and writing are introduced at the earliest possible stage. This integrated approach is emphasized throughout the early literacy Magic Penny Reading Program.

All phonemes of the language are taught as the child progresses. Since there are no consistently correct rules to explain the irregularity of English spellings, children are instead taught that the sounds of English can be spelled in different ways; this variation is systematically taught using a well organized, probability based model. Phonemic decoding is developed to the point that it is automatic; automatic decoding frees up the child’s cognitive resources to focus on reading comprehension. Conflicting instructional approaches are avoided as they confuse the beginning reader.