Phono-Graphix® Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Read America?

How was the Phono-Graphix® Program developed?

How does the Phono-Graphix® Program work?

How Effective Is the Program for Remedial Purposes?

How does  Phono-Graphix® differ from traditional phonics programs?

What Qualifications are Needed to Become Certified  Phono-Graphic® Therapist?

Who Certifies the Phono-Graphix® therapists?

How can I tell how my child doing?

What are the signs that a child is developing a "reading problem"?

Will my child "grow into" reading?

What can I do to help my child if he/she is having a reading problem in school?

What is phonemic awareness and why is it important?


Q.  Who is Read America?

Read America is a company founded by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness who developed the Phono-Graphix® program. The initial research on Phono-Graphix® was conducted by Carmen McGuinness the Read America Clinic in Orlando, Florida and published in a 1996 issue of the Orton Annals of Dyslexia.

The study showed that, regardless of reading-related disability, the average gains for the children in the study using the Phono-Graphix® method were 1.5 years on the Woodcock Reading Mastery test for reading real words after only 12 one-hour clinical sessions plus related homework.

Q.  How was the Phono-Graphix® Program developed?

Phono-Graphix® was formulated in 1996 after extensive research by cognitive psychologist Diane McGuinness, Ph. D., at University of South Florida. The actual program was developed after studying the underlying causes of reading failure and validated in work done at the Read America Clinic in Orlando, Florida.


Q.  How does the Phono-Graphix® Program work?

Children are taught the letters and letter combinations that represent sounds we use to speak.  There are about 150 of these to remember.  These written characters or groups of characters are called Sound pictures or Phono-Graphix®.  The child is then taught how to break down words into the individual sound pictures, then sound them out individually. The child is taught to join those sounds together, when the combination of sounds is recognized the word is successfully read.  This is how we all read, we just don't realize that we use this method we do it so well and so quickly.  But when faced with words in a foreign language or words we have never seen before, we immediately slow down and adopt this Phono-Graphix® method of reading.  In fact we are automatically decoding whole words into small sound pictures, combining those sounds in our memory.


Phono Graphix® is a particularly suitable method for children who have problems with memory.  It takes what the child already knows - the sounds of the language -
and teaches in careful stages the ‘sound pictures’ that represent those sounds.  These ‘sound pictures’ are the least amount of information needed
in order to break down and read any word.

Q. How Effective Is the Program for Remedial Purposes?


The most complete report so far is the 1996 Annals study. In that study, 87 students aged 6 to 16 years with reading and/or spelling difficulties received an average 12 hours of one-on-one training, (one hour per week.) This was supplemented by one hour of homework each week. Students gained an average of 13.7 standard score points on word recognition (1.70 points per clinical hour) and 19.34 standard score points on nonsense word decoding (2.57 points per clinical hour).



Data from the Read America Clinic also illustrates high gains in a remedial setting in phonological awareness, code knowledge, word attack skills, word identification, and spelling. At the Read America Clinic, additional time is spent on applying code knowledge to spelling and written language, and to help the student build contextual fluency.


Q.  How does  Phono-Graphix® differ from traditional phonics programs?

Phono-Graphix®, is the antithesis of traditional methods of reading instruction, which teach students symbols (letters) and the corresponding sounds and emphasize spelling rules and memorization. Phono-Graphix® operates in reverse, building off of what students already know about sounds and speech.


Q. What Qualifications are Needed to Become Certified  Phono-Graphic® Therapist?
Training is offered to all individuals with a suitable background. This includes teachers, remedial reading specialists, clinicians, speech and language therapists, and tutors with suitable educational backgrounds.

Q. Who Certifies the Phono-Graphic® therapists?
Read America certifies all the Phono-Graphic® therapists.


Q.  How can I tell how my child doing?

According to Reading Reflex,

  • at 4 years old, your child should know the basic code and begin to read and spell three-sound words accurately

  • at 5 years old, your child should be able to read any three-sound word and begin to read and spell words that contain adjacent consonants.

  • at 6 years old, your child should know the advanced written code with an accuracy rate of 70%, read and spell single syllable words with few errors, and read aloud to a parent for ten to fifteen minutes each day.

  • at 7 years old, the child should know the advanced written code with an accuracy rate of 90%, read single syllable words without error and two-syllable words with few errors. One to two short books should be read aloud by the child every week at this age.


Q. What are the signs that a child is developing a "reading problem"?

Signs that a child has reading problems include:

1) Guessing at words rather than decoding (sounding them out) with automaticity and fluency;

2) Memorizing printed text after hearing it read aloud many times and then "pretending to read" ;

3) Attempting to memorize every word with frequent seeming lapses in memory;

4) Reading (both silently and orally) in a slow and labored style which interferes with comprehension;

5) Avoidance of any task which requires reading;

6) Poor or non-existent understanding (comprehension) of written material; and/or

7) Referral to Reading Recovery, Title 1, or special education.

Children whose reading instruction has occurred in a classroom where the "whole language" philosophy has been used will demonstrate many or all of the above problems consistent with the lack of systematic, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds of the English language) and phonics (the ability to use the forty-plus sound-spelling correspondences to independently decode (sound out words). Even children who have been exposed to phonics using an ineffective or incomplete program will exhibit these symptoms. Do not assume that your child has "had" phonics if you've used Hooked on Phonics or The Phonics Game. Do not assume your child has "had" phonics if he knows the letters of the alphabet and their sounds. Do not assume your child has "had" phonics if the teacher tells you she is using a balanced program and integrating phonics into her whole language instruction. Children must master all 40+ sound-spelling correspondences to have "had" phonics. They must have had ample practice reading completely decodable text (text that contains words that can be sounded out from what the children has learned); predictable books with words that cannot be independently decoded by the child don't count.


Q. Will my child "grow into" reading?

Reading is not a natural act like walking and talking. Some children are able to figure out the reading process on their own by virtue of strong inherited phonemic awareness skills (the abilities to hear and manipulate the sounds of language) and/or a print-rich environment filled with constant reading aloud. But these children are in the minority. Most children need some instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics to become skilled readers and many more children need a very systematic and explicit program of instruction that begins in kindergarten and continues into first and second grade. Many children will need one-to-one instruction to help them develop phonemic awareness and to learn phonics. Without this intense early instruction, they will find themselves in remedial reading which unfortunately is no guarantee of reading success. A child who is a poor reader in first grade has a strong likelihood of being a poor reader in fourth grade. Prevention rather than remediation is the best plan.


Q. What can I do to help my child if he/she is having a reading problem in school?

Educate yourself on reading and the instructional process. Purchase Reading Reflex by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness at or visit their website This parent manual which is also suitable for use by tutors and school teachers is a good place to begin. The book contains short diagnostic tests to determine where to begin with your child and a step-by-step process to teach both children and adults how to decode.

® offers pure training in phonemic awareness, phoneme segmenting, and blending. The program eliminates letter names, all exercises or language that conflict with the logic of the code, or that add an unnecessary memory load. It teaches the 43 phonemes of the English Alphabet code as represented by approximately 100 letters or letter combinations. There are three levels: Level 1 teaches the basic code (i. e. the correspondence of one sound to one letter with no digraphs). Skills training covers phoneme analysis, segmenting, blending, reading, and spelling. These skills are mastered in simple three-sound words and words containing consonant clusters. Level 2 is the advanced code level and includes consonant and vowel digraphs followed by phonemes with multiple spellings (i.e. one sound to many letters) as well as code overlaps (i.e. the 21 vowel letter patterns that overlap more than one word sound: the letters ou stand for five phonemes). Level 3 teaches multisyllable words up to five syllables and students are taught to build words by syllable and to decode by syllable. The curriculum materials are hands-on. Phono-Graphix® was developed to teach every important skill necessary to read, write, and spell, and to teach them as rapidly as possible. Although the methodology was developed in the Read America Clinic in Orlando, FL for use by individuals (both adults and children) who had not had success in learning to read in school, the system has been adapted for use with small groups in the school setting. In one first grade classroom a teacher who had been trained in the Phono-Graphix® method implemented the program four to five days per week in groups of four to nine students ages six through ten years (McGuinness et. al., 1996). During the treatment period (8 months) the students received no formal reading instruction in the classroom but rather engaged in sustained silent reading and other language arts activities. Pre and post-tests were administered including the Woodcock Reading Mastery word identification sub-test and word attack sub-test, a blending test, a segmenting test, the phonemes manipulation test and the code knowledge test. The average pre-test score on the word attack sub-test of the Woodcock was first grade-seventh month. The average post-test score on the word attack was seventh grade-second month, reflecting an average gain of over five years. The lack of a control group and the disturbing absence of any kind of comprehension strategy building activities in the regular classroom during the treatment period, notwithstanding, the preliminary testing results are promising. More research is definitely needed but when phonemic awareness and fluent decoding of authentic text are what you want to teach (and they should definitely be a priority goal in kindergarten and first grade), this program is well-worth a closer look.


Q.  What is phonemic awareness and why is it important?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to segment the sounds contained in words and blend isolated sounds together to form words. For example, a child who has learned this skill understands that the word "dog" is made from three separate speech sounds: "d","o (aw)", and "g". They also understand that it is the sequence of these sounds that create meaningful words and sentences. Because speech sounds represent the printed form, literacy is dependant upon mastering phonemic awareness.

  • Phono-Graphix® addresses the true nature of the English language code:
  • Letters are pictures of sounds
  • Sound pictures can be one or more letters
  • There is variation in the code (boat, toe, grow - all sound the same but are different letter combinations)
  • There is overlap in the code: some pictures are used for more than one sound (cow, grow)


Phono-Graphix® Teaches the fundamental phonemic awareness skills needed to use the code:

  • Segmenting - identify individual sounds in words
  • Blending - push sounds together to form a word
  • Phoneme Manipulation - move sounds in and out of words


As an independent member of the Phono-Graphix® Association of Reading Therapists, I am pleased to be able to offer this program. Because it is so child-friendly, Phono-Graphix® may be used with anyone age 4 or above. For more detailed information call us at OpenBook.