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The Writing Road to Reading: The Spalding Method for Teaching Speech, Spelling, Writing, and Reading by Romalda Bishop Spalding, edited by Mary Elizabeth North
496 pages HarperResource February 2003 Paperback rated 5 out of 5 stars   

Romalda Spalding was a teacher of teachers. Early in her life, through her work with pediatricians, she realized how holistic and integrated langauge is. With her medical knowledge of how the brain accesses information, she realized that language was best taught in an integrated form that connected hearing to writing to speech. Research has proven that her method works and for decades students disabled and otherwise and their teachers have benefited from her writings.

The Writing Road to Reading, now in its fifth edition, is geared to the professional teacher, especially those whose students might be contending with learning disabilities. Lessons range from basic phonics and scripting to reading comprehension, and composition. Therefore, the book is helpful for all students in all grades. In addition, it can be used by home-schooling parents and by parents of disabled students.

The book deals with the rationales, debates and research into communication, education, learning, child development and cognitive skills. Clinicians, therapists and educators will delve into these debates and objectives in this exhaustingly-researched instruction packed-book, but many parents will bypass the research and philosophy and advance to the strategies, instructions and activities. For the parent who wants practical, hands-on techniques for reading, writing and speech, this is a treasure-trove of word lists, techniques, procedures, applications, instructional materials and lessons.

The sections on spelling and speech are especially helpful, with their instructional tips and cross-referenced rules. A child whose teacher or parent uses all of Spalding's instructional materials, procedures and word lists will not only know all the rules of the English language but will probably become quite good at speaking and decoding English. Each section teaches the parts and structure of the whole. Therefore the section which shows the procedures and materials for reading teaches such building blocks as verbs, modeling mental action, characters and topics, among others. The writing section teaches -- depending on the student's grade -- such concepts as cursives, narrative, parts of speech, dialogue, and composition.

The activities are designed to work within the educational setting, and the book is therefore a curricula full of lesson plans to aid the teacher. As one reads through its copious pages, one realizes why this book is called a "method". Whether or not the now-deceased Romalda Spalding would have wanted students to slavishly follow her word lists and I don't think she distrusts the intelligence of the average teacher The Writing Road to Reading sometimes seems to leave very little to a teacher's own personal style. For instance, Spalding or her editor gives a helpful list of recommended children's literature to read from beginning readers to the sixth grade after each vocabulary section has been accomplished. The children's book lists are very helpful, but the more practiced teacher might feel free to veer away from Spalding's methods and book list.

The book can be a help to all teachers. However, it certainly is a help for new teachers who have not quite figured out a successful technique or who might be at a total loss about how to start. I highly recommend this book, especially for teachers, speech therapists, special education teachers, ESL teachers and parents of students with disabilities.
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  Carole McDonnell/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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