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James: Effort ⇒ Success

Updated: Aug 8




We have serviced many families in our community and have some unlikely success stories. James is one of those students. In 2002 His mom was looking for an activity to support him during his recovery from a major back surgery. He had always been placed outside his town due to his complex learning needs. He had the advantage of being taught by special educators trained in all the popular reading programs including Orton-Gillingham, Wilson, and Reads. Even with all these opportunities no progress had been made and James was still unable to read his own name at age 10.


He began with us shortly before back surgery. He told me when we began that he LOVED the Harry Potter books, and his goal was to, just once, read one on his own, instead of hearing them read.

His mom was correct, he could not read or write all his letters, and he wrote 19 numbers in a minute, but I could not read even one of them. He began at the Fluency Factory and consistently demonstrated great effort, making rapid gains. Then he was gone for the surgery. He returned with a happy mom. “First thing I did after he returned to consciousness was to have him try to read the words he had learned. Nailed every one of them! First time he has ever retained reading skills!”

James worked like no one else and set the goal of advancing two years a year every year. We used the Maloney Method Reading Program, and throughout his time with us he achieved his goal, moving from “cannot read” to sixth grade level in three and a half years. He kept moving up to new and harder material every year. Until he was ready to move up to the 7th and 8th grade level books. “No, James, you won’t be using these books this year,” I said.

He was stunned. “Why not?” he asked, indignantly.

“Because you are ready to read the Harry Potter books, and that was your goal, so let’s start reading those.” His eyes got as big as saucers, and he was not sure whether to believe me or not. But he started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and read the entire book, much of it out loud at the Fluency Factory, the rest at home. A truly impressive journey from illiterate to fluent reader, all in less than six years.

James‘s mother having been a special needs teacher herself clearly understood the difference between our approach and the ones offered in the special-needs classrooms James had been in.


James’s progress was made not only by a good program but the careful implementation over time, and intentionally not rushing James to the next step until he had mastered what he was working on. It took several months for James to complete the first paragraph at a fluent level so that he could move on. Many parents would be frustrated by what appeared to be a lack of progress. Once he had the foundation and the confidence his learning took off. Gaining these math, reading and literature skills has greatly enhanced his life, and he remains a fluent, interested lifelong learner.


Here is James performing a reading for his brother's wedding.


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