top of page



"Reading with Rules" is a wonderful job of making the rather drab stuff of orthography palatble to teachers and students. Just consider the innovation, the genius of having youngersters dress up and act out useful spelling rules! Professor D.W. Cummings, Central Washington University.


The Roman Alphabet arrives in Briton - with twenty letters.

Hearken m’hearties, gather around the hearth and lend your EAR to three rebels: heart, hearth and hearken, the only three in which EAR spells AH!

O ‘speaks’ in a boat but not in about. You work it out!

 Hint, U was a Greek addition to the Roman Alphabet.

Floyd, with his horse Trojan, says ‘Beware Greek Gifts’ because when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking, very profound, it spells its long sound, but if the last one is Greek, the first one needn’t speak.

Li’l Devil Tessa is a Rebel with a Reason.

Devil doesn’t rhyme with evil. Shouldn’t devil be devvil?

“No”, says Tessa, “V is never twinned. If it was it would become W.”

Raelene chooses a tulip from Stuart to demonstrate TU spells [choo] when U spells its long sound.  Not in tummy but in turmeric.

“Bet you” sounds like “Bechoo” because it’s easier to say [choo] than [tyoo]. How do you say tuna, tunic, tulip and Stuart?

Sam sings an aria to demonstrate that terminal vowels spread out, spell their long sounds, as in aria, also acne, kiwi, hello and emu.

They might be rebels but they have excuses. Each one is a rebel with a reason.

Archie sticks up for all the rebel words, the words which break the spelling rules.

In America they say ‘dooty’. As long as we say U spells [yoo], not just [oo], we will find that it is easier to say [joo] than [dyoo]. In soldier letter I spells [y] and so that’s why we hear [j] in soldier too.

Peace, our Soldier on Duty, reminds us that D in words like soldier, duty and gradual spells a [j] sound.

Reading Rules are not there to punish our words. They are there to help us along the Road to Reading.

Spelling and Autism

    Every rubbish collection day my young autistic friend admires the neat lines of verge-side bins on the way to school. On the way home he is terribly upset because now the emptied bins are scattered, willy-nilly, along each road.

    We all like patterns, especially autistic people. It’s due to recognition of patterns that humans learn fast. Prof Cummings told a cute story about his little boy to demonstrate this. His son knew the pattern one stick, two sticks and asked at breakfast, “Daddy, can I have another Weet Bik?” As the Prof explained, his boy had never heard a single Weet Bix called a ‘bik’. He had simply applied the pattern.

If we know the pattern, we do not have to learn things one by one. We just need to learn which things do not follow the pattern.

    We like to know when and why the pattern is broken. It is less unsettling. I believe that is so for all of us, not just those ‘on the spectrum’.

    When questions like, “Why is I a capital letter in the middle of the sentence?” or “Why doesn’t monkey rhyme with donkey?” are posed, a reply like, “English is a funny language — just learn it,” only makes us more upset: puzzled, angry or scornful. It’s depressing, too, because everyone else seems to ‘get it’ or just go along with a system which even the teacher does not understand.

    Education’s holy grail is to teach logical thinking and encourage curiosity. Teachers need not be experts on when and why spelling varies from the ‘norm’ but they do need to be able to answer questions in the classroom, to at least say, “I do not know but I will find out.”

    This Inside Story on English Spelling gives the background to spelling patterns and special codes, e.g. the replacement of F with PH. In Reading with Rules teachers can look up a specific word on the disc inside the back cover and locate it in the book.

In the words of Professor D.W. Cummings, Central Washington University, USA: Reading with Rules makes it clear that the teaching of spelling can have real substance. Its emphasis on pattern structure and order is what teaching of reading and spelling needs.”


Free stories for children

bottom of page