Another Nardagani Student Success Story By Karen Bossick
The letter “O” bewildered Kayman Clark, making reading a struggle.
Sometimes, people sounded it one way; sometimes, another. Which was it?
The mystery was solved for the 15-year-old redhead last summer when he joined 11 other high school, middle school and elementary school students in the Nardagani reading program.
In four hour-long lessons, Clark learned how to figure out the “O” sounds, along with other letters that had given him trouble. He rapidly progressed from being three grades behind in reading to catching up with his classmates.
“I really liked the reading program. It helped me figure out what different letter combinations like ‘ou’ sound like. It also helped my reading,” said Clark, whose new reading prowess helped him secure a job at his hometown supermarket.
Of the 26 letters that make up the English alphabet, only 12 letters play fair, said Narda Pitkethly, who devised the Nardagani reading program. That is, they make only one sound.
Fourteen letters, such as “a,” “c,” and “d” do not play fair. They make more than one sound. “o,” for instance, makes seven different sounds.
An example: Sound out the “o” in “dog,” “toe,” “Monday,” “owl,” “spoon,” “once” and “foot.”
Narda devised her reading program to offer a way to navigate through the confusion for the 42 million Americans who struggle to read, including her own daughter.
She based her program on the Japanese Hiragana system of symbols, which was developed hundreds of years ago. That system has helped Japan achieve one of the highest literacy rates in the world. And it has helped foreigners learn to read Japanese easily.
Narda learned to read Japanese in one week using that method while residing on a Japanese island where no one spoke English.
“I had gone there on vacation, but I decided to stay and work for a while,” she said. “I knew I had to learn Japanese and I ended up learning Japanese in one week using a code created 200 years before. I thought, ‘This is crazy! How is it I can learn a foreign language in one week when so many back home couldn’t learn to read English–their own language!’”
Narda has taken her program into jails where many of the inmates could not even read instructions on medication bottles. And she’s gotten the endorsement of State Department of Education officials for her success in teaching the system to schoolchildren, some of whom teachers said would never be able to read.
The program resembles a game with flashcards, Bingo games and an easy-to-use workbook that includes interesting stories and delightful illustrations.
“Kayman and the other students came the first day of summer vacation and every one of them was muttering, ‘Oh, gol, we’ve got to do a special reading program. Within 15 minutes, they were saying, ‘Wow! This is unlike anything we’ve seen. Wow! This is fun,’” Narda recalled.
“It eliminates the need for people to memorize 244 letter combinations to decipher the 38 sounds that make up the English language. Eventually, students are able to read English without the symbols.”
Usually, Narda said, she finds that inability to read has nothing to do with intelligence. Most of the students she engages are bright kids who just can’t figure out letters. Their brain shuts down and says, “Forget about it.” The symbols help them understand, Narda said.
“This works for kids when traditional ways of learning to read don’t work,” she added. “I worked with one autistic child who couldn’t read a word. Now, he’s the best reader in his classroom.”