Michael By Narda Pitkethly

Michael was one of our first students.

He was on juvenile probation and had been ordered by the chief district court judge to take the Nardagani reading program. Due to his criminal behavior, Michael was considered an “at risk” child by the court. He was in the seventh grade, doing poorly in school and he was reading at third-grade level. Michael was a bright boy, but he had begun to make poor choices.

Michael had grown up in a loving but chaotic single-parent home. His mother’s energy was focused on supporting her children and working two jobs to keep the family afloat. One of the children had chronic medical problems. The family had been in survival mode for years and there wasn’t much time for mom to help with homework or read to her children.

Michael met me at our local library the first day of class. He ambled in with his head hanging low. He initiated the conversation by stating; “I’m a dummy, I have to take another reading class.”

We began the first lesson. Within 15 minutes, Michael was clearly engaged in the learning process. He said, “I’ve never seen symbols for reading before. This is fun.” He quickly learned the first symbols and was excited to be able to decode words. He was intrigued by the Nardagani method of underlining all silent letters. Michael said it made reading easy and exciting.

On the second day we met, he came bouncing into the room. He exclaimed, “I am seeing the silent letters everywhere!” He was fascinated that he was suddenly aware of silent letters when he read noncoded words in “the real world.” The fact that he was learning to read using the Nardagani system sensitized him to the components of English. The Nardagani approach fills a learning gap that frequently occurs when children grow up with limited language interaction (not playing word games, singing silly songs, repeating nursery rhymes or listening to stories read aloud). Once this gap is understood and “filled,” they rapidly learn to read.

On the third day of class, it seemed to me that Michael had grown 2 inches. His pride in his new skill and improved self-confidence were obvious. He easily read the Nardagani coded practice books.

On the fourth, and last, class, Michael read books without symbols. He stated: “Words are fascinating.”