'Revolutionary' Noah Text making new reading inroads
Ledyard — Sarah K. Blodgett's quest to make reading English easier just took a big step forward last month with the publication of a special edition of "The Mad Dash," the laugh-out-loud young person's book by Rhode Island author Tom Kiernan.
Kiernan's 2016 book is the first one not authored by Blodgett to be published using the Ledyard author's patent-pending Noah Text, a system geared toward struggling readers that underlines long vowels and boldfaces commonly used syllable combinations.
Blodgett said her quest to make Noah Text available to a wider audience got a big boost last year with the publication of an article in The Day that was picked up by The Associated Press and reached across the nation and even around the world. She has spread the word even farther by publishing information on LinkedIn that has attracted feedback from professors, school superintendents, linguists and other educators.
"I'm doing workshops all over," Blodgett said during an interview last month at her home. "The feedback from homeschoolers has been awesome."
She has also been asked to do workshops at correctional centers throughout New England as well as in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, she said, adding that 70 percent of inmates are not reading beyond a fourth-grade level. Those who have introduced Noah text to inmates have reported "remarkable improvement" among the clientele, she reported.
In addition, she has been using Noah Text during English as a Second Language workshops to help foreign speakers become better readers. Many of them, she said, are able to speak the language well while still struggling with reading, thanks to the many ways English fools people who are not familiar with its spelling quirks.
Blodgett, whose website averages 200 hits a day, contends that English is a phenomenally difficult language to learn, and its complexity is why American test scores often lag the rest of the world. She believes Noah Text can be a great tool for learners struggling to identify spelling patterns to decode the language.
"Some find it confusing at first, but after a week they took off," she said. "Other kids ... just magically take off with it."
Amy Geary, a reading consultant at Leonard J. Tyl Middle School in Montville, used Noah Text during the past academic year to help struggling sixth- through eighth-grade readers, both in groups and one on one.
"I cannot imagine teaching without it," she said in a phone interview. "I wish I had thought of it."
Geary said she heard about Noah Text through a friend's Facebook posting before The Day's article was published and immediately went to Bank Square Books to buy some copies for her students, some of whom were diagnosed with dyslexia.
Students who normally would struggle to read one chapter of a book were soon reading all three books, she said. The underlining of the text, which she had never seen before in a book, reduced the amount of time she had previously taken to highlight vowels and syllables, making her job easier, Geary added.
"She's done the work, and it looks so much simpler," she said. "Her text just flows."
Blodgett said stories like Geary's are encouraging, as is the publication of "The Mad Dash." But she would like to see more kids have a chance to try out Noah Text, perhaps through some sort of app that could be downloaded, for instance, when a struggling reader wants help while reading "Harry Potter" on his Kindle.
So Blodgett's next quest has involved reaching out to major publishers to see if they would be interested in working with her to make Noah Text more widely available. The idea would be to provide Noah Text versions of well-known children's stories alongside texts for facile readers that are not adjusted so that those requiring remedial help do not stand out.
"It's a bridge," she said. "It shows patterns that are visible. Kids can self-teach. ... It's like MapQuest. You're just highlighting the critical features that show how to get there."
Geary, for one, can't wait to see Noah Text expanded to help the full gamut of age ranges and readers.
"It would be phenomenal," she said. "I think this would revolutionize reading for kids learning to read or struggling readers."
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