It is helpful to think of reading in terms of two key components: decoding and understanding.

Decoding (Figuring out what the words are)

Every young child receives phonics instruction from a trained teacher. Teaching is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, a structured literacy system that has proven results with children who need time, repetition and direct instruction in order to learn to read. Instruction takes place individually and in small groups, and focuses on: sound-symbol relationships, discriminating/hearing speech sounds, and manipulating those sounds and symbols to form real and imaginary words.

As students get older they receive instruction in the complex sound and spelling patterns of English.

At The Howard School, we believe that all children, no matter what their age, can continue to refine and develop reading skills. Because of this we have literacy specialists throughout the school who work with struggling readers of all ages. Literacy specialists focus primarily on the skill of decoding words. They also teach tools and strategies to students for whom reading has not become fluent or automatic. This reading teaching program is tailored to the student, and may incorporate reading fluency training.

The programs of Structured Literacy that The Howard School draws upon are:
Orton Gillingham
Wilson Reading System
Lindamood Bell
Open Court

Understanding What You Read

Understanding what you read has deep roots in language processing. Understanding what you hear is essential to understanding what you read! Classroom teachers and speech language pathologists work together to build better understanding of story structure, author’s intent, complex sentences, and unfamiliar words.

Sentence structure and vocabulary differ considerably by subject: Science sentences tend to require lots of visual imagination, Social Studies sentences require understanding of embedded phrases and complex verb tenses, Math sentences requires conceptualization of sets and procedures followed by translation into a different language. At The Howard School we teach students specific reading strategies for dissecting and understanding these sentence complexities.

Meet the Team

Erika Afeman

Erika Afeman
Titles: High School Literacy Lab
Degrees: B.A. in Psychology
M.A. in Special Education
Educational Therapy Certificate

Lauren DeMotte-Kelly

Lauren DeMotte-Kelly
Titles: Lower School Literacy Lab
Degrees: B.S. in Special Education
M.Ed. in Special Education
Orton-Gillingham Reading Instruction
SMART (Systematic Multi-sensory Approach to Reading
Linda-Mood Bell Seeing Stars
Linda-Mood Bedd Visualizing and Verbalizing

Christi Kubeck

Titles: Literacy Specialist

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith
Titles: 8th Grade and High School Literacy Lab
Degrees: B.S. in Finance
Lindamood-Bell trained

Bill Sommer

Bill Sommer
Titles: Middle School Literacy Teacher
Degrees: B.A. in Music
M.A. in Creative Writing
Lindamood Bell - trained

Melissa Valena

Melissa Valena
Titles: Lower School Literacy Lab
Degrees: B.A. in Special Education
M.A. in Learning Disabilities


Please contact the
Director of
Language, Literacy, and Assistive Technology,
Jennifer Topple at
(404) 377-7436, ext. 234 or for more information.


Typical Reading Experiences

Chapter books, Anthologies, Expository Readings (academic subject-based)

Reading Buddies – older children read to younger ones

DEAR – Drop Everything and Read

RATS, RAMS – Reading Around Transition, Reading Around Middle School

Interactive Read-Alouds

Echo Reading (Call and response)

Mystery Guest Readers