Tag Archives: Headsprout

Headsprout Early Reading and Comprehension Programmes taken over by Learning A-Z

Effective Reading Instruction

The post below will describe a little about the Welsh educational system, but will then go on to discuss the Headsprout Early Reading (HER) Programme. The excellent news is that both HER and the Reading Comprehension programme have been adopted by A -Z Learning. They are now offering classroom licences (for up to 36 children) for $99.95 per year, or if you buy for 2, or 3 years, you receive a further 5% discount. This is exceptional news, so I thought I had should write a post to advertise this. Just navigate to headsprout.com and then click on Buy Now. You will then be taken to both Headsprout programmes, and when you then select one of the programmes you will be redirected to the A-Z Learning Site where you can purchase  the programme. I do not have any connection with the company, but I am an enthusiast for children being taught to read efficiently, so that every child can become an effective reader and reap the benefits that come with such skills.

Welsh Educational System

In Wales, children are taught through the medium of Welsh until they reach the age of seven. Before that they have no contact with reading in English, even though they will hear and perhaps speak both languages at home.

Really it depends on the nationality of their parents. I married a Welsh woman (who is fluent in English too), but my first language is English (although I am learning Welsh). Therefore the main language in the home was English, with very little Welsh spoken.

I wanted to help with my son’s education, and as Welsh is a phonetic language, I was able to read books to Matthew when he was little. However, as he got older the books reached a level at which we both couldn’t understand what was happening in the story—that is when I returned to learning Welsh with a vengeance. My latest certificate is below.

Welsh Certificate

Effective Reading Instruction

Anyway, back to my son Matthew learning to read. A good friend and colleague (Dr Carl Hughes) told me about an internet based reading programme  (Headsprout) that had been designed using behaviour analytic principles. Carl had listened to a presentation by Professor Janet Twyman at a conference he had been attending.

The Headsprout programme uses principles of effective instruction and fluency-based practice; and operates in a non-linear fashion. It momodoes this as it adapts to each learner on an individual level. If you sat 10 children down at computers and started them off on the programme, they would all take a different route through each episode. Their progress through the programme is monitored and the programme adapts to each learner.

The careful work that went into the planning and design of Headsprout can be compared with the type of preparation that was necessary for the Wright Brothers in preparation for flight.


—“It is difficult to underestimate the value of that very laborious work we did over that homemade wind tunnel. From all the data that Orville and I accumulated into tables, an accurate and reliable wing could finally be built. In fact, the accurate wind tunnel data we developed was so important, it is doubtful if anyone would have ever developed a flyable wing without first developing this data. Sometimes the non-glamorous lab work is absolutely crucial to the success of a project.”  Wilbur Wright
Even after Headsprout was released through the internet, the development continued through the careful analysis of the data from users all over the world. If the data showed that there was a way to improve the instruction, this was done and the results monitored again. Always seeking to make the instruction as effective as possible.
Below is an example episode from the beginning of the reading programme.

Watching this sample episode, I can still remember looking on in admiration at the effective reading instruction that was unfolding before me. Even though I was aware of other books that showed how to teach reading;

it was for me (and I suppose for most parents) easier and more likely to succeed by using something that was readily available (over the internet) inexpensive, and provided consistent, effective instruction. You need to adhere to three things in order to guarantee the programmes success:

  1. Complete 3-5 episodes a week
  2. Speak out loud–when the programme requires the learner to
  3. Do all of the associated readings

The episodes are about 20 minutes in length so the first goal is easily attainable, and there are cartoon celebrations ([positive reinforcement) throughout the episodes,as a child completes each part.

speakoutloudAn icon appears on the screen to remind the learner that they need to say their response out loud.

The readings are not very long and they only use elements that have already been taught. So the first book only becomes available when they have competed the first seven lessons.


Here at Bangor University, we have carried out research with Headsprout. We have successfully used the programme;

  • In mainstream schools with struggling readers (some of whom have been 11 years old
  • In SEN schools with children with Cerebral Palsey, Down’s Syndrome, Verbal Dyspraxia, and ASD

Headsprout bangor article

The team of people involved in the research at Bangor includes:

Professor Richard P.  Hastings, Dr J. Carl Hughes,  Dr Corrina Grindle, Bethan Mair Williams (BCBA), Beverley Jones,

Awaiting their PhD vivas:  (Dr) Emily Tyler & (Dr) Amy Hulson-Jones

Having Matthew complete the Headsprout programmes also had a positive effect ion his Welsh reading too. He was able to effectively apply the decoding strategies learnt in the programme to his Welsh reading. So to read a word he would sound it out, then say it fast, then if needed self correct if he had made a small pronunciation error.

Anyway, to close this post, let me share a brief video that Matthew did for me in 2011 about his experience of learning to read with Headsprout. I was presenting about our research at the Association for Behavior Analysis International conference in Denver (2011), and I asked Matthew (approximately 9 years old at the time) to make a video and email it over to me for the presentation. This is what he sent to me.

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Effective Reading Instruction by Dr Mike Beverley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.