Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Home > FAQs Home

What tools can I use to teach an adult to read?

Hello Let's Go Learn, I would like to see if you could help direct me. I am going to teach a 23-year-old young man to read. I will need tools to help teach him the basics and I don't know where to start. I found "Hooked on Phonics" on the internet, but the cost was $300.00! Do you have any suggestions about other tools I may use to help? Thank you.

Hello, Thanks for your email. Tell me a little bit more about your situation… 1) Have you ever taught reading before? Do you have experience as a teacher? 2) Is this 23-year-old man your son or relative? 3) What are the circumstances surrounding this man's reading issues? Is English his second language? Does he have other learning issues besides reading? Specific diagnosis? What is his education level? Can he read at all? If so, how much? If not, does he know his letters and sounds? 4) How much time per week do you plan to spend teaching him how to read? Will anyone else be working on his reading skills? Where will you be working with him? Library? School? Kitchen Table? Will you be working with him one-on-one or in a group? 5) Is this man enrolled in any kind of school or does he work or neither? 6) Has anyone ever tried to teach this man to read before? If you can answer these questions, I can give you some more succinct advice.

7B) Hi Again Let's Go Learn, I am not a teacher, although, I raised 2 daughters and helped them along the way. The young man is my son-in-law as of April 2001, and he did graduate from high school, how I don't know. He is very embarrassed and does not want anyone to know that he can't read. He would like to learn to read and get a better job.English is his first and only language. I'm sorry, but I really don't know if there are other learning issues. I do know that his parents did not take time with he or any of the other siblings while growing up. He seems to communicate normally, although, he is not very social. We took him out to eat once and I could tell, he could not read the fish house menu. I will be the only person working with him, and we will be working at my home. I cannot imagine not being able to read. It is an enormous handicap to not be able to read. I would like to help him open the door to the wonderful world of reading. Thank you for your help.

Hello, Thanks for your response to my email. Here are my suggestions:

1) I suggest you have your son-in-law tested to determine his strengths and weaknesses in reading. An assessment will give the information on where to direct your instruction. Reading specialists in your area would be able to do that. Or if you want to have him do a reading test on line, you can go to Reading is a complex subject, more that most people realize. A reader experiencing difficulty may have weaknesses and or strengths in a variety of areas. It is important to find out where you son-in-laws issues are.
2) It's hard for me to know the exact nature of his weaknesses however, from you descriptions it sounds as if he has a hard time sounding out words as well as spelling. I suggest you look for something that talks about Symbol Imagery.
3) I HIGHLY recommend that you take a workshop for reading teachers. Teaching yourself how to be a reading teacher will be the best way for you to help him.

In a nutshell, get him tested to determine the exact weakness, find a program that treats that weakness, and get yourself trained in that program. Teaching an adult to read is a big commitment for the student and the teacher. Working on his reading at least 4 days a week is recommended, 5 is better.

Tags: adult reading, adult reading instruction, reading assessment

  1. Richard Capone
    Reply 11/30/18

    Hello Derya:

    I would recommend that you buy your mother one of our DORA assessments first.  Then she can take it and see where her strengths and weaknesses are within the multiple sub-skills of reading.  The next step is she could either work on those areas or you could get her our LGL ELA Edge instruction that is tied to our assessments.  We actually have a lot of adults using our Edge instruction. It uses music and animations to teach. So much more engaging and fun.  Also each learner uses it at their own pace in the privacy of their own home.  If you search our website, you’ll find some demos on ELA Edge.  You could run it buy your mother to see if she would be interested in doing it.  Good luck!

  2. Derya
    Reply 11/29/18

    Hi, my mother is 78 years old and very independent and smart.  The problem is her parents never sent her to school.
    She came to the US and raised a family.  Many attempts were made to teach her but something always came up and she had to stop.  Throughout the years she has recognized the alphabet but cannot put letters together to sound them out.  She is very embarrassed and hides this from her friends.  I am very proud that she has come thus far but would love to give her the gift of reading and writing.  What technical tools are there for people like her?  Any input would be so greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,


  3. Richard Capone
    Reply 09/04/18

    There have been multiple posts recently from adults looking for help in learning to read or to improve their reading abilities.  Our suggestion is that you have your reading abilities diagnosed either by a reading specialists or you start with our online reading assessment, DORA.  As a follow up if it makes sense based on the DORA report results, you can purchase our ELA Edge course that will create a custom course specific to your needs.

  4. Adam
    Reply 09/01/18

    Hello everyone, I am one of these people that can not read or write as well as I’d like. I have a very hard time spelling without the help of autocorrect. I was able to read all of the comments above but I took me a while. I have a hard time with determining what vowel to use in uncommon words. I’m just hoping someone may know of some tools or practices I can use to make improvements

    Thank you

  5. Owolafe john
    Reply 08/27/18

    Am John   am 22 year old I can’t read and write…. Please I need help…

  6. Wick
    Reply 08/16/18

    Did anyone help you with your situation cause I’m dealing with the same problems you have.  And I’m tired of hiding it from ppl. Let me know if anyone help you so I can possibly do the same. And I’m 23 years old. Thanks

  7. Richard Capone
    Reply 02/12/18

    Hello Kathy,

    Thanks for your post. Here’s a few ideas.

    While you are right to think that most beginning readers start with the alphabet, that may not work with adults. Start with words that your students can already identify—such as their name, environmental print (like stop, push, pull, Safeway). You can use this “whole word” method to label items in the class, or where ever.

    A special case of these “sight words” are high frequency words (of, the, what etc) that are not spelled according to normal phonics rules (they are “irregular”). Having students learn these very common words as whole words will help them get started reading.

    Once they have a word they know, then break it down and discuss the “letters” and “sounds”, and eventually the “parts” (i.e. syllables). But always do this in the context of meaning—i.e. make sure they know the word you are breaking down!

    Look for high interest, low readability texts for adults and secondary students. That keeps their interest and allows them to bring their background knowledge into play.

    Good luck!

    - Dr. Rick McCallum

    ———-Submitted by Richard of LGL on behalf of Dr. McCallum———-

  8. Kathy Noe
    Reply 02/12/18

        I am a Tutor @ our local drug court. It is hard for me to find just how many adults that we have that cannot read

    or write. many of the were just pushed through school, some have even gone through graduation. 

        This is my 2nd year teaching. this year I will be offering a free class for students who quit school, to assist them

    in learning enough to receive their General Education Diploma. I am hoping that this will encourage many, if not all of

    them to continue their education and/or get a job and get off drugs. 

    My dilemma now, I tested a 33 y/o male whom is severe dyslexic, he is unable to say his alphabet. I ask him if he

    could sing the alphabet. He was unable to. What is the best way to teach him? what special tools could I use without

    making him feel belittled?   

                            thank you for your valuable time.

                                                        Kathy Noe

  9. Richard Capone
    Reply 09/11/17

    Hello Amanda and Ashley, I am going to copy and paste what I wrote in an earlier reply.  ****  ... in terms of learning to read, many adults have used our LGL ELA Edge program. You would initially take a DORA assessment and then it will create a customized course for you that will cover the basics of decoding and comprehension.  This is something you can do over the Internet at home.  Or if there is a local adult education center, you can see if they have some beginning reading classes. ******
    Our DORA assessment is definitely where you want to begin.  You need to find out what areas are a difficult for adult learners since reading is not just a single skill.

  10. Amanda
    Reply 08/31/17

    Hello can this program teach someone how to read? I know someone who has a hard time reading, can this program help her?

  11. Ashley
    Reply 04/11/17

    Hi my name is Ashley I’m 29 years old. I have difficulties with spelling and reading. I don’t know if there’s anything that can help me. I have a learning disability that affects me in every subject in education. I’m writing I’m here to see if anyone can help me. It’s very embarrassing to go through life not knowing how to read and spell. If anyone can help right back thanks

  12. Richard Capone
    Reply 03/13/17

    David, in terms of learning to read, many adults have used our LGL ELA Edge program. You would initially take a DORA assessment and then it will create a customized course for you that will cover the basics of decoding and comprehension.  This is something you can do over the Internet at home.  Or if there is a local adult education center, you can see if they have some beginning reading classes.

  13. David Burns
    Reply 03/11/17

    My name is David I have a very hard time reading and understanding sounds I don’t know where to put decimals in Camas my spelling is bad can you help me.

  14. Richard Capone
    Reply 07/15/14

    Hello Cheryl:
    If you are fully committed to teaching your husband on your own, our reading assessment, DORA, might be a good way for you to get started.  Your husband can take the assessment and this will give you an idea of where his strengths and weaknesses are in regards to the subskills of reading.  If you read the other threads in this blog post you’ll see other references that might help you.

  15. Cheryl McChristian
    Reply 07/13/14

    My husband is 74 & I’ve always wanted to help teach him to read the Bible with me. He will memorize objects & directions. Now that I’m not working I have time to help him. I’ve never been a teacher but we have numerous friends who are. Please show me where to start.

  16. Richard Capone
    Reply 06/24/14

    Hello Lillie:

    You should assess your husband using our DORA assessment.  It costs only $20 for one test.  Then you will get a 1 page and 18 page report.  It will break reading up into the multiple skill areas to help you understand whether he is having a decoding issue or other issue with reading.  You are absolutely right, reading is a complicated process and unless you are trained as a reading teacher, it is hard to know how to help someone who is struggling.  DORA also adjusts its interface to the user. So your husband won’t see an elementary interface.  Also the assessment will adapt to him as he is taking the assessment. Thus it isn’t just identifying issues, it is searching for instructional points across six/seven sub-skills of reading. 
    Here is the link to DORA so you can read more about it.
    Also after your husband has completed the assessment our customer service can help you interpret the results if you need assistance.  Once you diagnose the issue we do have reading remediation that is individualized and web based called the LGL Edge series.  But you can also use other free or fee-based resources as well. 

    Let me know how it goes.

    - Richard Capone, Let’s Go Learn

  17. Lillie
    Reply 06/23/14

    My husband is illiterate,  he was only sent to the beginning part of first grade.  He is now 40 years old and gets seriously fusterated at the fact that he can not communicate with others because of his literacy.  Honestly, I haven’t tried hard enough to teach him because of his tight work schedule.  I’ve searched for programs being unsuccessful because it being so costly.  Can you please help me know where to begin,  I am a newly graduated teacher but have no experience in teaching anyone.  He really wants to learn but neither he or I know where to begin. Please help!

  18. Richard Capone
    Reply 05/27/14

    Hello Opal,
    Your husband really needs to be tested to find out what he can and cannot do in terms of reading sub-skills.  Reading is a lot more complicated than people realize so you need to get diagnostic information on his reading.  If you know a reading specialist, he or she can probably administer multiple tests to find out.  But if not, then you may want to consider administering our DORA assessment with your husband.  On a positive side, it looks at the age/grade of the user and selects the interface. So for adults the interface is not offensive at all.  No kid graphics, etc.  Next, it will step through probably six different sub-skills of reading.  Our computer adaptive technology will adjust to your husband’s responses as he is answering questions.  This saves times and allows us to zero in on areas that need more analysis.  When he is done you both can look at the reports that are automatically generated.  This will be a good start.  Here is the product page for our DORA assessment.  You can see the sample reports that will be available.
    Thank you for contacting us!

  19. opal
    Reply 05/27/14

    I’m looking for a simply but intresting way to teach my husband to read.  He can read a bit;, but his pronounations is the problem.  He is in the military, but have a hard time during test times.  I have listen to him read and have to correct him; he has so much potential.  He dosen’t know how to articulate himself; and i’m embarass for him.  He is a great person and work really hard.  Thank you, await you response.

  20. LGL ED Team
    Reply 10/30/13

    As you may know, dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects how a person process language. It presents itself in many ways with different people. For most it’s a complex array of issues ranging from reversing letters, segmenting and blending individual sounds, associating the correct sounds with the appropriate letter, poor spelling, strained reading fluency, poor reading comprehension and so forth.  For others, dyslexia is also accompanied by having difficulty organizing oneself, a lack of confidence over one’s ability, and a feeling alienation.  It’s good that your husband has you to support him because reducing the stress and anxiety associated with dyslexia should help with his overall reading development!

    There a number of ways to support dyslexics. Practice learning to form strong associations with letters and sounds in multi-sensory ways (i.e., using hand gestures to remember sounds, tracking words with a pen, modeling letters with clay, etc.) are important and have become common instructional recommendations for dyslexics. But because dyslexia presents itself in such complexly different ways with different people it’ll be important to get a complete and focused perspective of what dyslexia looks like for your husband—the strategies he does successfully use when encountering text, the confusions and struggles he has, the kinds of texts he needs to read versus the kinds of text he wants to read and how well he reads both, his reading rate, the associations he makes when he sees text, etc.

    Let’s Go Learn’s Diagnostic Online Reading Assessment can provide you with a look into his general strengths and weakness in reading skills and strategies. However, you should also seek a dyslexia professional to help formally address your husband’s specific needs. Some websites which might be a good place to start are:  The International Dyslexia Association at  and Dyslexia Action at

    Also, remember that most dyslexics are often quite skilled and gifted in many other aspects of their life. So tap into that!  A book I recommend which highlights how to view dyslexia through a different lens and how to manage life with it is called The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis.

    Paolo Martin, Reading Specialist

  21. julia humpage
    Reply 10/28/13

    Hi richard could you tell me the best way to try and teach my dyslexic huband to read. He’s 56 and can make some words out with difficulty.
    I am very patient, and would love him to enjoy reading as much as I do. Please can you help

  22. Richard Capone
    Reply 08/22/13

    Rosa, this is a tough situation.  Given the head injury, you should probably consult with a specialist.  Given that we are not doctors who specialize in head injuries, we can only give you loose advice.  But here is what I would suggest.  You basically want to teach him to read or more accurately re-teach him.  So I would do either the DORA English or DORA Spanish assessment.  This will tell you what your boyfriend can and cannot do.  DORA will find instructional points within 6 sub-tests of reading.  So if he only is at beginning sounds in phonics at least you will know this.  If his vocabulary is at a particular level, you will know this.  Then you can start trying to teach him in these areas.  Next even if he can’t learn in English he might be able to in Spanish.  The head injury is going to be the wild card in this whole process.  Good luck.

  23. Rosa
    Reply 08/15/13

    Hi I’m trying to help my boyfriend learn how to write and read. He was at one time fluent in both English and Spanish . Then one day due to a car accident he lost his total memory and had to start all over he did not even recognize his own family.  He went to therapy 1 out of 4 years recommend for a full recovery . So he never learn to read and write again.he is now 34 years old. I am an elementary school teacher and want to get him back on track as far as his reading and writing. What do you recommend to start out? What language should I start with English or Spanish? His first language is spanish and is what his parents spoke to him when he came out of his coma after the car accident.  Any help would be greatly appreciate it

  24. Richard Capone
    Reply 06/03/13

    I would suggest starting with our DORA reading assessment.  Give this to your Zambian friend and then you can figure out what she can and cannot do in terms of reading. The reports are very descriptive and will explain the different parts of reading to you.  Also after completing an assessment, the “DI” reports will tell you whether our “Edge” series of instruction is appropriate.  Or based on the report you may discover that you can help your friend on your own.  The assessment costs only $20.  It is online.  Be sure you have a computer and a quiet environment for your friend when she is tested.  Sincerely, - Richard

  25. ockie
    Reply 06/03/13

    We have a Zambian friend. She is 25 years old. She can not read or write. We want to help her but do not know how and where to start with a program? It look to me as if you have some stuff at a cost. Can you let us know what, where, when and how much. We are in Zambia blessings to you! Ockie

  26. Richard Capone
    Reply 05/17/13

    Our DORA reading assessment would be a good place to start.  It looks at 7 sub-skills of reading and adapts within each of these until an instructional point is found.  So this will tell you what this person CAN do in reading.  Once you know what someone can do then you can start working on the next skill within that sub-skill.  Once this person completes an assessment, our detailed report does provide a prescription which will help you in determining your overall approach.

  27. Mary
    Reply 04/10/13

    Hello I have randomly stumbled on this useful post and I’m not sure how old it is! i’m hoping someone might still be able to give me a response.

    I recently met a young man of 27 who is intelligent but completely illiterate. English is not his first language and while we can communicate of a fashion, he is by no means fluent. He has learned all his English through speaking casually to English speaking tourists; he has also learned other European languages this way.
    He can not read or write in his own langauge either as he did not go to school very often, although he can spell and recognise his name. (In both English and his own language, Sinhala, which has its own alphabet and I don’t speak it at all.)

    All this is very daunting; however, I would like to attempt to help him to read and write a little in English.
    My hope is that it will not only help his spoken English (through practise and increased intense interaction with me as teacher) but also make it easier for him to hopefully begin to learn reading his own language.

    I don’t expect him to start reading English novels or even newspapers but even if he could read basic menus, write the odd e-mail or text message and recognise the town names on the front of buses I think it would help him enormously in his life.

    I have a TEFL qualification so the English teaching aspect is not unfamiliar to me but I really don’t know where to start or even if it’s a bad idea to teach him how to read in a language other than his own?
    Thank you for your time!

  28. Richard Capone
    Reply 11/05/12

    Eve, I will send you a separate email.  But I am going to give you an account to use with your boyfriend.  You should first complete the DORA assessment and then have him do the LGL Reading Edge course.  This will be something he can do at home via any Internet connected computer.

  29. Eve Hughes
    Reply 11/02/12

    I have a boyfriend of 48 years oldm and he can’t read or write, I know he can recognise his alphabet but he just can’t read. I have told him I will support him in his quest to learn in any way posible, but I just don’t know where to start, he feels embarised to go do something about it> so hopefuly you might advice me how can I teach him from home, we are both unemployed and can’t afford much,
    I would like to thank you for your valuable time in reading this note,

Post a new comment:




Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Security Challenge:

Type in the following word: algebra