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A Mom's Journey to Improve Reading Instruction

Martha Robinson is a mother to three, now adult, children who have diagnosed learning disabilities. “My son’s kindergarten teacher expressed concern about his lack of progress in reading. That was the day my life shifted, although as with most things, I did not know it at the time.” Her son is dyslexic (a learning disability involving decoding, reading rate and spelling skills). Martha explains, “He was tested, thanks to that vigilant teacher, during the summer after his kindergarten year. Testing revealed, even at that early age, a clear discrepancy between his cognitive skills and aspects of achievement. No doubt. But, as a parent these numbers were meaningless to me. I had to rely exclusively on the advice of others.” It was eventually revealed to Martha that her other children had learning differences as well. “In those years I learned much through the hard knocks of parenting children with learning differences.” Martha reflects. “From that point on, although I had not planned it, my life work has been in the field of Special Education.”

Due to a transition in her husband’s career, Martha’s family moved to another town where they met Phyllis Hutson, a specialist in the Orton-Gillingham approach to instruction. Phyllis tutored Martha’s children and eventually became Martha’s mentor. With Phyllis’s help, Martha began tutoring as well, and mentored others. Eventually Martha’s work lead to directing a learning center (which she ran for 7 years) and co-founding a school for children with language based learning differences , but Martha wanted to do more. “I decided to return to school. I was admitted into the School Psychology program at Ball State University. Really I did not know what I was getting myself into, but I knew I wanted more formal education.”

Martha is now a Fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham, an expert in the instruction of phonics and is a licensed School Psychologist in the State of Indiana, has a PhD in School Psychology, and is a member of the American Psychological Association. She is the inventor of Sounds First Reading System and has worked developing that tool over the past 10 years. After six years of development and an initial trial, Martha wrote a dissertation on Sounds First, comparing the Sounds First Reading System to an Orton-Gillingham approach. This research was based on the first students to receive Sounds First Reading System as an intervention over the course of one year. It compared their progress in that year to the progress they made the year before using Orton-Gillingham, and comparing them to progress a matched set made exclusively using Orton-Gillingham over two years. “The results of the study were promising.” Martha says.

The Journey Continues

Now she, her three adult children, and her husband, run Sounds First Reading System, LLC, a company that sells the Sounds First Reading System. "These materials are designed for teaching children of any age. With the publication of the first set of 80 books, comes an opportunity to put Sounds First Reading System into the hands of parents and teachers. " Martha explains. This company is new and ever improving. To address growing pains, Sounds First offers perks to their costumers, such as a 'free upgrade' plan on their manual, to everyone to buys it, so costumers remain current on Sounds First resources. Martha explains, "Sounds First is a tool I hope to continue to develop as people share their experiences with me." See Martha's work at


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The Sounds First Team

This code serves as an aid

to learn how to read words.


 Once the word is known,

the aid is no longer needed.  

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