reviews orton-gillingham phonics reading instruction methodologies struggling readers

Reading Horizons Review – Does It Work? An interesting approach for struggling/dyslexia students

Have you heard of Reading Horizons?

This program claims to REALLY work for struggling readers, students with dyslexia, English language learners, etc.

Besides, it offers a very interesting approach to reading.

So, what’s this approach all about?

Does it work?

What can you expect?

Let’s find out in this Reading Horizons review!

*Affiliate disclosure: This post is not sponsored. However, it  may include affiliate links, meaning I can get a little commission if you buy from them at no additional cost to you.

What is Reading Horizons?

Reading Horizons is a literacy curriculum that uses the Orton – Gillingham (OG) approach to teaching reading, and has been specifically designed for struggling readers, students with dyslexia, and students with other learning challenges, such as ESL (English as a Second Learning Learners) students.

However, this doesn’t mean that it cannot or should not be used by students that do not face these challenges. It can indeed be used by any student learning to read.

However, there are a few aspects of their reading instruction that make it highly suitable for struggling and dyslexic readers. We’ll cover those aspects later in the review.

But first, let’s briefly define the Orton-Gillingham approach, in case you are not familiar with it. By the way, if you want to learn even more about the Orton-Gillingham approach, check this post.

Orton-Gillingham programs use phonics principles to teach reading, but they are also highly:

  • Explicit: Meaning, they explicitly teach the connections between letters and sounds, as opposed to the implicit approach, where you expect students to figure things out by exposure to words and language and books, etc.
  • Systematic: Phonics and literacy instruction, in general, are introduced systematically, as opposed to coincidental -or even random- instruction.
  • Sequential: A clear sequence is followed, progressing from simple to more complex skills in a strategic manner, building upon previously learned skills.
  • Multisensory: They engage all the senses to provide a more holistic and robust learning experience. This is probably what the Orton-Gillingham approach is most well-known for.

So, is Reading Horizons all of these things, EXPLICIT, SYSTEMATIC, SEQUENTIAL, MULTISENSORY?


It is as explicit, systematic, sequential and multisensory as it gets.

So far, so good!  It meets all the criteria we look for when selecting an Orton-Gillingham program.

But what sets it apart?

Why does it deserve a resounding checkmark for all the criteria?

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What sets Reading Horizons apart?

What sets Reading Horizons apart from other Orton-Gillingham curriculums and makes it truly unique is their marking system, along with its simplicity.

This is where their real innovation, their unique “twist” to reading instruction, comes into play.

This distinctive marking system is exceptionally well-suited for logical thinkers and was, in fact, created with them in mind.

Because this trait is very common among children with dyslexia—logical thinking and responsiveness to clear instructions.

So, let’s dive into this marking system!

I believe it’s crucial for you to grasp how it works!

What is Reading Horizons marking system all about?

The Reading Horizons marking method tackles words as if they were math problems rather than reading activities.

To resolve an equation in math, you have specific steps you must follow…  And, by adhering to them, you get the correct result.

Of course, at the beginning,  we don’t begin with complex equations in math. We start with the basics, such as numbers, counting, additions, and subtractions.

It’s exactly the same here.

We don’t start with complex words, but with simple ones. But our objective is always the same: “Prove” how the word is read.

I emphasize the word PROVE.” Notice the language that they use.

Think for a moment what it means.

We are, in essence, “proving words.” It is expressed in a language that appeals to the scientific, logical mind, isn’t it? 

In the Reading Horizons program, these are the KEY concepts you need to master before “proving” words:

  • Clearly distinguish vowels and consonants.
  • Know some consonant and some vowel sounds.
  • The ability to “slide” (blend) two letters together (consonant/ vowel) – We will delve deeper into this topic later in the article.

This is, by the way, the sequence chosen in Reading Horizons for teaching letter names and letter sounds.

Letter Group #1: B, F, D, G, A
Letter Group #2: H, J, L, M, E
Letter Group #3: N, P, R, S, O
Letter Group #4: T, V, W, X, Y, U
Letter Group #5: C, K, Q, Z, I

Bear in mind that each program has its own sequence, and there isn’t a universally accepted sequence “set in stone.” What truly matters is that the chosen sequence has a sound rationale and logic behind it.  

 I don’t want to get into the micro details of why, for instance, the vowels are not introduced in the traditional a, e, i, o, u order.  While important, this isn’t, in my opinion, the most relevant thing about this curriculum.

They place A LOT OF stress on the skill of “distinguishing vowels and consonants.”

It really caught my attention, and may capture yours as well!

Why do they emphasize it so much?

Why does Reading Horizons emphasize distinguishing between consonants and vowels so prominently?

There are many reasons why this skill is so important, with the main ones being:

  • All syllables in English have a vowel sound
  • The letters that follow and/or precede a vowel really determine how we should read this vowel and, consequently, how we should read the word it’s a part of.

For example, think of the words “met” and “me.” 

How would Reading Horizons explain this “discrepancy” in the way we read the letter “e” in these words?

How would you prove these words?

Here is their step-by-step system to prove the word “met.”

FIRST STEP: Identify the vowels in this word and mark them with a cross underneath.

SECOND STEP: Is the letter right after the vowel a consonant or a vowel? In this case, the letter “t” is a consonant.

If it’s a consonant, then this letter is what they call a “guardian” letter. In line with their system, you would go ahead and mark the guardian letter with a star symbol.

And what does the guardian do? It “guards” the vowel, so it can say its short sound /e/ (as in “echo”), rather than its letter name or long vowel sound /ee/ (as in the first “e” in “even”)

THIRD STEP: If the vowel is “guarded,” now it’s time to mark the “e” with the short sound symbol (curved line on top), which is used in this program to indicate short vowel sounds.

With this information, we can now go and read the word: “met.”

What would happen if there wasn’t a guardian letter?

If there were no guardian letter, the vowel would say its letter name, also known as its “long vowel sound.” In that case, you would mark the sound with the appropriate symbol (line on top of the vowel) and read it as “me.”

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The Sliding Sounds Technique

I mentioned earlier that another skill considered KEY in Reading Horizons before attempting to read/prove how words are read is the ability to slide two letter sounds together (consonant/vowel)

What do they mean by “sliding sounds”? What’s the technique?

Say we are sliding these two letters: m + e

It involves training your child to slide from the consonant sound, in this case, /m/, to the vowel sound, in this case, “e”, /eh/.

Then, you mark (remember the marking system, this is the twist!) with a sliding arrow underneath to help your child remember slide the sounds together from left to right.

*Important note: this is not the word “me.” In fact, we are not reading words at this stage. Your child will know it’s not a word. We could call something like “word fragment.”

Sliding is another word for blending, really.

They use the term “slide” to make it more coherent with the symbol used in their marking system. This alignment between name and symbol makes it easier for children to remember.

The idea behind this is to develop an “automatic reflex” that enables children say /me/, /ma/, /pe/, /pa/ right away in preparation for reading CVC words (consonant vowel consonant words), like “met” (the example we’ve used before) or “map, or “pet” or “pan.”

This approach reminds me a lot of successive blending (learn more here), which works the wonders for many struggling readers. However, what’s special about Reading Horizons is its language and marking system.

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More examples of their marking system

How do they approach more complicated words, such as words that contain blends, for instance, using their marking system?

Let’s see a few examples!

By the way, let me quickly remind you what blends are, in case you don’t know or need a refresher to follow along with the article.

Blends are two or three consonants standing together that retain their own sounds. The key point here is that they retain their individual sounds, unlike digraphs, which team up to make a new sound (examples: “th,” “sh” or ch).

Anyway, that’s just a brief explanation, enough for today’s article. However, if you want to learn more about blends, check out this other article!

So, a word with a blend is…


STEP 1: It’s always the same. Identify the vowel and mark it with a cross.

STEP 2: Is there a guardian?  Yes, there is a guardian. Mark it.

STEP 3: I can see two consonants one after the other. We mark them with an ark.

STEP 4: Is it a blend? If it is a blend, we have been previously taught that the consonants will keep their original sounds. 

So now we’ve proved how to read the word “glad.”

Another important note on blends is that they always stay together in the same syllable. This last bit is not that relevant in this case (it will become relevant in multi-syllable word), so let’s not worry about it for now. Anyway, that’s why we mark these two letters with an “ark” underneath them, to help us remember they are inseparable.

Let’s prove a more complicated word now!


How do we prove this word?

STEP 1: Identify the vowels and mark them with a cross underneath.

STEP 2: When there are two vowels in the word, this is one the phonetic skills students learn in Reading Horizons: “When we have more than one vowel in a word, and one of those is an ‘e” at the end of the word, that ‘e’ at the end will be silent, making the previous vowel long.”

So, the key questions are: Is one of those vowels an “e”? The answer is yes. Is it at the end of the word? The answer is, again, yes.

So, how do we mark this? The silent “e” is marked with a line all the way through it. That also means that the vowel “i” will be long, and we can mark it as such (with a line of top), remember?

The consonant in between the vowels is not a guardian because the “e” follows it, and that’s what makes the vowel long.

I hope you now have a better understanding of how the marking system works, and hopefully, this will help you determine if this system is suitable for your child.

It’s all about developing a set of phonetic skills through explicit instructions and rules that are introduced little by little, in incremental steps. And while there are quite a few steps and more rules to remember as words become more complex, the process remains consistent.

I can really see how it be effective for students with logical mindsets.

What is covered in Reading Horizons?

This curriculum will take your child to approx. 3rd grade level.

These are some of the key concepts:

  1. Alphabet
  2. Sliding technique
  3. CVC words (sun, pat, mat)
  4. Blends
  5. Special vowel combinations (vowels with double “l”, “ng” or “nk” at the end of short words, such us “tell,” “doll,” “ring,” or “tank”)
  6. 5 phonetic skills: one-consonant-guardian words (such as “mat” or “sun”), two-consonant-guardian words (such as “hand” or “jump”), vowel-stand-alone words (such as, “me” or “go”), silent E words (such as, “smile” or “file”), adjacent vowels (such us “day” or train”)
  7. 2 decoding skills for syllabication: Dividing and proving how to read multisyllable words, such as “beside” or “explain.”
  8. “Murmur diphthongs”: or, ar, er (spelled as “er,” “ir,” “ur”)
  9. Digraphs (th, ch, sh, wh, ph, etc.)
  10. Adding endings -ing, -er, -ed and -est to words
  11. Soft C / Hard C rules
  12. Soft G / Hard G rules
  13. Special vowel sounds (au, aw, ou, ow, oi, oy)

How much does Reading Horizons at home cost?

Reading Horizons offers different solutions and packages and different price points.

It is worth noting that all Reading Horizon products come with a 60-day-money-back guarantee.


Reading Horizons Discovery Options and Prices

Reading Horizons Discovery is most suited for children from 4 to 9 years old. Discovery offers three different solutions:

Option #1: Online software ONLY

  • Yearly subscription for up to 2 children.
  • If you want to add more students, you can get additional slots for $25/each.
  • Renewal cost is $50/year.
  • Price: $199, but they offer a 30-day almost-free-trial for $10.
  • 60-day-money-back guarantee.

This is the most affordable option!

Access 30-Day Trial!

Option #2: Discovery At Home Instructor Materials

  • Scripted and guided materials to teach children the fundamental skills of reading.
  • It teaches the entire Discovery program through direct instruction (clear instructions, carefully planned lesson, very gradual learning, uses a script to avoid misinterpretations).
  • The materials follow the lesson plan on the software. However, this is the option without the software!
  • Price: $399 
  • 60-day-money-back guarantee.

    Access Instructor Materials NOW!

Option #3: Bundle – Online Software and Discovery at Home Materials.

Probably the best option for homeschooling families!

Why? The software by itself might not be enough to teach your child to read (especially if he/she is a struggling reader or dyslexic student). However, the software in conjunction with the instructor materials, makes a very complete reading curriculum. 

  • Blended instruction bundle.
  • It includes access to the software and the printed materials.
  • Price: $545
  • 60-day-money-back guarantee.

Access Bundle NOW! 

Reading Horizons Elevate Options and Prices

Reading Horizons Elevate is most suited for ages 10+. It can even be used for adult remediation. Elevate offers, again, three different solutions:

Option #1: Elevate at Home Software ONLY

  • Yearly subscription for up to two licences. 
  • Additional slots can be purchased for $25/each.
  • Renewal cost is only $50/year.
  • Price: $199, but they offer a 30-day almost-free-trial for $10.
  • 60-day-money-back guarantee.

    Access 30-Day Trial!

Option #2: Elevate at Home Instructor Guided Materials

  • Scripted and guided material to teach struggling students (ages 10+) the fundamental skills of reading through direct instruction.
  • Student Book
  • Teacher’s Manuals  
  • Transfer Cards to help students practice and reinforce decoding skills.
  • Six Wall Posters for student reference
  • Price: $379.00
  • 60 day money-back-guarantee.

Access Instructor Materials NOW!

Option #3: Elevate at Home Blended Instruction  Bundle

Reading Horizons also offers the possibility of adding a language pack to your purchase, for only $35. There are four language packs available: Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese.

Besides, Reading Horizons also offers some supplemental materials, such as decodable books that follow the same sequence used in their software and instructor materials, or their Reading Horizons Spelling Supplements, which are more focused on how to encode words and prove that they are spelled correctly.

All Reading Horizons at Home products come with a 60-day-money-back guarantee.

What’s the difference between Reading Horizons Discovery and Elevate?

Both Reading Horizons Discovery and Elevate cover the same concepts.

However, Discovery was designed for students aged 4- 9, while Elevate’s teaching style is best suited for students aged 10+, and even adults.

The main differences reside in how lesson materials are explained, the design, the content in the books and the gamification style in the software.

What else should I know about Reading Horizons?

  • The software comes with an admin system that allows parents/tutors to customize options, track students’ progress, generate reports, and much more. For instance, you can:
    • Adjust pass rate for assessments (by default 75%).
    • Eliminate lessons altogether.
    • Adjust whether the instructor is male or female.
    • And much more!
  • You have access to detailed reports on errors, attempts, score, time spent in each lesson and more. These reports are very thorough and will allow see how your students are doing and spot their strengths and weaknesses.
  • The software also has a Common Core reporting section, which allows you monitor your student progress on the Common Core criteria. This is fantastic if you are required to present some reporting on this matter. For instance, if you are homeschooling right now, but may need to send your kid to school in the future, these can be very valuable reports you can present to the school. 
  • The software automatically adjusts lessons and activities to students’ needs (they may request to repeat lesson, skip a lesson altogether, etc.). 
  • If you have questions, you can access free customer support. 
  • Reading Horizons can be used on the computer, an iPad (iOS 11.0+), and Chromebooks.

Seeing inside Reading Horizons

If you want to see how everything is translated into practice, click on the video below.

The video is already pre-programmed to start when the sample lesson begins.


Reading Horizons at Home: Cons

  • The cost: It can be a significant investment to make for some homeschooling families. However, you have the option of testing their software for a month for only $10. Also, bear in mind that some other curriculums make you buy different materials and solutions for each grade, whereas with Reading Horizons you get all the materials (up to 3rd grade). 

ATTENTION!! Promo codes are sometimes available!

Last promo (valid for Elevate and Discovery):


  • Discount: Save 15% 

  • Valid: March 18th – March 23rd


  • Unfortunately, if you only get the software, it might not be enough to teach your child to read. In my opinion, the software is great for independent work and as a complement to reading instruction, but it does not replace it, especially if you have a struggling reader at home. If you don’t want to buy their instructional materials, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with their marking system, so you can support your child with questions. However, the software can be a great option for non-home-schooling families who just want to reinforce reading instruction at home or for tutors. 
  • If you want to use their software, the child should have some familiarity with computers and be able to work with the keyboard (as it requires typing at times).
  • Admin set-up could be more user-friendly; it takes a bit of a learning curve.
  • While this is an interesting and effective way to learn to read that can be used by anyone, not all children need a marking system to become successful readers. This is especially beneficial for struggling readers and logical thinkers.
  • You may have to supplement the program with additional Phonemic Awareness activities.
  • It’s a very methodical system that can be boring for some children, but this can also be a pro for many others!

Reading Horizons at Home: Pros

  • An effective and unique approach to reading instruction specifically designed for struggling readers and students with dyslexia.
  • This system encourages logical thinking.
  • Upper elementary students and adult students can use Reading Horizons Elevate to fill the gaps in their foundational skills that are slowing their reading success, without the “babyish” feel other beginner readers’ solutions available.
  • Offers lots of customization options.
  • Provides detailed student evaluation and reports.
  • You get all the materials (from kindergarten to 3rd grade level approx.) in one purchase, eliminating the need to buy new materials for each grade.
  • Includes a 60-day money-back guarantee.
  • Offers free customer support and online training. Their customer service has a reputation for being very friendly and responsive.
  • Language packs are also available: Spanish, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese.
  • The system has been around for over 30 years.


In my opinion, Reading Horizons is worth considering for anyone facing challenges in learning to read.

In fact, its super systematic and logical teaching methods, combined with their unique marking system and simplicity, make it a top choice for struggling students with a logical mindset.

If this is your child or student, remember you can test their software with their 30-day-almost-free trial ($10 first month).

This can be a great option to familiarize yourself with the system.

However, also please note that, as explained before, the software alone may not be enough to teach a child to read comprehensively, and it’s most effective when used in conjunction with their instructional materials.

Go to Reading Horizons Website!

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