Teacher throws away the book on literacy

Former nurse uses new method to help struggling students read

Teacher Focus
Former nurse Nora Chahbazi founded her Ounce of Prevention Reading Center in Flushing to help students who were struggling to read under traditional teaching methods.

She is a former nurse with no teaching certificate or degree in education. But Nora Chahbazi is as dedicated, passionate, and effective a teacher as you will find anywhere.

Chahbazi is the owner and primary instructor at Ounce of Prevention Reading Center in Flushing. The center offers reading assistance to children and adults for whom traditional methods of teaching reading, such as phonics, have not been effective.

Chahbazi employs a new reading method called "Phono-Graphix" to teach her students. She discovered Phono-Graphix in the book "Why Our Children Can't Read" by Diane McGuinness, professor of psychology at the University of South Florida.

"After just a few hours with Phono-Graphix, my daughter could read better than she ever had in her life," Chahbazi explains. "She went from struggling with reading pages, to reading whole chapters in just a few hours of work."

Chahbazi's success at teaching her daughter to read led her to help her friends' children with their reading. Soon she enrolled in a course to be trained as a reading therapist in Phono-Graphix, and shortly thereafter she opened her center.

"There are thousands of people like me and my family who need help. I just want to give them a chance," she says. "I love doing this."

At the center, students ranging in age from 3 to 67 are instructed according to the Phono-Graphix method, which Chahbazi says can help beginning readers as well as those in need of remedial education. Her center, in fact, works closely with local teachers to provide remediation services for students who need them. She also trains parents and teachers in the Phono-Graphix method so that they in turn can use it to teach other children to read.

Phono-Graphix, says Chahbazi, is the antithesis of traditional methods of reading instruction, which teach students symbols (letters) and the corresponding sounds they "make" and emphasize spelling rules and memorization. Phono-Graphix operates in reverse, building off of what students already know about sounds and speech. Phono-Graphix students are taught that the sounds they know can be represented in print by "sound pictures," or letter combinations.

"This 'sound picture' approach works on almost everyone, including dyslexics and students with learning disabilities," says Chahbazi. "Studies have shown that almost all children instructed in Phono-Graphix students who struggled with traditional reading methods achieved their grade level or better in just 12 hours."

Through her training seminars, Chahbazi hopes to expose teachers across the state to the Phono-Graphix method over the next few years, so that more students who struggle with reading can be taught this way.

"The most rewarding part of this program is when the students' eyes light up and they finally 'get it,'" she says. "Some of my students have been through years of traditional remedial reading programs, with no avail, and this program gives them new hope and makes them realize they can learn to read."