A Mother’s Story

Evan and his older brother Aidan reading

In 2008, my four-year-old son Evan took a WPPSI-III* test as part of the admissions process for preschool in Washington, DC.  We were told he needed further testing, and this second set of tests revealed overall high ability but a cluster of reading and decoding scores in the 28th percentile**.

We hired a private learning specialist right away and were instructed to immediately have Evan memorize common sight words — those words which show up the most frequently in the English language: the, as, said, he, she, etc.  Memorizing these words would allow Evan to focus on sounding out bigger words.

I tried the standard flash cards, and word rings, and computer programs, but both Evan and I grew bored with these tasks.  One day, I decided to stick 10 sight word cards up on Evan’s ceiling.  I turned off the lights, handed him a flashlight and told him to light up his sight words, one at a time.

Well….. that was the end of our struggle with sight words.  Evan banged out those words every single night before sleep, a time when our brains move information from short to long-term memory.  I added 10 words at a time to his ceiling until Evan had over 200 words to glance over before bed.   He memorized them all in no time.

Seven months later, Evan’s reading comprehension score on standardized testing was in the 95th percentile.  His progress in school soared.  In five months, Evan jumped 6 reading levels in his private school’s own DRA testing***   My now seven-year-old is a reading machine; this simple intervention – stickers – made a huge impact on all of our lives.

– Kate Koffman



*The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) is an intelligence test designed for children ages 2 years 6 months to 7 years 3 months developed by David Wechsler in 1967. The WPPSI–III provides Verbal and Performance IQ scores as well as a Full Scale IQ score. In addition, the Processing Speed Quotient (known as the Processing Speed Index on previous Wechsler scales) can be derived for children aged 4 – 7 years 3 months, and a General Language Composite can be determined for children in both age bands (2 years 6 months – 3 years 11 months & 4–7 years 3 months). Children in the 2 years 6 months – 3 years 11 months age band are administered only five of the subtests: Receptive Vocabulary, Block Design, Information, Object Assembly, and Picture Naming.
Quotient and Composite scores have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Subtest scaled scores have a mean of 10 and a standard deviation of 3. For Quotient and Composite score:

**The Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities is a set of intelligence tests first developed in 1977 by Woodcock and Johnson. There are 10 tests in the Standard Battery, and an additional 10 in the Extended Battery, allowing for a considerably detailed analysis of cognitive abilities. The Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory factors that this test examines are: Comprehension-Knowledge, Long-Term Retrieval, Visual-Spatial Thinking, Auditory Processing, Fluid Reasoning, Processing Speed, Short-Term Memory and Quantitative Knowledge and Reading-Writing Ability. A General Intellectual Ability (GIA) or Brief Intellectual Ability (BIA) may be obtained.

*** DRA2, K-3 student book graph,
The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) is an individually administered assessment of a child’s reading capabilities. It is a tool to be used by instructors to identify a students reading level, accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Once levels are identified, an instructor can use this information for instructional planning purposes.
The DRA test is traditionally administered on an annual or semi-annual basis. The test measures nine categories of reading behavior and six types of errors. It was developed in 1986 (and revised in both 2000 and 2003) by a committee of educators and is intended to evaluate certain aspects of your child’s reading level.

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