The Story behind Words First

Learning to read (and comprehend) fluently, is one of the most important skills a child will need to develop before and during school. I say ‘before’ school because I believe that our journey to fluent reading starts with our ability to speak, understand and communicate in our home language. As spoken language develops before school, so too does our reading journey. When you read, you are only reading language coming in through the eyes and not through the ears. When you’re writing, you’re only writing language… how can we separate them?
I made a spectacular mistake very early on in my career. I worked with children in Years 2-6 who had spoken and written language difficulties but noticed that, apart from the usual curriculum for teaching reading and some small group work, no-one was supporting children on an individual level who were struggling to learn to read. Being the ever-willing and enthusiastic therapist, in addition to my role as Speech and Language Therapist, I took it upon myself to teach these children how to read. In short, I failed and for anyone who knows me, I don’t give up! My passion to understand literacy was born!
Since then (2002), I have dedicated my career to understanding the links between literacy and language and how some children learn to read so well, and others, don’t. I knew that to truly help the children who were falling through the net, I needed to follow a unique path and after completing my MSc in Speech and Language, I completed my MA in Education (dyslexia), becoming a highly specialist Speech and Language Therapist and dyslexia specialist.
It may surprise some of you to know that I although I seem to be a fluent reader, I am not a fluent comprehender. I’ve never really enjoyed reading because it is so effortful for me. Yes, I can read quickly, but if you ask me to comprehend what I’m reading, there’s no chance I can read at pace. In fact, I am a very slow reader. This seemingly insignificant problem, has had a huge impact on my life (positive and negative) and is definitely a contributing factor for the shape my career has eventually taken. Naming speed difficulties fascinate me from a personal and professional perspective and the more I learn about processing speed, the more I realise how intricately it is linked to the organisation of our language system.
At Words First, I have made it my mission for all our Speech and Language Therapists to have a good understanding of the links between literacy and language from the early years all the way through to Post 16. I love teaching, training, supporting and developing the Words First therapists, always keeping us at the forefront of our profession. It is such a privilege to work with this incredible team of professionals.

I hope you enjoy reading more about Words First. I am always interested in hearing feedback so please don’t hesitate to send it my way.

“When I started Words First, I did so to make a positive difference to children experiencing language and literacy difficulties in mainstream schools in London. I had no idea that 10 years later, Words First would be made up of 35 speech and language therapists implementing the Words First Approach alongside traditional speech and language therapy, across 83 mainstream schools and 7 special needs schools supporting thousands of children! Our speech and language therapists believe in the Words First Approach and play an instrumental role in shaping its future. I am privileged to work with many outstanding people who care so deeply about the staff, pupils and parents in their schools”

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