What People ask about Fantastic Phonics

Frequently Asked Questions about Fantastic Phonics downloadable readers

Is It Proven?
Yes. A three year, independent research program tested Fantastic Phonics in an intervention program with Grade 2/3 Liberian children. These children had little previous exposure to English, and no exposure to reading. The results were tested after just 18 months – they showed an average 250% increase in reading capability across a range of indicators.

The important aspect of this research was that, with the right materials and teacher awareness of phonics, a child can be taught to read in just 18 months, from a position of no previous exposure. The program moderators were sufficiently impressed with Fantastic Phonics that they printed 75,000 books.

What does the School Licence permit?
There are TWO school licenses – a Class license, and a School license.

  • a Class License permits a teacher to print and display the books for a single class of 30 children. A single login is provided.
  • a School License permits teachers to print for up to 5 classes in the school. Up to five concurrent logins are allowed.
  • we also provide District Licenses covering several schools at a discount.
  • these licenses are renewable after 12 months.

We are a Charity – how can we access it?
We will need a request from a senior person within your organisation. We will review the request, and possibly ask a few questions, but we haven't said 'no' to a request.

This is the same for an Aid Organisation, an NGO, or similar not-for-profit organisation. A license is given for the breadth of the project you describe, and is limited to a 12 month period. If your program is lasting longer than that, we will renew the license.

Of course, the license specifically excludes the sale of the books, or any other financial benefit.

Can we just buy Series One – the first 20 books?
We do not sell the Program in this way, for an explicit reason – the Program is based on the methodology proven by research to succeed, and that means a gently graded, sequential series of interlocking steps. Every book in the Program serves a specific function in the achievement of reading. Please read the research summary to understand the process. A significant lesson of ALL the research findings is that you shouldn't "mix 'n match" from different sources. This can be very confusing for the child and acts as a deterrent, more than a benefit.

Is it interactive?
No, for multiple reasons.

  • it is not a 'game' that you give to your child and hope they'll learn without your assistance. There are plenty of distractive interactive games that will visually entertain your child without teaching them anything, but an "interactive game" completely misunderstands how reading is learned.
  • the Program is designed as a learning tool for a parent or teacher – that is the interaction required.
  • it is widely used in areas that have no electricity, let alone a computer. The books are printed as "hard-copy" as given to the children. For many of them, it is the first book in English they will have seen.
  • we are developing the Program into a video series which is applicable for 'smartphone' use, because this may be one technology which will be widely available in disadvantaged communities.

How long will it take before my child starts reading?
There are two phases of reading – Guided and Independent. Fantastic Phonics forms the "Guided" section of the process. Our experience is that children aged 5 years can achieve independent reading within 12 months, though this is dependent on the ability of the child and time that they spend with the Program. 15-20 minutes every night is recommended, but not when they are tired.

What is "phonemic awareness"?
Adults don't realise how complex reading is. When a young child sees a word for the first time, they see a "shape", much like they see a dog-shape (as a drawing) on paper. Except, they recognise the dog, because the shape reflects the real-life shape of the dog.

When they see a word, it has no meaning whatsoever. In phonics, we are training them to see "into" the 'shape' to split the 'shape' into core phonic components. There are about 48 of these components.

The next step for the child is to associate the "phoneme" (the phonic component) with a sound. Now, luckily, most children have a solid vocabulary  – they know the sounds – so the task for them is to associate the word segment (phoneme) with the sounds. This is where the parent and teachers are crucial – they must explicitly state, over and over, the sound that the phoneme makes.

Then, when the child sees that phonic segment in a word, they are able to "sound it" aloud – which is reading. Suddenly, they find themselves creating words that they have heard and understand – matching the shapes on the page with everyday language they know.

Is it effective for Children from a non-English speaking background?
Emphatically "Yes!" The Liberian research showed that children with little awareness of spoken English can achieve success in as little as 18 months. We have families AND schools using the program in Japan, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Lithuania, Russia, Georgia, and Moldovia. It is used in Finland, Sweden, Belgium and Germany, and Spain, Portugal and Malta.

In South America, it is used in almost every country (that we are aware of) and we have schools in Arab speaking counties through the Middle East. We are continously amazed at the places where it is used – places we'd never heard of previously.

Can it be used by Adults?
Yes. We know from the emails we receive that entire FAMILIES are using the Program.


Recent Posts


Early Grade Reading Assessment

(EGRA) Plus: Liberia

Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Plus: Liberia

EdData II Task Number 6

Contract Number EHC-E-06-04-00004-00

Strategic Objective 3

July 2009

This publication was produced for review by the United States Agency for International Development. It was prepared by the Liberian Ministry of Education, Liberian Education Trust, and RTI International.

  Prepared for  USAID/Liberia and Ministry of Education, Republic of Liberia with partial funding from the Presidential Initiative for Expanding  Education

Prepared by
RTI International
3040 Cornwallis Road
Post Office Box 12194
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2194

Reading program prepared in Collaboration with
Early Reading.com “Fantastic Phonics”.

RTI International is a trade name of Research Triangle Institute.

This publication is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID.) The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of RTI International and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.


In September 2008, the Liberian Ministry of Education (MOE) organized a week-long workshop during which a draft Scope and Sequence for teaching reading in English for Liberia was started and has now been developed. The MOE representatives and other participants provided the authors with sufficient written material to develop a teacher manual that is custom-made for Liberia. The workshop was funded by the World Bank and facilitated by RTI International and the Liberian Education Trust. The finalization of this teacher manual, the training in the use of the manual, and the overall implementation of the EGRA Plus: Liberia project is made possible by USAID/Liberia, the Presidential Initiative for Expanding Education, and the generous support of the American people.

The EGRA Plus: Liberia Project was requested by the Ministry of Education, and funded by the World Bank between June and September 2008. As of October 2008 and until October 2010, the Project will be funded by USAID/Liberia with partial funding from the Presidential Initiative for Expanding Education.

Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) in Liberia The ability to read and understand a text is the most fundamental skill a child learns. Without literacy there is little chance a child will escape the inter-generational cycle of poverty. Yet, in many countries, students enrolled for as many as four years, are unable to read and understand even simple texts. Psychometric evidence indicates that learning to read both early and at a sufficient rate are essential for learning to read well. Acquiring literacy becomes more difficult as students grow older; children who do not learn to read in the first few grades are more likely to repeat and eventually drop out, or will fall behind others for the rest of their lives, and countries where the population cannot read well will tend to lag behind the more educated countries.

What is EGRA?

Concerned with the state of reading in early grades in developing nations, international agencies decided to fund an early-grade reading assessment (EGRA). Most national and international assessments are paper-and-pencil tests used in grades four and above; they essentially assume students have already master the basics of reading. For the few low-income countries participating in international tests, the median child performs at about the 3rd or 4th percentile of a developed country distribution. From these results it is often difficult to tell whether the most basic skills are absent or present to enable the student to understand the test, or whether the children cannot perform the tasks in the test. EGRA was designed to assess the foundation skills for literacy acquisition in grades 1 through 4 orally, including pre-reading skills such as listening comprehension.

The utility of EGRA (and its ramifications) lies in two areas. First, it highlights reading problems, drawing policy makers’ attention to the issue, and helps teachers track performance. Second, early grade reading is a “leading indicator” for the functioning of a school or school system. If reading is not being taught well in a school or a district, it is a safe bet that other things are not being taught well. Moreover, lack of reading instruction and skill is relatively easy to detect, as opposed to a lack of appropriate instruction and skill in, say, social studies.

EGRA in Liberia

While EGRA started out as a measurement tool, many countries have shown an interest in using it as a springboard to improving reading and teacher training around reading. EGRA Plus: Liberia is a good case. The tool itself will be used to lay a baseline on reading. But the main emphasis of EGRA Plus: Liberia will be to improve student reading skills by implementing evidence-based reading instruction. The tasks and activities that would provide information on causes of poor reading levels similar to the opportunity-to-learn literature will be included. Systematic training, support, and supervision will be provided to teachers, along with toolkits and plenty of reading materials for the students. The project will also include training and collaboration with Ministry of Education staff in areas of early grade assessment, development of skills in early grade reading improvement, and the use of data to drive teaching improvement. The project will work on a pilot basis using a thorough evaluation approach.

EGRA Plus: Liberia began in October 2008 and will end in October 2010. It is implemented by RTI International and Liberian Education Trust, with leadership from the Liberian Ministry of Education. EGRA Plus: Liberia has been funded by the World Bank and USAID/Liberia and the Presidential Initiative for Expanding Education. For further information, contact us at egraplusliberia@gmail.com.

How to Use the EGRA Plus: Liberia Teacher Manual and Other Resources

Teachers in Grades 2 and 3 in participating schools of EGRA Plus: Liberia project will use the following four main sources for teaching reading.

A.        EGRA Plus: Liberia Teacher Manual – Volume 1 + 2

The EGRA Plus: Liberia Teacher Manual – Volume 2 presented here consists of two main parts: (1) overview of Scope and Sequence for teaching reading for a year, and (2) weekly lesson plans with detailed daily sequences and instructions on what to teach that day and how to draw on other resources that have been provided to teachers (e.g., decodable books and supplementary materials).

Finally, the EGRA Plus: Liberia Teacher Manual will include the following teacher resources: pocket charts, letter cards, and flash cards.

B.        Decodable books

The EGRA Plus: Liberia project will provide every child in Grades 2 and 3 in participating schools with a number of decodable books. The books are compiled into three compilations and each compilation provides the weekly schedule for the use of these books. This schedule can be also found in this manual (see “Scope and Sequence”).

C.        Library books

The EGRA Plus: Liberia project will provide Grades 2 and 3 with a sufficient number of books to build small libraries. These books are to be used by students in Grades 2 and 3 for reading at home or during school hours for “independent” reading. Teachers will be provided with ‘reading-at-home’ log of books as well as library logs to keep track of the books’ use.

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