Background | PQs | The PQ Pop-Up App |  Read it to Me | YourName

Stop and Learn Words | PQ Hints | Read it to Me for Flow | PQ Games

Quizzes | Episodes | My Stuff | Paste and PQ | Additional Resources
Picture Books | Book Excerpts | Special Note for Authors

Background: Imagine an entirely new kind of instruction and support system for beginning and struggling readers. Rather than having to remember and apply abstractly ambiguous instructions, learners simply touch any word they ‘stutter’ on and immediately receive decoding, pronunciation, and recognition support.  For words they recognize, but don’t understand, a second touch provides instant access to the word’s definitions, synonyms, roots, translations and, soon, all other relevant references. Click on any word on this page to experience it yourself (and keep clicking in the box until it turns green).

 Touch WORD for help recognizing, for help understanding, touch ICON. 
Welcome to a new era of reading instruction; a more neurologically efficient way to learn to read and improve reading that compensates for variations in decoding, vocabulary, and native language, as it differentially scaffolds learning. Part instructor, part training wheels, and part safety net, we call it the Magic Ladder. 


The Magic Ladder both compliments and differs from all previous models of reading instruction, including phonics and whole language based methods. Rather than designing instruction and support around static two-dimensional orthography, the Magic Ladder uses the power of inexpensive digital technology to add a new ‘learner’s layer’ to English orthography (read more). The design principles of the Magic Ladder are based on the research work of the Children of the Code project (read more).

This site contains a growing collection of stories and articles that help learners of all ages learn to read, and/or improve how well they read. The best way to learn to use the Magic Ladder is simply to open a story or article and follow the hint buttons on that page. However, if you are interested in understanding the functional components of the Magic Ladder, click on the links below:


PQs | The PQ Pop-Up App |  Read it to Me | YourName | Stop and Learn Words 

PQ Hints | Read it to Me for Flow | PQ Games | Comprehension Quizzes | Episodes

My Stuff | Paste and PQ | Additional Resources for Teachers and Parents

“PQ” is short for “Pronunciation Cue”. PQs “cue” or “tell” you which of a letter’s possible sounds it is supposed to sound like, in any word you are trying to read. For an in-depth tour of PQs see: The ABCs of PQs.

The PQ Pop-Up App makes every word on a page its own help button. Try it NOW by clicking on any word on this page (and keep clicking in the box until it turns green).  



Decoding / Pronunciation / Word Recognition Support:
Clicking any word instantly results in a pop-up help box that guides learners through the process of recognizing the specific word they clicked on. Clicking through the available levels of support, learners can see the word broken into more readable segments (where applicable), can see and hear the word’s individual letter sounds, can see and hear the word’s group-letter sounds, can see and hear an animated sounding out of the entire word, and finally, can have the word read to them.

Word Understanding Reference Support:
If learners recognize the word, but don’t understand what it means, clicking the  WordExplore button in the Pop-Up opens the Reference Panel, which provides definitions, synonyms, roots, and translations for the word:

Note: WordExplore and the Reference Panel can be disabled by stewards to prevent extraneous explorations by their beginning readers.

Embeddable Code:
A few lines of code added to (embedded in) a website is all it takes to make every word in that site its own reading-help button (it can also be added to individual pages). The PQ Pop-up App code is embedded in each page of this site. It’s also embedded in its sister sites: Learning StewardsChildren of the Code, and Implicity as well as a growing number of 3rd party sites (for example: The Story Preservation Initiative).  The PQ App can be added to public non-profit content sites for free.  It can be added to subscription and fee based content sites for a small fee.  Click here to talk with us about adding the PQ App to your content.

Browser Extensions:
The PQ Pop-up App is also available as a browser extension for Google Chrome (an extension for Edge is in the works). With the browser extension installed, students can use the PQ App on popular sites including: 


…and millions of others.



Read it to Me 

Select pages within the library have speaker buttons that, when clicked or touched, will result in a section of the page being read out-loud. The system highlights each word as it is read.  Authors can select among the following different modes of highlighting:  


Green | Blue | Orange | Black | PQ | Overlay


Authors can set, and learners can change, the reading speed:

Normal | Faster | Slower | Very Slow | Slowest speed 


Learners have control of the reader’s voice via the Help and Settings Menu


Available Voices
Girl  Boy  Woman  Man 


(Click above right to change voice, then click the speaker buttons below the faces)

Authors can designate any name or word in their story and make it easily replaceable with a learner’s name, or any word the learner or teacher chooses. The replaced name or word also replaces any occurence of the designated name or word in all images. (Click  above right and enter a name in the “replace word” field, then click the image to the right and notice the sentence below). 


Sherry’s mother saw Sherry walking home to Sherry’s house and said, “Sherry, please come straight home”.  



Stop and Learn Words 

Stop and Learn Words are used to prompt the process of learning the PQs that reduce letter-sound confusion. Within sections of ‘Read it for Me’ text, authors can designate ‘Stop and Learn Words’ that will pause the automated reading of text and force the learner to click on the word and use the PQ Pop-up to sound it out.  


For example, stopping on the word bowl, focuses the learner’s attention to both letter-name and silent PQs.  


Similarly, words can be used to isolate and focus on the English letter-sound relationships that are most problematic to beginning and struggling readers:


Words like, banana, teach the, ‘uh’, or, schwa, sound. 

Words like, dog, teach drawn out exception sounds. 

Words like, bird, color, ever, and, fur, teach the, ‘er’, sound. 

Words like, arrow, berry, and, chair, teach the, ‘air’, sound. 

Words like, blue, badges, book, and, boots, teach exception sounds. 

Words like, cough, change, phone, and, action, teach group sounds. 

PQ Hints – located to the right of each paragraph or section of text that includes ‘Stop and Learn Words’, is the icon/button for PQ Hints. Clicking the button will result in audible instructions for learning the PQs focused on, in the ‘Stop and Learn Words’ contained in that paragraph or section. Click on the PQ Hint button for an example.  

Read it to Me for Flow   

Select pages within the library have speaker buttons at the end of passages that, when clicked or touched, will result in that section of the page being read out-loud. Like ‘Read it for Me’, the highlighting can be varied by the author, and the speed and voice can be set by the author, and changed by the learner. ‘Read it to Me for Flow’ can be used as a comprehension safety net for the reader’s own reading (used after the reader has read the passage).  

Note: when ‘Read it to Me for Flow’ is added to a “Read it to Me” passage, automated reading doesn’t stop on ‘Stop and Learn’ Words. Click this button for demo:   


PQ Games and Quizzes provide playful ways for learners to interactively reinforce their learning of PQs, and how they reduce or eliminate letter-sound confusion. They can also be used to focus the learners attention on the sounds within words that exercise phonemic awareness. PQ Games and Quizzes can be embedded inside stories or episodes. For example: 


multiple: Letter Name
listen: Letter Name
H e
listen: Letter Name
H e l p
listen: Letter Name
C a r
listen: Letter Name
B a b y
multiple: Silent
listen: Silent
A i m
listen: Silent
C a r
listen: Silent
Y o u
listen: Silent
W h y
multiple: Combined
listen: Combined
P h o n e
listen: Combined
T o y
listen: Combined
B r o w n
listen: Combined
S h o e
listen: Combined
B a t h


See: Phonemic Awareness Games


PQ Quizzes can also be used without playing the sound of the words to exercise learners’ facility with recognizing PQs.  For example:



multiple: Letter Name
look: Letter Name
S h e
look: Letter Name
A r m
look: Letter Name
B o a t
look: Letter Name
C a n d y
look: Letter Name
Z e b r a

The same PQ Quiz process can be used for every letter-sound pattern in English orthography. The same game system can also be used to teach segmentation.

b   e   g   i   n
l   e   a   r   n   i   n   g
s   e   g   m   e   n   t   s
Comprehension Quizzes



The Magic Ladder tool set also includes other Quiz modules that can be easily embedded in stories and contents. For example:


What are PQs? 
  The letters of the Alphabet that come after ‘O’ and before ‘R’.
  Variations in the appearance of letters that tell you which of that letter’s sounds it is saying in the word you are looking at.
  Something you should ‘mind’.
Quizzes can also require correct answers to math questions:
Multiply the letters of the alphabet by 4 and add 13:

Series and Episodes


PQs can be learned simply by using the PQ Pop-Up. However, to expedite and systematize the process, PQ learning can be explicitly facilitated by using  “Stop and Learn Words” (see above) in a pedagogical sequence spread throughout a ‘series’ of ‘episodes’ that focus on particular PQ letter-sound patterns. The Magic Ladder provides such series for each entry level (Pre-K thru Adult). To allow learners to change which series they are reading, and still remain on a systematic track towards PQ mastery, every first episode of every series in a grade level always focuses on the same PQs. For example, all first episodes focus on letters that say their name, letters that make their common sound, and letters that are silent. All fifth episodes focus on group letter patterns.  

The My Stuff component of the Magic Ladder system allows students to easily access documents located in a shared Google Drive or Google Drive Folder. It provides stewards a way to share assignments and resources with their students by simply dropping files into their shared Google Drive Folder.  Once ‘paired’ to the teacher’s Google Drive Folder, students can easily identify and open any shared document and use the PQ Pop-Up app to support them reading it.

Document Types: 

(other types coming).



Paste and PQ 


There is a Copy>Paste>PQ button (as shown above) on every index page of the site. Clicking it opens a special page that enables learners and stewards to use the PQ Pop-up app with content pasted from any source (including word processors, PDFs, ebooks, and web pages). Once content has been copied to their device’s clipboard and then pasted into the page, it will be automatically converted into text that is ready to read with PQ Pop-Up app support. Learners or stewards can also type directly into the input window and press the ‘Process’ button to have their own words made ready for reading (or teaching) with the PQ Pop-Up app.


Additional Resources for Teachers and Parents:

WordScope | LetterScopeBackground Articles | Additional Resources




WordScope (available in the Reference Panel) allows students and teachers to ‘magnify’ any word and interactively explore and play (visually and audibly) with the letter-sounds of its constituent letters. In WordScope the letters in a word are analogous to the digit rings in a combination lock. Unlocking the pronunciation of a word involves getting the combination correct by choosing the right letter sound options (Pcues) for each and all of the word’s letters. Using the smart font styles of “Pcues” to represent the sounds of letters, and the tool’s dynamic ‘sound out’ buttons to pronounce the words (as currently “Pcued”), learning about the relationships between letters and sounds becomes fun, intuitive, and neurologically efficient. Click here for a guided demo of WordScope 




 LetterScope enables teachers and students to interactively explore and play (visually and audibly) with each and every sound that the letters of the alphabet can make (within words safe for their grade levels). LetterScope makes it possible to teach each letter’s range of sounds using letter-patterns, words, and pictures that make concrete sense to students, without using unrealistic simplifications that set students up for later confusion (alphabet song’s letter names or the flash cards’ common sounds). LetterScope can be accessed through individual letter learning pages or directly as a stand alone tool.  Click here for a guided demo of LetterScope. 



Background Articles:

Interactive Orthography

The #1 Cause of Low Literacy in America (Language Magazine)


Early Childhood Education: The Obstacle Course Wall

No More Instructional Confusion, Guessing or Mind-Shame

Adult Literacy: Overcoming Self-Sabotaging Habits

Additional Resources:

What is Reading – The Brain’s Challenge –  Reading Shame – Reading In The Brain – Oral Language and Reading ComprehensionChildren of the Code – Paradigm Inertia in Reading Science and Policy