Response to a Facebook post from Yolanda Soryl on the 11 April 2021 by Sharon Scurr, Founder of the deb.

Dear Yolanda Soryl, 

I am writing this in response to your post on your Facebook page on 11 April 2021. To say I am shocked is an understatement. 

I want to unpack what you wrote to help clarify the actual facts as there seems to be a little confusion on your part about what Structured Literacy is and what the Science of Reading is. 

First let me point out I have no financial gain in supporting Structured Literacy or the Science of Reading. My only interest is for children who struggle with reading, spelling and writing. 

The reason you are getting enquiries about the Science of Reading is because worldwide it’s been proven to be the best approach for all kids, including dyslexic kids and kids who struggle. There are over 40 years of scientific peer-reviewed studies worldwide proving it works. I can attach as many study links and articles as you want; I have 100’s. 

I agree you are an advocate for phonics, you created a programme that up until now most schools purchased as it did indeed tick the phonics box. 

But here is the bit that I need to clarify: a systematic, explicit phonics programme that is taught in isolation and used alongside balanced literacy is not the same as a good explicit, systematic, synthetic phonics approach that teaches the 44 sounds and the spelling of the sounds and words as part of the approach. I can name a few programmes if you like, but I am sure you can see where I am going. 

As for hijacking the term Structured Literacy, you might be interested to know the International Association of Dyslexia coined the term. 

The term “Structured Literacy” is not designed to replace Orton Gillingham, Multi-Sensory or other terms in common use. It is an umbrella term designed to describe all of the programmes that teach reading in essentially the same way.

Since you enjoy attaching links, here is one on Structured Literacy; it explains what it is and, as you can see, it is more than phonics. I encourage you to take the time to read this, it’s an excellent read: 

Structured Literacy: Effective Instruction for Students with Dyslexia and Related Reading Difficulties

Here is another link to an explanation of the Science of Reading

I will summarise the main components for you: 

  • Phonological Awareness 
  • The Alphabetical Code – I prefer this name as then there is no mistake about what phonics approach should be used. 
  • Fluency 
  • Vocabulary 
  • Comprehension 

As for the “cheek” of the educationalists measuring the Science of Reading, it’s a little more detailed than that.

Let me clarify, we NOW know how the brain learns to read, it’s not by guessing or by magic or by using the MSV with an add-on of phonics. All brains learn the same way. I will repeat that: ALL BRAINS learn to read the same way.

I suggest you watch this video by Stanislas Dehaene, a French cognitive neuroscientist, called “How the brain learns to read”:

Your concern about “research” used is an interesting statement because the Science of Reading has evidence-based research that has been peer reviewed for 40 years. Which is very different to just “research.” 

In regards to your statement that “spending lots of money on a cure worries you,” I am sure it does, because once teachers understand the code, have a scope and sequence to follow and know how to teach structured literacy they won’t need to buy your programme. Is it the bottom line that worries you more, I wonder? It’s very easy to criticise those who teach structured literacy when we don’t understand it and feel threatened. 

To be honest, as a business woman, I was appalled to see you attack other businesses making money in the education system, because isn’t this what you do – make money from the education system? 

As a teacher of many years of experience you must see your programme doesn’t suit all kids, you must see there are improvements that can be made, and you must see your programme doesn’t work for dyslexic children and in many ways is detrimental to their learning. 

Here is the perfect visual for you to see how many are not being taught using balanced literacy: Nancy Young’s Reading Ladder     

I would like reply to you about decodable books: these books are crucial for dyslexic kids and have proven to work for all kids but, once again, you criticize something you know nothing about, because if you understood their purpose you would support them, being an “avid phonics supporter”!

I will finish with a bit about me and my son. I have a beautiful 10-year-old boy. Only a year ago he couldn’t read, write or spell. He had three years of your programme in a very good school and yet in Year 5 he still couldn’t read. No one knew what to do. How do you answer that? I have been home schooling a year and I teach Structured Literacy to my dyslexic son and I use decodable books. He can now read, spell and write. Can you just imagine (and I really want you to think about this) how different his life would have been if it was introduced in Year 1. It was your teaching and your programme that failed him! 

You made a choice Yolanda, when you posted your statement – you made it between them and us. You are the one creating sides. 

I encourage you to learn more and understand what teaching Structured Literacy is, adjust and accept change is coming from teachers, principals, the Ministry of Education and parents who are fed up with watching kids fail year after year and they can’t help them with the tools they have been given. 

It’s time for change, and now you get to decide if you get on the bus or not.


Sharon Scurr

Practicing MSL Educational Specialist (IMSLE, Aus)

Accredited Member of the Australian Dyslexia Association

AMADA Registration: 420268

Founder of the Dyslexic NZ Evidence Based Facebook Group.