The Doman Method to Teach Reading at an Early Age

May 5, 2019
Would you like to hear your three-year-old toddler read a book? If so, then get them started with the Glenn Doman Method. It's designed to stimulate the cognitive abilities in children.

It’s possible for a child under three years old to learn to read. If this idea fascinates you, you might be interested in the Doman Method. It’s aproven way to teach toddlers how to read.

The Doman Method is the design of North American physician Glenn J. Doman, founder of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, in Philadelphia. This professional demonstrated that his method is a lot more effective than the traditional syllabic method.

Originally, the development of the Doman Method was a tool for helping children with brain injuries. However, when the creator saw the excellent results obtained in the increase of their cognitive abilities, he redirected his research. He was interested in analyzing the effects that it could have on healthy children to teach them reading at an early age.

The Doman Method: What’s it About

A baby and a toddler lying in bed.
The Doman Method is similar to learning how to talk. After all, there’s no limit to the potential of children at an early age.

Glenn Doman discovered that the greatest ability for learning is concentrated in the first years of the life of any child. He explained this concept in his book How to Teach Your Baby to Read.

In fact, he said the first six years of a child’s life is the period known as “genesis of genius.” This is because an average child has a greater intellectual ability throughout this period of time than at any other moment of their life. This is because they’re not yet contaminated with the myths that prevail in the adult world, are still fearless, and really trust their intuition.

Children can learn to read at an early age as long as they’re adequately stimulated to recognize words and their meaning. To do this, it’s important to use pictures with the words close to the child, in a large enough size, so that the child can recognize the image that’s next to the word.

The Doman Method claims that learning how to read is the same as learning how to speak. That is, when a baby hears a word, it triggers the same electro-chemical impulses in the brain as those perceived through their eyes. Therefore, the baby makes the same effort in order to learn to talk and read.

But how is it possible for them to be able to learn both things simultaneously?

This is because both hemispheres of the brain are stimulated at the same time. A child perceives words as a whole, without necessarily distinguishing the letters, but the drawings that come with them.

See more: The Effect of Dyslexia in Children

How to Teach Reading at an Early Age

A man and a baby looking at a book.
The words used must be representative of their daily environment.

This learning technique adapts to the characteristics of every individual child. It’s an easy and fun process. Basically, it’s about showing five cards with words three times a day quickly. Then, it’s a matter of incorporating five more every time.

Written words must correspond to the same category: parts of the human body, family members, colors, animals, toys, and actions. However, the selection of these categories must also correspond to the daily routine of a child.

Here’s the way it works:

  • You write a word on a white sheet of paper. The words should be written in block letters, all lowercase, and with a red color.
  • Groups of five words should be elaborated as one category every time.

Overall, this process of learning to read at an early age is done in five steps.

The First Step: Simple Words

For the first phase, select single words. Use nouns, organized by categories (family, animals, food, colors), then introduce actions (verbs). The process to show the words in order to teach the Doman Method goes as follows:

  • On the first day, show five words of the same category three times a day.
  • On the second day, show the five words from the previous day plus five new words from a different category.
  • Then, the third day, show the ten previous words and add five more words in a new category.
  • On the fourth day, show the fifteen words you used on the previous day, plus five words from a different category.
  • Finally, on the fifth day, show them the twenty words they saw before plus five new words in a new category.

The Doman Method is done in groups of five days. After completing the first week, remove one of its categories the following week and insert a new one.

The idea here is not to bore the child. You shouldn’t show more than 25 cards per day. Also, never show the 25 at once, but in groups of five and in categories.

The sessions should last between 15 and 30 minutes and only one second should be dedicated to every single card. That is, the cards are shown quickly to the child and they don’t have to repeat the words. Never force a child when trying to teach them something. The enthusiasm and motivation imprinted on the process of learning are fundamental.

Similarly, this game has to be fun and create anticipation. Look at your child while you say the word loud and clear. Every time you change the category, try shuffling the cards around.

Also, there shouldn’t be two consecutive words beginning with the same letter.

Second Step: Word Pairs

The second phase begins after the child has already completed 150 isolated words. In this phase, you use word pairs, which you create by pairing up a noun with an adjective. Also, you’ll have to change the colors. That is, the names of the colors should no longer be on white cards but on a card of the same color named by the word.

Each week you’ll show two sets of word pairs (five pairs each), with the single word games of the first phase. This means you’ll show two sets of word pairs together with the categories of single words from the first phase.

Third Step: Short Phrases

In this phase, you make sheets with letters of about two inches high. Here, you’ll write phrases of three words that include a noun and a conjugated verb on each card. For example, “Mom is walking” or “Grandpa is eating.”

With these phrases, you can make a book of about ten pages and illustrations, with cards. Read this book to your child two or three times a day.

Fourth Step: Sentences

In this phase, you’ll create sentences with letters of about an inch high, written in black ink. Now it’s time to include the articles (the word used to modify a noun), like “My dad is eating rice.”

Here, you’ll also create a book like you did in the previous step, but using the new, more complex sentences.

Fifth Step: Stories

The Doman Method: A drawing of two kids leaning on a tree.
Stories enrich a child’s vocabulary and promote its use.

It’s now time to start enjoying books. In this step, your little one should be able to understand stories that have between 50 and 100 words in them. Read them aloud to the child two or three times a day, at a normal speed and intonation.

Preferably, look for books that have only one sentence per page and with the text separated from the illustrations. The stories should be close to your child’s interests, as well as give you the opportunity to introduce new vocabulary.

Read more: 7 Benefits of Reading a Few Minutes a Day

The Doman Method: Final Considerations

At the end of each work session, hug and praise the child. For Doman, positive reinforcement is essential to guarantee success in the process of teaching reading at an early age.

According to Doman, a one-year-old toddler can already recognize words. At the age of two years, this can be entire phrases. By the age of three, they’ll be reading and enjoying it.

Later, it will be up to your child to discover the rules that govern written and oral language. After they’ve learned to read, then you can formally teach them the alphabet, which most likely has already happened during the Doman Method process.

  • Alegría, Jesús. “Por un enfoque psicolingüístico del aprendizaje de la lectura y sus dificultades—20 años después.” Infancia y aprendizaje 29.1 (2006): 93-111.
  • Bravo Valdivieso, Luis. “La conciencia fonológica como una zona de desarrollo próximo para el aprendizaje inicial de la lectura.” Estudios pedagógicos (Valdivia) 28 (2002): 165-177.
  • Estalayo, Rosario Vega Víctor, Glenn J. Doman, and Rosario Vega. Leer bien, al alcance de todos: El método Dolman adaptado a la escuela. Biblioteca Nueva, 2003.