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An EQUAL and OPTIMAL educational opportunity through multi-sensory language arts.

Who we are, What we teach, and Why

About the Riggs Institute

The Riggs Institute is a self-supporting non-profit literacy agency. We support our literacy initiatives (curriculum, "awareness of the issues" and training and assistance in collaborative efforts across the English speaking world) through the sale of our curriculum materials and training and tutorial services, which are in keeping with our IRS status as a 501(c)(3) agency. We operate under a 7-member board of directors, all of which are unpaid, voluntary positions.

Instructional Method & History

Our method of instruction, The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading & Thinking, is based on Romalda and Walter Spalding's The Writing Road to Reading (WRTR). It was based on the research of Dr. Samuel T. Orton, a neuropathologist and brain surgeon who researched the functioning of the human brain in learning language (1923-1948).

His work (with assistance from successful classroom teachers who still taught the Webster-Oxford collaboration on phonetics and correct spelling with rules of the 1850's) involved re-teaching brain-damaged World War I veterans to speak, read, write and spell again. These teachers, including Romalda Spalding, were trained in English orthography in Colleges of Education prior to the introduction and wide dissemination of the "look-say" (whole-word memorization) Dick and Jane readers. Orton published his book Reading, Writing and Speech Problems in Children in 1937. He is considered to be the first person to warn against the discriminatory and potentially damaging effects of the "look-say" Dick and Jane approach to teaching reading. He said that about 30% of the population who are not visually oriented learners would have great difficulty learning to read from these whole-word memorization types of materials.

According to The National Education Goals Report Building a Nation of Learners (1998), there were 94 million American adults (51% of all adults) reading and writing at the two lowest (of five) levels of proficiency, which others have said equates to "functional illiteracy." We ask researchers to conduct studies to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that this "in born" lack of visual ability (similar to tone deafness or color blindness and having nothing to do with the innate ability to learn) could be a major contributing factor in the past and present existence of illiteracy.


The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading & Thinking, written by the Institute's founder Myrna T. McCulloch, still teaches the phonetic structure of correct English spelling, which generally has not been taught in Colleges of Education in the United States since the early 30's. Twenty-six letters form the 42 sounds of English speech, using 71 common phonograms (letters and combinations of letters which make a single sound in a given word). These are taught in four weeks, simultaneously with dictated letter formation instructions designed to prevent or correct common reversals and to develop cognitive visual/directional motor skills.

These sound/symbol relationships are then applied in the dictation of 2100+ of the most commonly used spelling words. Forty-seven rules of spelling, plurals and syllabication are stressed along with a memory-aid marking system. This method begins where English-speaking primary level children are in their spoken and comprehensible vocabularies (4000 to 24,000 words) when they begin first grade. The intent is to enable them to spell, write and read what they can already say and understand by the end of grade two.

Methodologies Used

To address all "learning styles" without risking discrimination, Orton, Spalding and Riggs (mentor to our founder/author Myrna McCulloch) say we must use four pathways to the brain:

  • sight
  • sound
  • voice
  • writing

We teach almost everything using multi-sensory, classical direct, Socratic instruction and dictation, thus teaching through the stronger avenues while remedying any weaker avenues without the necessity of pre-testing. Direct and Socratic instruction includes presenting the concepts through questioning rather than exclusively telling, illustrating those concepts, helping students to practice the concepts, using teaching charts which are created with the students, then assigning and assessing work to determine mastery. Dictation is prominently featured in this method to build comprehension and the requisite auditory and phonological awareness and processing skills necessary for students to think, spell, and write on their own.


We recommend challenging literature which imparts knowledge, builds vocabulary, stretches the mind and entertains. You may customize your selection to your own taste, requirements and need.

Integration of Language "Strands"

The WSRRT fully integrates listening, speaking, initial letter formation and cursive handwriting, spelling (with complete "explicit" phonetics [simultaneous phonemic/graphemic awareness]and 47 rules of orthography), creative and organizational composition skills, reading, comprehension, vocabulary development, basic grammar (through parsing, direct instruction and diagramming) and analytical and inferential thinking. It also includes cognitive developmental auditory, verbal, visual, and visual-motor (tactile-kinesthetic) sub-skills necessary to prevent or correct most learning disorders AND to provide for acceleration in the learning process.


Our local, national and international instructional services include:

  1. Accredited Teacher/Parent/Tutor/Aide/Administrator/Literacy Volunteer training classes and seminars (several lengths) for mainstreamed and remedial students of all ages and abilities.
  2. Accredited, 6 semester-hour, graduate and undergraduate 24-Week Correspondence Practicums (learn as you teach to one or more students in your own classroom). This course follows the dictates of compiled research in effective teacher in-services to take the trainee through five major steps:
    • Theory
    • Demonstration
    • Guided Practice
    • Classroom Application
    • Feedback and Coaching
    Contact us for a SAU brochure or call 1-800-200-4840.
  3. FREE follow-up conference call services upon request. Send teacher questions by email in advance.
  4. Curriculum materials (including non-consumables for teachers and notebooks and correct practice paper for students). See our catalog or call 1-800-200-4840 to order.
  5. Spelling camps
  6. FREE curriculum evaluation materials: PowerPoint presentation, 13-page curriculum evaluation and a FREE digital taped/visual aid overview upon request.
  7. Compiled research studies in reading pedagogy and learning disabilities.
  8. Commentary on past & current educational reform issues.