South African Researchers Report Reading Success with Davis Methods

Reported by Abigail Marshall © 2010 DDAI. (Updated 2015)
Image courtesy of Sara Kramer

My child couldn’t read at all. After the orientation counselling and symbol mastery, she could read fluently. She was so thankful and delighted that she almost cried and could not thank me enough. According to the classroom educator her spelling performance also improved a lot. (From Interview 7)

Researchers at University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, compared the progress of 18 dyslexic students who were given instruction using Davis Dyslexia Correction techniques with a control group of students from the same school. They reported that over a period of nine months, the Davis students performed significantly better on tests of word recognition skills and spelling than a control group of students taught with phonological strategies.

The researchers used a pre-test, post-test design, with matched experimental and control groups. Participants were Afrikaans-speaking dyslexic children in grades 4, 5 and 6, betwen the ages 10 and 14. Students selected for the study had average intellectual ability and a reading discrepency of at least two years between their chronological age and their reading age. The groups were also balanced for age and gender, with 12 boys and 6 girls assigned to the Davis group, and 11 boys and 7 girls assigned to the control group.

Eight post-graduate education students were involved in the design of a literacy intervention program based on Davis methods. The program incorporated Davis Orientation Counseling to help students control their mental focus and overcome perceptual confusion, and Davis Symbol Mastery, using clay modeling to master alphabet letters and words. The graduate students worked one-on-one with their assigned pupils, for 30 minutes each week, over a period of nine months.

Students in the control group received no special intervention beyond the methods already used in their classroom. However, they did receive additional support from their regular teachers, meeting individually with each for 30 minutes each week, where the teachers continued to focus mainly on phonological strategies to build literacy skills. Thus, the students in the support group received the same amount of instructional time and individualized attention as the experimental Davis group.

Prior to intervention, pre-test results showed no significant difference between the experimental group and controls. However, after the nine-month program, post-test results showed that the Davis group performed significantly better than the control group on tests of word recognition and spelling performance.

In addition to relying on the quantitative tests, the postgraduate students who worked with the dyslexic students were also interviewed. Many reported qualitative observations of improvement in other areas, such as greater self-confidence or improved behavior. One postgraduate remarked:

“After just one month, I observed a great improvement in the learner’s concentration abilities and reading and spelling performance.”

Another volunteer tutor stated:

“Initially, I was very sceptical about the literacy programme, but the results obtained in the end were very positive. The learner enjoyed the clay-modelling of letters and words and it resulted in better sound knowledge and word recognition and her reading comprehension skills also improved”

Another participant reported that one of her pupil’s had a severe problem with stuttering, but was able to read an entire page without stuttering after the orientation counseling.

Reference Citation
van Staden, A; A. Tolmie; MG Badenhorst. (2009). Enhancing intermediate dyslexic learners' literacy skills: a Free State community project. Africa Education Review.Volume 6, Issue 2, pages 295-307 (October). DOI 10.1080/18146620903274605
Cite this article as

Marshall, Abigail. (2010). “South African Researchers Report Reading Success with Davis Methods.” Davis Dyslexia Association International,


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  • Jacqueline

    My child is in Grade 5 and she is 11 years old I had her access by Phycologist and he diagnosed her with a reading disorder. I live in Cape Town I am a single parent. What shud I do please help.

  • Aqeedah

    My 7 year old nephew goes to a normal primary school in cape town and he is in grade 1. The grade R teacher last year (2016) said that he is improving and we as the family took her word for it and he proceeded to the next grade (2017). It’s term two already and I went through his books, and there was no improvement all his doing is drawing pictures and not his work. He cannot speak fluently, He cannot count probably, He cannot say certain words. I done research and the signs and symptoms of dyslexia I found I compared it to him and it was exactly like he is. I want to help him before it’s to late. Please I need answers??

  • Lindiwe

    Hi my name is Lindiwe from Gauteng, I have a little sister who is 10 years old she’s struggling to read and write she’s having difficulties at school, when i go through her school work i can see that she’s facing challenges. Please Help.

  • Cecile L

    Good day, please may i have the contact details of the department at the university of the FreeState who were involved with the Davis program.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Cecile, you can find contact information for two of the authors (van Staden and Badenhorst) near the top of the page where the original abstract is published. The information needed to find that is in the “Reference Citation” section above; here is a direct link to the abstract:

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