The Importance of Directional Tracking When Reading

When someone asks us, "How is your vision?", we may respond with something like, "Great! It's 20/20." What we are essentially answering is simply how clearly we see things; there is so much more to vision and processing than what we see. "Since something like 75% to 90% of all a child learns comes to him via the visual pathways, it stands to reason that if there is any interference in those pathways, a child will not develop to his maximum potential" (Getz, Donald J., O.D., "Vision and Perception Therapy," 1973).

One of the most important visual skills is directionality or tracking. Having our eyes coordinate and turn inward to focus on one task at a time, such as reading, must be learned. It can be difficult for our eyes if any of these skills are not automatic, and it will take extra effort on the part of the individuals. This can be very frustrating and exhausting and will often cause them to need a break. They will be the ones who stare out the window after reading for a while or rest their heads on their arms, covering one eye, or they could be the ones who start to act out due to frustration. These students are often mislabeled as ADD or even ADHD. All of these important eye processes can be learned. Perceiving the symbols, and training our eyes to work left to right, which is a convention of the English language, take practice, time, and, often, methods of intervention to help.

Directional tracking is an important and an often-neglected, essential tool in reading. An article by Miscese Gagen, a mother and tutor, explains perfectly the importance of this skill:

"We read and write English from left-to-right. This left-to-right horizontal arrangement of print is an essential component of the written English language. Proper directional tracking is looking at and processing all the letters in order from left-to-right. Proper directional tracking is essential for reading success."

"For accurate reading, the student must process sounds in order from left-to-right. Knowing the individual sounds is not sufficient... Correct phonologic processing requires proper directional tracking."

"You need to directly teach proper directional tracking because scanning left-to-right in a straight line manner is not a natural process. Instinctively, looking all over is a superior way to gather and process information. Straight line, left-to-right processing is one of the arbitrary artificial components of our man made written English language that the student must learn and automatically apply. Many children apply the superior natural instincts of looking all over and fail to develop straight line left-to-right tracking skills that are essential to proficient reading." (Gagen,

Discover Intensive Phonics for Yourself has built-in tools that help immensely with directional tracking. First, Discover Intensive Phonics for Yourself teaches consonant and vowel sounds in slides. Slides put a consonant with a vowel for correct pronunciation by having students slide the sounds from left-to-right. This is much more effective than teaching ending patterns first, then going back (working right-to-left) and adding initial phonemes. This is not the way our eyes need to look at words for fluency. Our eyes must be trained to look at two, three, or more phonemes with each eye fixation. Slides have them look at those initial sounds as a unit, which causes an increase in fluency and the ability to read by simply adding final or ending phonemes. Second, Discover Intensive Phonics for Yourself has the student mark the word, underneath, from left-to-right.  This helps their eyes track linearly and ensures they are seeing and processing each sound in the correct order. After learning how to mark words in this manner, students will eventually transfer this skill to their reading and "see" the markings in their heads as they read the word left-to-right. It keeps them working directionally and helps with blending, fluency, and decoding. When they are able to decode automatically and are fluently working from left-to-right, comprehension also increases.

Using a finger or a card to move along underneath the words when reading is another important and helpful tool in directional tracking.  Utilizing these important tools can help your child feel more confident and encounter fewer obstacles when they are reading.

Shantell Berrett has a B.A. in English specializing in reading and dyslexia.  She has three wonderful kids ages 13, 11, and 7.  Her 11 year old son has dyslexia and is the reason she works in this field in writing, research and educating in schools and at home. Visit her website at

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2 Responses to “The Importance of Directional Tracking When Reading”

  1. Hi,
    Feel free to call or email with any questions we may be able to help you with. Sorry we didn’t see your comment before now. You don’t say how old your child is, but you may be interested in looking at free sample lessons for ages 4-9 or a free trial of the online program for ages 10-adult. Thanks!

  2. avatar Mary Catone says:

    Thank you so much for posting this article. I think this is what our daughter has trouble with. We’ve come a long way with her reading and I can at least see the end of the tunnel and so can she.

    I will have to spend some time looking into your program for her.

    Mary Catone