LTK: Backgrounder on the Language Tune-Up Kit

The Language Tune-Up Kit (LTK) is a multisensory remedial reading software program that teaches skills in phonemic awareness and phonics. It is appropriate for children age 7 and older, teens and adults who currently read between grade levels 0 and 4.

The LTK curriculum is based primarily on the Orton-Gillingham method of explicit, direct, systematic, intensive, sequential phonics. The technique focuses on building skills in phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is pre-phonics. It is the understanding that words are made up of different sounds. Phonics builds on that skill and teaches children to associate letters with corresponding sounds and string them together to form words. A child with a severe phonemic awareness problem may have difficulties grasping phonics. Deficits with auditory discrimination and the ability to recognize differences between sounds can also impact a student’s development of language comprehension. This is why LTK integrates the essential modes of learning to help students build and improve the necessary reading pathways in the brain. Our program addresses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic types of learning.

At the conclusion of the program’s 87 lessons, a student will have the skills necessary to decode 85–90 percent of all words in the English language.

LTK uses repeated drills on nonsense words to be sure students are decoding words properly and not relying on memorization or guessing.

Supporting Research

Joe Torgesen, a reading researcher in Tallahassee, has found that two hours a day of one-on-one with a teacher trained to teach phonemic awareness and phonics has helped fourth- and fifth-graders dramatically. The one-on-one training is critical. Often, however, even in special-education classes, students must share a teacher with a dozen or so other pupils.

Another important factor is finding a tutor or a program that understands research-based strategies such as phonemic awareness. Most conventional educational testing for learning problems and disabilities doesn’t check for phonemic awareness. The Language Tune-Up Kit is a program that specifically teaches phonemic awareness.

Twenty percent of the U.S. population has some form of learning challenge. Research compiled over the past thirty years has shown that these students require instruction in phonemic awareness. The Language Tune-Up Kit is particularly well suited to students with learning problems. It teaches the phonemic awareness skills necessary to acquire reading proficiency at all grade levels. It is also appropriate for students who can speak English and are literate or illiterate in non-English languages.

The Orton-Gillingham method of explicit, systematic, intensive, sequential instruction of phonics has been recognized as the most comprehensive method of its kind, teaching millions of students since the 1930’s. It is the most researched and most successful of all remediation techniques available today.


Testimony on learning disabilities conducted by NICHD was presented before the Committee on Education and the Workforce in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 10, 1997. Dr. Reid Lyon, who presented the testimony, was Acting Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a part of National Institutes of Health (NIH), at that time. NICHD prevention and early intervention studies were done at major universities in Houston, Texas, Tallahassee, Florida, and Albany, New York.

Key Statements from the Testimony:

“Invariably, it is difficulty linking letters with sounds that is the source of reading problems and children who have difficulties learning to read can be readily observed. The signs of such difficulty are a labored approach to decoding or “sounding” unknown or unfamiliar words and repeated misidentification of known words. Reading is hesitant and characterized by frequent starts and stops and multiple mispronunciations. If asked about the meaning of what has been read, the child frequently has little to say. Not because he or she is not smart enough; in fact, many youngsters who have difficulty learning to read are bright and motivated to learn to read — at least initially. Their poor comprehension occurs because they take far too long to read the words, taxing their memory and leaving little energy for remembering and understanding what they have read.
“Unfortunately, there is no way to bypass this decoding and word recognition stage of reading. A deficiency in these skills cannot be appreciably offset by using context to figure out the pronunciation of unknown words. In essence, while one learns to read for the fundamental purpose of deriving meaning from print, the key to comprehension starts with the immediate and accurate reading of words. In fact, difficulties in decoding and word recognition are at the core of most reading difficulties. To be sure, there are some children who can read words accurately and quickly yet do have difficulties comprehending, but they constitute a very small portion of those with reading problems.”

Language Tune-Up Kit Overview

The Language Tune-Up Kit is a multi-sensory remedial reading program that contains 87 lessons designed to build decoding skills for non-readers. It is particularly suited to those with learning challenges. The student performs various tasks for each phoneme presented to show how letters, letter combinations and sounds form words. Correlations taught include comparing the number of letters in a word to the number of sounds, syllable division, word building, and decoding skills. The words and tasks become more complex as the student progresses through the lessons. New words are presented in groups of ten. Additional groups of ten words are presented if the student did not achieve 80% mastery for the lesson activity. Each Lesson contains six to ten lesson activities. All student errors are recorded. Quizzes at the end of each lesson measure mastery.

The student performs various tasks to reinforce how letters, letter combinations and sounds form words. Next within each lesson is an Audio Recognition lesson activity. It emphasizes the correlation between letter sounds, letter combinations, and word formation. Variations of this activity are used for digraphs, syllables, blends, the doubling rule, isolated sounds, and letter/sound placement within a word. The Hint button provides multiple levels of assistance. Lessons 1–41 are devoted to single-syllable words. All student errors are recorded. Quizzes measure skills acquired.

Each of the 87 lessons contains two or more stories that reinforce the skills, words and concepts covered within. In lessons 1–87 the student completes a sentence about the story by typing the missing word, or answers one of the 649 story questions. The software speaks dictation words and phrases, and the student types them in response.

The sequence of skills and lesson activities for each lesson are shown in Appendix A.

The Language Tune-Up Kit is specifically designed to address the special needs child. It has been used very successfully with children who are literate and illiterate in their native language. It can remediate students age 7 and older, teens and adults.

Lesson Activities

New Concepts and Words

An instructional segment begins each lesson. The concepts and phoneme(s) are introduced and examples are provided for reinforcement in a lesson activity named Build Words (see page 6).

Card Deck

An LTK Card Deck, consisting of 108 phonemes, is integrated within the software. An actual Card Deck accompanies the program and is used by the student to follow along with the program and can be used as a reference tool when away from the program.

This lesson activity displays a phoneme, its keyword and associated graphic. The program pronounces the phoneme and keyword. The student is asked to record his or her pronunciation of the keyword and compare it to the prerecorded version. The student is then asked to write a sentence using the keyword.

Stay tuned to the next story in the series diving into the activities!

#1 Build Words lesson activity screen