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Toe by Toe

A highly structured multi-sensory reading manual for teachers and parents

By Keda Cowling

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Age range
Administration time
15 - 20 minutes daily
Administration type
One-on-one intervention

Toe By Toe is a small red book designed to help anyone who finds reading difficult. This includes weak readers of all ages who struggle to decode or those with dyslexic difficulties.

Keda Cowling chose the name Toe By Toe to signify that students make progress by the tiniest steps – one toe at a time. However, even though the steps taken are small, students can clearly measure progress right from the first page. Confidence and self-esteem are boosted as a result.

Over 25 years of fieldwork went into the development of the system and it is this research that makes the method so easy to use. You don’t have to be trained in any field of education to coach with Toe By Toe. In fact, the manual often works better with non-professionals as they do not come to the task with any preconceived notions and thus simply follow the very detailed instructions to the letter. ANYONE who can read fluently can teach with Toe By Toe; for example, a teenager could effectively coach a younger sibling.

The unique syllable division employed by Toe By Toe is very easy to use. Once the sound of a phoneme has been taught using the ‘polynons’ (nonsense words), these rules can then be applied to any multisyllabic word and students find a whole new world of reading opening before their eyes.

Regardless of the nature of students’ literacy problems, they can be taught to read using Toe By Toe. The severity of their problems may only be reflected in the length of time needed to get through the book. The rapid improvement in reading age is truly astonishing.



Hi, You may remember me. I contacted you several years ago as I finished the toe by toe program when I was in Year 6 at school. I just wanted to let you know that I have now completed my GCSE's and gained grades A* - C in 12 subjects! One of which was an 'A' in English. I want to thank you because I couldn't read at all before 'toe by toe.' Now I am studying for my A levels, in Law; Eng lit; Government and Politics; Drama & Theatre Studies and Critical Thinking. I am not a fluent reader, certainly not a fluent sight reader and that poses its own problems. However, I can read and I hope this is an inspiration to others. Once other people stop associating intelligence levels with the ability to read and write (!), those who have Significant Learning Disabilities will be able to progress through education with confidence. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

- Edward C. Nantwich (now aged 16!) - student


“There is no easy way around it when you’re dealing with a reluctant reader. It can take the best of you but it is totally worth it just to hear him read and see his face when he asks you to count how many letters in a long word. Toe by Toe shows up the weaknesses of a struggling reader and builds them into confident, independent and fluent readers. There's no doubt, without it, my son would be left to sit in the low reading group and called ‘lazy’…

No way. Not anymore. Not this boy…”

- Proud mum, Northern Ireland, 2016


“We have lots of schools under contract and Toe by Toe is the phonics programme we recommend.   I'm training ten of our assistant psychologists on using Toe by Toe this week to use in schools so we're busy spreading the word too”

- John Hepburn, Educational Psychologist


Items & Pricing
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ISBN Title User Level Price
9780952256403 Toe By Toe A $60.00 Login to purchase

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Don't tip-toe around the problem: An introduction to screening for and tackling reading difficulties across home and school
Join Consultant Psychologist Stewart D'Silva as he provides an overview of the Dyslexia Screening Tool and Shaywitz Dyslexia screener as tools available for teachers to screen for dyslexia and prioritise specific reading intervention for students.
View the webinar