NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - It looks and sounds like any normal kindergarten classroom. But Jacqueline Abinikad's students at the Charter School of Educational Excellence in Yonkers, New York, are learning to read a different way. They're using a program called Wordstart.
Peter Phillips is the brains behind the program. Over 10 years, he developed a system that really worked and that was very effective at putting kids on a path to reading. Phillips is a trained musician. As a composer, he wrote music for the legendary jazz musician Max Roach and he has loved music since he was a kid. So he decided to combine his passion for music with helping kids in underprivileged areas learn to read.
To create Wordstart, Phillips took old-fashioned nursery rhymes and set them to original music he wrote. Students learn the songs and then they break down the lyrics word by word until they're finding sight words. And sounding out the letters and reading.
The program has been used in this school for the last two and a half years and it has been a big success. And parents notice a difference.
Wordstart is a game-changer even for preschool kids. At Greyston Early Learning Center In Yonkers, kids as young as 3 are learning to read. Carol Robinson, the early education director at Greyston, says this program has had a profound impact.
Right now the program is only used in four schools in Westchester County. But Phillips hopes that will change. He has started a nonprofit organization called the Wordstart Early Literacy Foundation. His goal is for Wordstart to be used in classrooms across the country.