Language is the invisible ceiling that
prevents many chronic non-responders from learning to read.
— Dr. Joe Lockavitch
Dr. Joe Lockavitch, Founder & Author

Dr. Joe Lockavitch, Founder & Author

Q: What is Failure Free Reading?

A: Failure Free Reading (FFR) is a highly structured, non-phonic language-based reading approach specifically designed to give failing students the opportunity to immediately experience what it feels like to read fluently with full expression and comprehension from age appropriate materials regardless of their prior ability or current classification. What sets FFR apart is the speed at which it works and the levels of academic attainment students achieve. FFR is able to demonstrate immediate impact from the very first lessons with students currently identified in the research as “treatment resisters” or “chronic non-responders”.


Q: Whom do you serve?

A: FFR is a K-Adult approach that effectively serves Chronic Non-Responders students who:

  • have not shown even marginal progress to conventional interventions,
  • continue to fall further and further behind, and
  • test in the “bottom half of the bottom percentiles” on measures of fluency, word recognition and reading comprehension.


Q: What makes FFR different?

A: FFR is based on the notion that reading is gaining meaning from the printed page. FFR believes reading for meaning is a process that precedes skills. Too many students are “stuck at skills” with the mistaken belief that they can’t read for meaning. FFR believes this is a mistake. Many chronic non-responders must first experience the full reading process – what it “feels like” to read - before they understand the importance of skills. FFR provides Chronic Non-Responders with high success reading opportunities by setting up the instructional conditions - both in the classroom and in the materials - that will allow these students to succeed.


Q: How does FFR work?

A: Reducing reading text to its simplest form is critical for Chronic Non-Responders. FFR believes this process precedes skills. This can be done by controlling for the three key instructional elements crucial to reading success:

  • repeated exposure to text
  • predictable sentence structures
  • story concepts that require minimal prior knowledge


Q: Why Vocabulary?

A: Vocabulary development is one of the cornerstones of Failure Free Reading. Language is the invisible ceiling that prevents many chronic non-responders from learning to read. Students cannot read for meaning from passages that are above their current vocabulary level. Researchers have identified three bodies of words that students must master for academic success: most common, Tier II and, rare. Failure Free Reading’s diagnostic/prescriptive assessment identifies the student’s current vocabulary level and places him/her into the appropriate Failure Free Reading online solution.


Q: Why don’t you incorporate phonics?

A: Some students just won’t initially learn to read with phonics. Many can’t hear the sounds, analyze or synthesize the rules. They don’t understand rhyme and/or medial vowels, diphthong or blends. I like to call these students “phonetically deaf." Fortunately, they don’t need to know phonics to learn how to read. Even better, they already carry the compensatory strengths to have productive and successful reading experiences. Others are visual learners who have the capacity to develop a large sight vocabulary. Bottom line: we provide a research-proven alternative path to reading success for the students who aren’t successfully learning with an existing intervention, which in most cases is phonemic awareness and/or phonics-based.


Q: Are you exclusively sight?

A: No. The opposite of phonics is not sight. FFR controls for many more variables than just memorizing isolated words on flashcards. Context is key. Failure Free Reading teaches these critical words in the most meaningful and predictable context.


Dr. Joe answers some of your most common questions about FFR

The Florida Education Channel (FEC) conducts a Q&A with FFR Founder and Author, Dr. Joe Lockavitch