What's the Problem?

When my son was three years old, we watched Sesame Street together.  One day, I said something about Baby Bear. 

“Dad,” he said, “that’s not right!” 

Already, on his own, he had learned plenty of vocabulary — and comprehension — and conversation. 

In fact, all over the world, 99% of children speak just fine.

So why are 35 million Americans illiterate?  Why can’t 500 million Indians read English well, their only national language?  Why can’t 70% of children, in poor areas of cities like New York and East Palo Alto, read as well as they need to, in order to keep up? 

Can you read this sentence:  . -  -- . - - .  . - . . - - .

Or this one?        一個人跑了.

The letters of the alphabet are like this Morse code, or these Chinese characters.  This sentence will be easy for you now:  A man ran.

Now, children need to read at 120 words per minute by second grade, in order to keep up.  That's two words per second. 

But each word has five letters, on average.  This means that a reader must figure out ten letters per second!

Then one must immediately decode another ten letters in the next second, over and over.  This need to constantly decode the letters, quickly, creates the problem.

Worse, no teacher has time to go over, and over, all the sounds, with 30 students.  One often hears that children who are not reading 120 words per minute, ten letters per second, by the second grade, will never catch up.

Most children tackle the alphabet successfully.  They can tell you the 44 sounds that English letters make, including the many that can be silent, and the many combinations that have to be memorized.

Here is where students fail.  Take the simple words "Catch a ball."  Those ten letters could have 15 sounds!  Figuring out ten letters in one second, and then immediately decoding another ten in the next second, over and over, takes a huge amount of practice!

This is a problem that teachers cannot solve.  The Thor reading lessons help learners to jump this barrier, as they practice with our own-speed system.


Per UNESCO, today, nearly 17% of the world's adult population is still not literate.

2.3 billion


36 million

in the United States

800 million

in Greater India (including Bangladesh and Pakistan)

100 million

in Brazil

It is estimated that 122 million youth globally are illiterate.  Among them, about 67 million children are out of school and are likely to encounter great difficulties in the future.


United States

Per a August 2016 study by the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults, or 14%, can't read.  The percent of high school graduates who can't read is 19%.



Per UNESCO, about 37% of all illiterate adults in the world are Indian.  India has 287 million illiterate adults, one of the largest population globally.


According to EF Education First's 2016 EF English Proficiency Index, India has a proficiency score of 57.3, indicating only a moderate English proficiency.


Literacy is one of the greatest gifts a person could receive.
— Jen Selinsky, author