Total Literacy/HOT Readers

Total Literacy/HOT Readers is a literacy approach for emergent and early readers developed at Lyman School in Middlefield, CT. Literacy is the goal, and music and movement are infused into the reading curriculum.


The reading program at Lyman School has been strong for many years, and teachers have many strategies and materials available. In the past, most children learned to read through careful teacher choices that matched the children’s needs and interests. However, some children did not make the gains that we expected by March of first grade. The original Total Literacy/HOT Readers program was designed for these children, and funded by a grant from the CT Commission on the Arts.

Music and movement were the new added strategies in the Total Literacy/HOT Readers program. At first based on teacher intuition, we now know that this strategy has strong support from the research community.







The first group of 21 first graders received classes four times a week during a six-week pilot study. Pretest-posttest comparison documented the following successes:

The spring '98 pilot project laid the foundation for the 1998-99 school year work, and the success provided energy to move forward. Although the program was initially designed for a small group of children, enthusiasm of all students for the shared activities and materials led teachers to want this approach for all students. Rather than being watered down instruction, the Total Literacy/HOT Readers program provided a richness and complexity that had not existed. All of the activities and strategies of the past are still available and used, but this program is a synthesis that brings everything to a higher plane. Everything is tied together in a tighter frame.


The program continues to develop through classes facilitated by Dr. Sue Snyder, meeting every other week at Lyman School. Lyman School was already a HOT School, which means they had support for creating arts-infused curriculum through the program sponsored by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. The classes are offered for graduate credit through Central CT State College, however many teachers are coming simply for the experience. Teachers from Kineslla School in Hartford, Metacomet School in New Britain, and Staffordville School in Staffordville have joined the group. Teachers represent grades K-5, and special education.

Although the approach is still in development, we can make certain statements about the structure at this point.

Chris Anderson, Grade One/Two teacher, says “What an effective way to deliver learning!”




At this point in development of the HOT Reader approach, anecdotal records provide evidence of most outcomes. With an assessment expert soon to join our team, more scientific data collection has been planned.

The following interim findings this year add to the body of evidence that demonstrates differences between the HOT Reader program and other strategies:

The intangible results of the Total Literacy/HOT Readers approach will be heard in the voices of presenters, in the videotapes of lessons, and in the enthusiasm of the children. It is difficult to measure joy, confidence, the sense of community, the depth of learning that is felt rather than tested. And yet it would be a mistake to report only the hard, cold facts without the warmth that is generated between the members of this learning community. Teachers report that the children in their class have no idea why only some get to go to extra HOT Reader classes. They all want to go. There is no stigma attached to being part of this program. Everyone is in it together, for as much of it as we can get!


HOT Reader’s Activities


  1. Bakery Shop – Allison Abucewicz
  2. Poem with 28 lines – Carlye Phaneuf
  3. Phonics process from the bottom up – Y – Sharon Berndt
  4. Learning from the top down with songs as authentic literature – Chris Anderson
  5. Finding the patterns – Missy Marteka
  6. Short Vowel Rap and Geese Flying Home – Sue Martinez