The Developers

is the mother of a son with Down syndrome who inspired her decade-long search to find an effective reading approach.  She has been a classroom teacher and a homeschool mom, an author and national speaker.  As a private reading tutor, her frustration with having children for just one or two hours a week led her to change her focus from teaching children to teaching parents.

is a creative artist who has taken Judy’s academic knowledge and practical experiences and translated them into child-centered, family-friendly songs and graphics.  Her videos and activities make it easy to learn and fun to teach.  What is often a rote, dry approach in many classrooms is transformed into family-centered, meaningful, engaging and fun-filled experiences.​

About Judy
About Marilee

Judy O'Halloran Bio

Co-developer of Wordy Worm® Reading and Raising Robust Readers

2006 – Present, Fort Myers, Florida

As co-developer of Wordy Worm Reading/Raising Robust Readers, my contribution embodies the decades of experience and research as a teacher (classroom and homeschool), tutor, volunteer, and parent of a child with special needs.


2005 - present

parent coaching

family workshops

4-K and elementary classroom professional development

​GiGi's Playhouse, Down Syndrome Achievement Centers (national literacy program)

Author, Freelance writer

1993 - Present  Commissioned and free lance published in:


Exceptional Parent Magazine

Communication Skill Builders

Fort Myers News Press

Down Syndrome News, National Down Syndrome Congress


"Welcome to our Family, Casey Patrick" (chapter in book)

  • Cognitive Coping, Families, and Disability, published by Paul H. Brookes,


  • Now Why Didn't I Think of That? Practical Pointers from Families of Children with Disabilities


1990 – Present      Sample conferences and organizations:

Gigi's Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers,  National Conference  

Lee County Reading Council

National Special Needs/Struggling Readers Conference - Florida Parent Educators Association and National Home School Legal Defense Association,

International 321 eConference - Down Syndrome

Florida Professional Educators Association
Great Southeast Homeschool Convention
South Florida Homeschool Convention
Home Education Resources and Information
Southeast Homeschool Expo
United Methodist Association of Preschools of Florida
National Parent to Parent - Florida and Alaska
National Down Syndrome Convention
Children's Medical Services "Parents as Equal Partners"
workshops for School Districts of Lee, Collier, and Pinellas Counties
Alabama Early Intervention and Preschool Conference
Family Network on Disabilities
Council for Exceptional Students - Division for Early Childhood


Private Tutor


In person and online tutoring. Students range from accelerated to struggling. Specializing in students with Down syndrome

Catholic Diocese of Venice, Florida

2000 – 2005 Fort Myers, Florida

Tutored students from kindergarten through high school in reading and study skills.

Academic and Life Skills Tutor

School District of Lee County Florida

2000 – 2002 Lee County Florida

Full time. Special needs - Home- and community-based instruction included reading and other academic areas, daily living skills, and on-the-job training.

Previous part-time positions with Lee County School district included adult education and alternative learning programs.


As an avid reader, English teacher, reading tutor, and mother, reading – and learning to read– has always been important to me! When our youngest son, Casey, who has Down syndrome, was going through school, the typical reading programs were not effective in teaching him to read. So I took extra college reading courses, reading workshops and in- service programs in an effort to find what would work. Finally, learning and understanding phonograms –the single letter and multi-letter combinations that represent the smallest sounds in words– provided Casey with the quantum leap in learning to read.

Later, when our oldest granddaughter turned three, I started to teach her the phonograms. Children are such miracles, so eager to learn. Their minds, like the proverbial sponge, soak up everything. 

The method I had learned for teaching phonograms was not particularly engaging. And while I had used additional creative exercises of my own, I wanted a more systematically playful approach to introducing them.  Enter my friend, fellow grandmother, and creative artist, Marilee.

I remember when Judy mentioned to me that she had started teaching Katelyn the phonograms. She explained, "If  young children can tell you that a cow says, ‘moo,’ then they can tell you that m says /mmm/. “

I wanted to start teaching them to my 3- year-old granddaughter as well. But I didn’t know how.  As a child, I had not been taught phonics beyond the sounds of the alphabet.  I found learning to read, using basic phonics, to be confusing and frustrating. I am blessed with a great memory. However, learning to memorize 200,000 words to become a proficient reader proved to be rather challenging.  In fact, this was the primary reason I wanted to be sure Summer learned this very systematic code. I knew it would give her the added confidence and solid foundation so important in learning to read.

Judy was used to thinking on her feet and individualizing her instructions for her son and her students.  But I needed something more concrete. I can remember every poem my mother ever wrote, so I thought putting the phonograms to rhyme would help me.   Judy and I combined our skills putting the phonograms to song and adding visual clues and gestures.

When Marilee (Mino) and Judy (Omi) first started working with their grand-daughters, they took photographs of Summer and Katelyn.  Later, they added their younger granddaughters, Sydney, Caroline, and Cameron acting out the phonograms. They used the pictures to illustrate phonogram cards and help the girls to learn. They wrote books, made up games, and went on phonogram hunts all around town.

One day Judy met a friend who was Casey’s first principal and later became director for staff development for the school district. When she heard about their reading activities, she said, “You have a moral obligation to share this with other children.” Judy’s first reaction was, “Please don’t tell me I have a moral obligation to do that. I’m Catholic. I have enough moral obligations going on.”  But Judy listened (of course!).  And Marilee joined in--knowing what a difference it would make.

Marilee thought it was a good idea to share all they had researched and developed because, for her, learning the phonograms was like discovering a code. All the things she could have learned as a child about reading and spelling were so simple after all. So she put her creativity to work, imagining a little friend that would help children learn and remember. With that, the reading detectives brought ME to life–to make it fun for everyone. Now I help teach the rhymes and gestures. I can show you how to read on the go wherever you go. I make teaching easy and learning fun.   I hope you’ll join us.

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