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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does it mean that Friends on the Block (FOTB) is "research-based" and "aligned with the science of reading"?
    FOTB was developed using research concerning how to best teach reading to students with intellectual disabilities, meaning that many of the elements of our curriculum were tested and found to aid teaching students with intellectual disabilities. For example, echo reading and the immediate feedback provided by the “I Read, We Read, You Read” method used in FOTB have both been found to help all students, especially those with intellectual disabilities. For specific information on the research behind FOTB, see our “Research” page–
  • What is Friends on the Block (FOTB)?
    Friends on the Block is an intensive early literacy program that can be used as initial instruction or as an intervention. Developed and piloted by researchers and teachers, the program is comprehensive and intensive, focusing on early literacy skills that typically develop in the Pre-K to First Grade years. Those skills are also usually lacking in older struggling readers. The idea is that the program provides what is needed for all students to attain basic early literacy skills, particularly those who have intensive needs, such as students with disabilities like dyslexia, learning disabilities, or intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our vision was to create a program that includes the supports necessary for all students. One way to think about it is like a building accessible to all students. A wheelchair ramp is necessary for those in a wheelchair, but anyone can use the ramp and it benefits other students as well. Research shows that many teaching techniques beneficial for students with disabilities are also beneficial for other students. Friends on the Block is designed to be highly customizable, with a variety of supports and practices that teachers can pick and choose from as their students need. Friends on the Block includes 60 student reading books with carefully controlled, highly decodable text, which are organized into 14 levels. Each of these books has a corresponding teacher guide and materials, and there are over 100 learning games that provide specific cumulative practice of key skills. The books and games may be purchased separately to be used as practice to supplement other programs.
  • Who would benefit from Friends on the Block (FOTB)?
    Any student who cannot read our books, as well as their teachers and family members! Friends on the Block (FOTB) is an intensive and flexible program, easily customized for varying learner types. Because FOTB is highly customizable, our materials will benefit students who are not reading yet, just beginning to learn to read, struggling a little, or struggling a lot. We aim to prevent reading problems before they start as well as provide intensive support to students who struggle, particularly those with disabilities. We first developed the program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and we have conducted research with those students (see We’ve also used it successfully with kindergarten, first, and second grade struggling readers, older struggling readers, and students with dyslexia and learning disabilities. Students who are English language learners have also been successful in our program, usually making very quick progress while also improving spoken language.
  • Can I purchase one level to make sure this will work for my student(s)?
    If you’re just looking to try out our materials, we have some free materials available on our Free Materials page and our Free Membership gives you access to the placement test, word list, one eReader per level and the accompanying teacher’s guide, literacy game, and warm-up cards. Physical student books can be purchased one level at a time, but curriculum kits come in bundles of three levels, starting at levels 1-3. Our Premium Digital Membership provides access to the full curriculum in a digital and printable format for an annual fee of $140. We encourage you to try out our free resources and contact us if you’re feeling unsure of what sort of purchase would work best for you and your student(s)!
  • What is the pricing structure? What materials are available for FREE?
    FREE Members have access to 17 ebooks (this includes at least one book per level) and pdfs of games that may be printed, as well as monthly specials. These materials are ideal for extra reading practice and are a great way for families to be sure their readers have learned foundational skills and build fluency (i.e., effortless accurate reading with expression). Premium Members ($140 per year) have digital access to the entire program and how-to videos that guide you step-by-step through the entire program. eReaders Plan ($60 one time fee) gives you access to 60 eReaders (epub files) that may be viewed on mobile devices. Paperback student books (8 1/2 x 11, full color) may be purchased by the level or in complete sets of all 60 books. Game kits may be purchased for all levels or in the following groups: Levels 1-3, Levels 4-5, Levels 6-8, or Levels 9-14. All games in these kits are ready to play (no printing or cutting) and include all game pieces needed. Extra copies of the games may also be printed, if needed. "Turn the page" curriculum kits are available and include everything: books, teacher guides, and games. They may be purchased for all levels or in the following groups: Levels 1-3, Levels 4-5, Levels 6-8, and Levels 9-14. The Premium Plan (digital) is included with these kits. If you are interested in purchasing a kit and have already purchased the Premium Plan, please contact us for a discount. The physical materials are organized to make them easy to share with another teacher. We recommend that you contact us if you have questions about exactly what you may need for your specific situation.
  • Which plan is right for me?
    That depends on the needs of your student(s) and whether Friends on the Block is your primary program. For classroom use we recommend full curriculum kits. Homeschoolers would likely do best with the Digital Premium Plan, as it gives full access to the program at a more cost effective price. If you are just looking to supplement or support other classroom instruction, just the books and games are sufficient to help build fluency and allow students to practice what they learn in other instruction/programs.
  • Does a student need to have 100% accuracy before moving up a level?
    No! A student only needs 80% accuracy to move on, which means mastering all but 2 of the target words on each level. Students also do not need to read all the books in a level before advancing–a student's level is based on the target words, not the books themselves.
  • What training do I need to teach using Friends on the Block (FOTB)?
    Ideally, teachers would participate in the training we provide before implementing the program, particularly teachers with less experience and those who teach students with intensive needs. However, we have designed the program to be as easy to implement as possible and detailed how-to videos are included with the Premium digital plan and with the purchase of any of our curriculum kits. The Teacher Guides include detailed, easy-to-follow scripts with specific wording to guide instruction. The lessons follow a simple plan of short warm-up exercises, book reading, and learning games. The how-to videos help the teacher learn as you go and are designed for a novice teacher, so a lot of training upfront is not required. Experienced teachers, particularly those with a background in teaching the early grades or dyslexia, will find the program easy to follow.
  • Is it OK for students to sound out "Read It" words?
    A lot of early "Read It" words are sounded out at later levels! We include them early because they are common words that make our stories more interesting to read, but sounding those words out may require skills or knowledge that the student has not acquired yet.
  • What level should my student(s) start at?
    There is an easy-to-administer placement test on our Free Resources page, which also has the Friends on the Block Target Word List. Students move on from a level when they have mastered 80% of the Target Words in that level. For a more in-depth look at what is in each level, the Scope and Sequence of Friends on the Block is included in our FREE Membership.
  • Do you recommend tracing or writing words?
    Students write words at higher levels when reading and writing instruction are both being provided. We do not specifically recommend beginning or struggling readers write the words–our research suggests that echo reading and discussion are effective ways to facilitate student learning. See our “About Us” page for more information on our approach to reading.
  • What program do you recommend for students who have successfully completed Friends on the Block?
    The most appropriate program is Level 2 of Early Interventions in Reading published by SRA/McGraw-Hill. It is closest in teaching methods/approach and continues with more advanced word patterns/multisyllabic words, vocabulary, and comprehension. Word Connections is another program that would be helpful. It's intended for students with or at risk of learning disabilities but the strategies are definitely our recommendation for students with intensive needs. The researchers who developed this are outstanding and there is already data of its effectiveness with students with/at risk of learning disabilities. This resource is completely free to download! We would also recommend incorporating into instruction a variety of books that interest the student! You can track the types of words they miss and use that to guide which word reading skills you focus on. Building vocabulary and general knowledge are going to be key to building comprehension.
  • What is a student's reading level when they finish Friends on the Block?
    In our most recent data we have students who complete the program scoring on standardized reading measures like 2nd and 3rd graders — this includes measures of word identification, reading comprehension, and fluency.
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