What is Toe By Toe?

Toe By Toe is a small red book designed for anyone who finds reading difficult. This includes weak readers who struggle to decode or those with dyslexic difficulties.

Keda Cowling, the lady who created the system, chose the name Toe By Toe to signify that students make progress by the tiniest steps – one toe at a time. However, even though the steps taken are small, students can clearly measure progress right from the first page. Confidence and self-esteem are boosted as a result.

Over 25 years of fieldwork went into the development of the system and it is this research that makes the method so easy to use. You don’t have to be trained in any field of education to coach with Toe By Toe. In fact, the manual often works better with non-professionals as they do not come to the task with any pre-conceived notions and thus simply follow the very detailed instructions to the letter.

The unique syllable division employed by Toe By Toe is very easy to use. Once the sound of a phoneme has been taught using the ‘polynons’ (nonsense words), these rules can then be applied to any multi-syllabic word and students find a whole new world of reading opening before their eyes.

Regardless of the nature of students’ literacy problems, they can be taught to read using Toe By Toe. The severity of their problems may only be reflected in the length of time needed to get through the book. The rapid improvement in reading age is truly astonishing.


“Hi. This is a review I have just posted on Amazon. I am truly grateful to Mrs Keda Cowling for making her work so accessible. This single intervention has given my son a realistic chance of lifelong success, that otherwise may have been denied him: I started Toe by Toe with my profoundly dyslexic son on the recommendation of a friend when he was 6. We have been working on this over the last 19 months and are now 3/4 of the way through. We spend 20 minutes 4-5 times a week. The book is very structured with straight forward instructions. This means that I can coach him having no personal teaching experience . There are no distractions which works well for a child with significant literacy and attention issues. The mix of real and made up words using syllable division and over-learning really works. There is no doubt that it requires motivation to stick at this but the improvement is real and has been sustained. His reading age has increased from 5 years 5 months at the start to 8 years 1 month in 17 months. This has been truly amazing and the progress has far outstripped that expected by his teachers. He is now keen to read and this improvement has been significant for his learning in all subjects. His twin without literacy issues has benefited from the syllable division technique and his reading has also improved dramatically. We have also used Stareway to spelling with great success for my dyslexic son and Stride Ahead with my 9 year old in order to improve fluency and hence comprehension. Keda Cowling has produced a truly fantastic resource that I would really recommend. It has been a bit of a labour of love but worth every minute to now see the results which are truly amazing!”

Dr T. C. (Medical doctor, U.K.) – May 2019

What is Toe By Toe? Part 1

What is Toe By Toe? Part 2

What is Toe By Toe? Part 3