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About RWSR

Becoming a dyslexia tutor

I started tutoring my son using the Barton Reading & Spelling System in 2013, while he was a second-grader at his local Fairfax County public school. Although his Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) showed him reading at grade level, I had a strong suspicion that something was amiss.

After he was identified as dyslexic, I began putting my research skills as a former public relations professional to good use. In particular, I explored the neuroscience of reading and the Orton-Gillingham based Barton system.

I decided to become my son’s full-time tutor, and less than a year later he was reading for pleasure and showed remarkable improvements in spelling. Barton — which covers reading, spelling, basic grammar, and prosody in depth — continued to serve as the  cornerstone of his language arts curriculum while he was homeschooled. 

As a certified Barton tutor, I have now worked with dozens of dyslexic students — children, teens, and young adults — and continue to explore all approaches to dyslexia remediation. I use Foundation in Sounds for those not quite ready to start the 10-level Barton system, and Structured Word Inquiry to help students understand the logic behind English spelling. I also incorporate the Reading Simplified modality, and aspects of Handwriting Without Tears. This was the method I used to teach my son cursive.

In 2018, I became a Dyslexia Training Institute Certified Dyslexia Advocate, and I have taught writing with the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) since 2014.

I am based in Annandale, VA, where I live with my husband, our three children, and our dog Harriet who will often greet students at the door and occasionally ‘sits’ for their session. 

— Kimberly Downey, Principal, Read Write Spell Right

Barton Masters certified

The Barton Reading & Spelling System was established in 1998 by Susan Barton after she witnessed her nephew struggling with dyslexia. She took the Orton-Gillingham approach and then created a simple yet highly effective way of supporting dyslexic students of all ages. Read Write Spell Right Principal Kimberly Downey was certified as a tutor at the Masters levels 7-10 in 2019, at the Advanced levels 4-6 in 2018, and the Beginning levels 1-3 in 2015. Mrs. Barton conducted all Kimberly’s certifications, in person or via Zoom. 

Unique approach to tutoring

Dyslexia is not a single diagnosis. Each student’s experience is unique and Read Write Spell Right Principal Kimberly Downey always tailors and fine-tunes her tutoring. She customizes the speed of each dyslexia tutoring session so that students can experience a real sense of accomplishment and mastery.

Why two sessions? Creating new connections in a dyslexic student’s brain is hard work and requires a minimum of two hours uninterrupted instruction every week. This spread over two one-hour sessions is what works — whether delivered in person, through remote learning, or a mix of the two. Kimberly is steadfast in guiding and supporting students through each Barton level, drawing on other learning methods whenever that’s right for the individual. 

Tutor training & community forum

Since achieving all possible Barton certifications, Kimberly has been exploring many other approaches to dyslexia remediation as the study of English orthography is multi-faceted and runs deep. 

In 2023 Kimberly began offering educational webinars to other dyslexia tutors who are equally committed to updating their knowledge and sharing their experience of this constantly evolving tutoring specialty. 

She has also created the Read Write Spell Right tutor community. This is a private forum, rooted primarily in the Barton tutoring experience, offering a neutral space to explore new ways to support dyslexia remediation with open and welcoming discussions. With a focus on high standards, respectful discussions, and easy navigation, members can benefit from research updates and conversations around books. Membership also comes with early access to future training courses, exclusive discounts and bonuses. All new members benefit from a seven-day free trial!