Our Story

Good products emanate from a real need.

When Alphagram founder Ellen Shapiro’s son Alex Miller was finishing first grade and still not learning to read, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. Ellen engaged the services of a tutor who used explicit, multisensory techniques. In a relatively short time, she taught Alex to listen to a sound and repeat it, look at a letter shape, and associate the letter with an icon or pictorial cue that represented that sound. Soon Alex was able to put together two and three letters to read syllables and words. And then to decode phrases, sentences, and stories. Today, he has a degree in East Asian Studies from Oberlin College and is a marketing director of one of China’s biggest Internet companies (we can’t attribute all this success to Alphagram, and give Alex’s own hard work a lot of credit).


The tutor’s techniques were successful, but her homemade materials left much to be desired. As a graphic designer, Ellen realized that her expertise could fulfill a need. She read books about teaching reading, consulted with experts in phonemic awareness, visited schools, met with special education teachers and regular classroom teachers, and attended conference workshops. Inspired by the flip-books that let you make funny, mixed-up characters with different heads, bodies, and feet, she developed a flip-book with moveable flash cards with large letters, icons, and key words. The patented “Is It a Word–Or Not?” book makes more than 1,200 words and syllables with consonant, short vowel, and consonant (CVCs, the building blocks of reading).

For learners having difficulties.

For some children — about 15 percent of the population — learning to read is not easy. Many popular reading programs and teaching techniques do not work for kids with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. The pages of many phonics workbooks are busily crammed with letters, words, and pictures. Directions like, “Circle all the words that begin with…” are about other activities, like coloring, not reading. They can confuse and frustrate children. Research has shown that kids with dyslexia can only learn to read with a systematic, sequential approach that uses multisensory techniques. Alphagram products are designed to focus the child’s attention on one large letter at a time, with no distracting elements. Color-coding keeps eyes going in the right direction. Large, clear, well designed letters and icons help kids associate each letter shape with its sound. There are no parts to get lost or out of order.

For every child.

If multisensory techniques can help kids with learning and language difficulties, can’t they help all children learn to read sooner and better? Yes. Alphagram materials are economical supplements to literature-based K-3 reading programs. They can reinforce words in the day’s story or teach common spelling patterns. They can be used in small groups and in resource rooms to help those students who need extra attention. Alphagram products are also excellent for home schooling. They are a great way for parents and grandparents to introduce pre-schoolers to the alphabet and to concepts of letter-sounds and blending.

We listen.

Since we first tested prototypes with primary-grade reading teachers in New York City, customers have been telling us that kids love our products — and that they work. Please see our Testimonials page. Based on teacher, tutor, and parent requests, we developed “Word Maker,” with individual packs of cards that let you spell any word; the “Ready, Set, Read!” teaching guide filled with fun, effective lesson activities; “Letter-Sounds Posters” in English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Chinese; “Alphagram Tracing Letters” for handwriting practice (many kids who can read can’t write legibly); and our “Write the Right Word” game that teaches vocabulary and spelling.

We want to hear from you.

What are you looking for? Let us know. If there is a large enough need, we will work on designing and marketing it. We also welcome product feedback. How are you using our products? How could our site be improved? Please e-mail us at info@alphagram.com.