What is Stride Ahead?

What is Stride Ahead? Help students learn how to decode text quickly

Stride Ahead author Keda Cowling

What is Stride Ahead?

Hello. My name is Keda Cowling – the author of Stride Ahead and Toe By Toe.

Stride Ahead is a study book, written for students who can read, but who have difficulty in understanding and comprehending written text.

I believe that this is the result of their minds being too occupied with the mechanics of decoding the written language. It leaves them unable to give adequate attention to the meaning of the text.

Often these students become very adept at disguising their poor reading skills. They use ‘guesswork’ allied with contextual clues to get meaning. Because these ‘guesswork’ techniques hide a student’s poor reading skills, often their teachers are not even aware that the student has a problem.

In effect, they are on a ‘reading plateau’ from which they are unable to ‘climb higher’ or further improve their reading ability.

For many such students, they often remain on this ‘reading plateau’ throughout their school careers and on into adult life.

The consequences of this possibly undiscovered difficulty is that the student never fully realises their potential and capacity for learning, either at school or into adult life.

How Stride Ahead Compliments Toe By Toe

In the late 1970’s I created a unique syllable division which was incorporated into the reading manual Toe By Toe.

In the many years since then, Toe By Toe has successfully taught hundreds of thousands of people – both dyslexics and non-dyslexics – to read. That is, to ‘decode’ written text.

Toe By Toe’s success is due to the application of this easy-to-use syllable division and the structured over-teaching of particular phonemes.

The aim of Stride Ahead is to make these phonemes from Toe By Toe so familiar to students that they are able to recognise them instantaneously, without concentrated mental effort. This ‘frees them up’ to get on with the important process of actually understanding text.

Stride Ahead – The Importance of ‘Timing’

Careful ‘Timing’ is the key to success when using Stride Ahead.

Stride Ahead aims to make the ‘decoding process’ of reading text an automatic, unthinking reflex and response. Only when a student can do this can they be ‘free of cluttered thinking.’

When the student learns these ‘good habits’ they can focus fully on the meaning of the text. These ‘good habits’ are called ‘automacity.’

Automacity is best defined as:

the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit

Timed practice is the best way to achieve automaticity. That is why Stride Ahead uses a structured series of timing targets. This encourages the student to think less about the minor details of a text. This ‘frees them up’ to give more attention to the main objective of reading a text – understanding it and extracting meaning from it.

– Keda Cowling, Author Stride Ahead

See Stride Ahead FAQs for more information


Enjoy this video of Keda’s son and co-author of Stride Ahead, Frank Cowling, detailing What is Stride Ahead?


What is Stride Ahead? Help Students Improve Their Reading Comprehension


“…it gives a fantastic foundation in literacy skills. My son came top of his class in reading after going through Stride Ahead”
Mrs Shaw (parent), Ayrshire, KA5
“Toe by Toe and Stride Ahead continue to hit the mark with our students and we continue to be extremely grateful”
SENCO at a secondary school in Watford - July 2009
“As a teacher, I have learnt so much from Toe by Toe and Stride Ahead. As a parent, I have enjoyed the process and had the enormous satisfaction of watching my child blossom and take pride in her own achievement. The impact is far reaching. She has learnt not to give up and that even the most insurmountable problem can probably be overcome with the right ‘tools’, some hard work and a little support. We can never thank you enough.”
Clare D. – Parent/teacher, Aberdeenshire. May 2008