Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Do You Use for Curriculum to Teach Them Reading?

noun |ˈrēdi ng |
the action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud 
New Oxford American Dictionary 2nd edition © 2005 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

In my lifetime, text has changed in its presentation.  I know how to use a card catalog in a library.  I filled out worksheets that were produced on a mimeograph machine.

Now I'm blogging.  I haven't seen a card catalog for years & years. (Though I would be hugely tempted to buy one of those cool, long-drawered cabinets if I ever found one.)  My two year old uses my printer and makes copies of coloring pages for herself for coloring practice.

But the text hasn't really changed. 

Reading is the core of my education program through high school graduation.  Reading is the way most adults in America learn today.  It's in everything from advertising and warning signs to research articles. 

I have two tools that I really want to have to teach reading to my children.  Again, I've done it enough now that I think I could probably teach someone to read without these tools but, given the chance, these are my tools of choice for teaching children.

This is my original copy of this paperback book.  Still in very usable condition for the rest of the crew here!
I started using Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons with our first child and really have used nothing else.  So, call me "Biased."  I am.  I like it.  I no longer follow it word for word and we've switched to a style of handwriting different than it advises.  It's been an enjoyable tool to use for all of us - with the usual specializations that you have for each student style.  And it segues into my next reading tool.

Our original book had a comb binding. After use with 6 kids, we transferred it to a 3 ring binder in plastic sheet protectors. Good for many more!
Alpha-Phonics is designed to be a stand-alone reading instruction tool for all ages.  (Since I am teaching my children, I prefer to use 100 Easy at the start.)  Beginning with a review of basic short-vowel sounds, it progresses through lessons to complex consonant and consonant/vowel combinations.  

Near the end of the lesson series, my student is reading these words.
These materials are non-consumable.  You provide your own stick & dirt floor or paper & pen.  It makes them more than re-useable.  It makes them a gift you can give to another person to teach more readers.  It just keeps going and going!

Since it is my blog and my list, I'm going to add to my tool kit.  

If I got to have more than just the above tools to teach reading, I would choose two book series.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a series of books.  Most US public high school graduates (at least in the Midwest) know of her children's books.  Conveniently, the books are not only written in chronological order, they are also written in increasingly difficult reading levels.  We read the books in this order:
  • Little House in the Big Woods
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Farmer Boy
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake
  • The Long Winter
  • Little Town on the Prairie
  • These Happy Golden Years
  • The First Four Years
  • West from Home
  • On the Way Home

C. S. Lewis wrote a series as well.  The reading order of The Chronicles of Narnia has a bit of variation depending on who you ask but the books are a great example of good writing form and sentence structure.  They are prattle-free and that is always a good thing.

If you can't find either of these series in full at your USA/local library, complain bitterly.

After my children complete 100 Easy followed by Alpha-Phonics, they go right to reading 30 minutes per day.  At first, the new reader will read aloud to me for 30 minutes (or whatever is tolerable for them) from Little House in the Big Woods.  Once things are going smoothly, I distribute the listening portion of the job among the other readers in the house.  This way the reader has a variety of listeners and we listeners have a way to share the load.  (Listening to a new reader for 30 minutes is sometimes a looong job.)

Editor's note: Though I haven't had the opportunity yet, I would like to teach adults who want to learn to read as well.  I would not use 100 Easy Lessons directly with them as it's clearly targeting children.  BUT I would use it's methods and make my own similar method using Alpha-Phonics as the foundational material. I am THAT convinced of the effectiveness and thorough content. (And I know lots of adults that could use the insight on number interaction found in Math-It.  It was great for me!)


  1. Hi Sarah! I am Adam's wife from Gateway. Welcome to the blogosphere. If you have any blog questions feel free to ask and of course I will ask you all my homeschool questions. My blog is at http://morganbubble.blogspot.com

    How old are the kiddos generally when they start reading big woods? We have been using all about reading and little guy has liked that a lot.

  2. Hi! Great to see you. I will sure put you on my list of "Blog People Who Know How to Run this Silly Contraption"!

    _Little House in the Big Woods is usually read at about age 6 or 7 here. It really depends on the child. The-Boy-With-No-Nickname is seven now and he started reading them in November. He only has a few pages left in his book now so he'll finish _Farmer Boy_ and start _On the Banks of Plum Creek_ tomorrow. That's just shy of a thousand pages since 11/20/2012. Golly! That seems like a lot. But his siblings make him read the words instead of just guess along the way. And I know he has comprehension because we talk about the stories.

    Though it's a very common (and spectacular!) read-aloud series, we never read those books or any of the mini-chapter books aloud here. It's kept the series as a tool for us to use this way for many years.

    And it's kinda fun. The-Boy-With-No-Nickname has been trying to figure out how Laura could have known all these things about Almanzo's family when she is never in the story at all...

  3. Since my mother hasn't taken the opportunity to harp on this here, I thought I would. It is absolutely critical to give your children a solid foundation in and a lasting enjoyment of reading. I'm not sure why this method does that, but I can say for certain that by the time they finished reading through the Little House books and the Chronicles of Narnia, every one of my siblings was hooked. Granted, after a certain number of years they've gotten excited about learning to read in part because it was a rite of passage. Nevertheless, the results are there. The oldest three of us are all avid readers and skilled writers, and I do not hesitate to attribute this to the fact that we were able to read early and often.

    1. My name is Mom/SarahK and I approve this message.

  4. What 100 easy cover? I am wondering if it is worth trying or just start by trying alpha.little guy knows the short vowel sounds, ck, ch, sh, ng, nk, compound words, plurals, and just started open consonants. I have been trying to decide if we should get all about reading level 2. It would be bulky to pack for our mission trip though and is $100.

    1. _Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons_ starts with the child knowing no letter names at all. It gets them through to around maybe first grade reading level? I'm not totally sure and can't find quotes from anyone associated with the text that has documented that info.

      Given where Little Guy is at now, I would say Alpha-Phonics is more the route for him.

  5. As it turns out, I was able to get alpha for free on my kindle. Do the kids just read through the words in each lesson? AAR has a teacher's guide that is scripted and has hands on activities, so I am not quite sure what to do with this. How does a typical reading lesson play out at your house?

    1. AWESOME!

      I talk a little bit about each Alpha-Phonics (AP) lesson with the child before we read through. But we pretty much just read through.

      For example, you can see the lesson #121 in the image above (and for anyone else, just click it and it should enlarge for better viewing). On that one I would say something like this:

      "This time we're going to look at these letters as they are used in the words on the page.

      "The first set is "ce". Let's look for it..... hmm... in this case, I think it's only used in two words right here" *point to 'patience' and 'conscience'.

      "Can you find the groups that use "ci" in the middle?"

      and so on through all the letter pairs. then...

      "OK. We found them all. Now the sound we are going to use with them is like this " and then make the 'sh', 'ch' and 'zh' sounds like in "issue", "capture" and "fission"

      Then the child takes a shot at reading the words.

      This particular lesson is waaaay in there. Maybe 2nd to the last. It's pretty complicated combinations. But by this point, these kids are reading at a 2-3rd grade reading level or higher.

      Their decoding skills are getting better & better every time they practice this stuff. It has built in review because these words us long vowel sounds, silent letters, all that stuff.

      My text copy has some simple 3-line teacher directions but it's pretty much just what's above at most.

      Girl! We need to meet in town over Chai and talk shop!

    2. I added my blog email to the profile info. Ping me there, Michelle. I have an idea if you are interested.

  6. I taught our youngest to read with Alpha Phonics after teaching her the Alphabet by sight.(my oldest two were public schooled for their first three years so I didn't teach them to read.) I didn't know about 100 easy lessons til later or I'm sure I would have used it too.

    I love the idea of going through Little House and Chronicles of Narnia.
    I had her read aloud also, as I had the idea that if one could see the words, hear the words and speak the words it was reinforcing and setting a solid foundation of literacy for her. It worked but, I just had the one to do it with I always wondered if it would have worked as well for most children. I see it does!
    So great to see how well B.B. can write. Excellent. Good job Sarah K!!

    1. Thank you so very much for sharing your experience! It's encouraging to me to hear someone else has had good results with the materials & methods I like to use. Sometimes I feel like I might be living in such a weird niche that what I see might not be applicable in other situations. Whew!

      And I don't think I'll ever stop appreciating compliments on my kids. Thank you-thank you- thank you!

  7. This is great Sarah! I'm doing 100 Easy Lessons with my oldest and he's doing great! I wasn't sure what to move onto next so the Alpha Phonics is definitely something we'll try. I'm also trying to get him to read the easy readers from the library at this point too. If he doesn't feel like doing the lessons, sometimes I find it's better to sit with him and enjoy a book together!

  8. I have used 100 Easy Lessons for ALL of mine who have learned to read (so far) except 5th child. The method of phonics wasn't jiving with him for some reason and at the age of 7ish I threw the book on the floor in exasperation and said, "We'll find something else for you!" (poor kid, it sure wasn't his fault). One month later he starting picking up books off the shelf and reading..anything and everything. God has His own plans, who am I to interrupt them? LOL!!! I have to say, though, I'm amazed that YOUR book is in the condition that it is. Our is ragged and worn and missing the back cover and a few of the last pages of 'stories'. I still have at least 3 kids to use it on... Can't wait to dig into your blog and pick your brain.... we're expecting #12 in another 7 weeks!!! EEEKKK!!!

    1. Good to have you here! Hit me with your questions in comments or via email (you can find my addy in the "view my complete profile" link in the right sidebar under my photo). I try to answer as soon as I can and am always on the lookout for ideas for my file. Thanks for joining in!

  9. Getting ready to teach my first kid to read. Came here. Got my books lined up, and I'm ready to roll! Thanks SarahK!