Saturday, July 23, 2011

How we teach reading

As a child I loved to read.  My mother tells me stories of how when I was in grade one I was reading novels (she also remembers my sister walking at 8 months which I'm pretty sure is not take my accounts of being a reading prodigy with a grain of salt!).

When teaching my eldest how to read, I had not seriously considered homeschooling.  I didn't research the homeschooling blogs to see what method was best, or what manipulatives should be used to reinforce what was taught...instead I turned to trusty! I searched "learn to read" and the best selling, highest rated book was Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons by Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox and Elaine Bruner.

When I received the book, I was somewhat intimidated because they make use of Distar orthography which looks like the English language with strange lines and dots above and below the letters.  I actually held on to the book for a few months before starting it when Sofia was shy of 4 years old because I thought it would involve a lot of time learning a new "language" on my part.  I was wrong (thankfully!).  The funny writing you see below is very easy to learn and really does make learning phonics logical and organized.

The lessons are scripted and tell you exactly what to say.  In the picture above you can see the parts that the parent has to say typed in red.  I liked this although it is a complaint some parents have about the program.  The book claims that lessons take about 20 minutes a day and for us this was largely true.  Sofia did not, however, learn to read in 100 days!  At first she flew through her lessons and sometimes did 2-3 lessons a time.  Then halfway through the book, she hated it.  We left it alone for a few weeks and then came back to it.  I am so happy we revisited it because not soon after she began reading by herself!  Somewhere around lesson 80 students will be reading passages like this:

Important phonics lessons are incorporated slowly into each subsequent lesson.  It is done so gradually that you barely even notice they are adding them.  In addition to reading, there are comprehension questions that make sure your child understands the stories they are reading.  There is also writing practice at the end of each lesson where the child writes the letter sound they learned.  We did this at the beginning but we eventually cut that part out.  By lesson 100 your child is reading at a second grade level.  At that point Sofia had no problem reading the stories in the book but was still hesitant to read "regular" books on her own.

Sofia finished this program earlier this year and overall I think it was a success!  It is amazing to watch your child go from learning letter sounds to figuring out entire sentences before your eyes.  What is even better is watching Sofia now reading to Maya and Emelia.  Maya usually loses interest after a while and Emelia just wants to eat the book...but it is still precious and one of my favorite things to see.


  1. That's so awesome! We loved it too!
    and 8 months isn't impossible. All three of mine were walking at about that age (7 1/2, 8 1/2 and 8, consecutively) ;)
    And I would believe a first grader could read novels. I wasn't *that* advanced, but my brother was! (I just liked to alphabetize my picture books by title.) :D

  2. I eventually used the book "The writing road to reading" to teach reading and LOVED IT! It makes for great spellers, too! :) It even helped my already reading kids who were TERRIBLE spellers due to LD's etc. to read and spell better.

  3. We love this book. We are on lesson 96!! We had trouble in the middle, too ("Old" seemed to be the hardest word EVER to sound out!) And it has taken way longer than 100 days. But that is ok!