Review : The Reading Lessons

 I think this is a really good book for teaching kids how to read.  I bought this when I discovered to my dismay my (then 5 year old) #2 did not know his phonics, did not know all his alphabets and definitely could not read! (Made me wonder why I paid so much money to send him to school!)  A friend recommended this book to me so I bought it as soon as I could and started #2 on it.  Within 2 weeks, he figured out sound blending and discovered, to his joy, that he could learn to read!  That boosted his confidence and from then on, it was smooth sailing all the way.  We didn’t even need to finish all 20 lessons before he started reading – as in really knowing how to read.  I think we were only slightly over the middle mark.

So what is so great about this book?  Perhaps I should first talk about the short-comings of how phonics is being taught in school and in some phonics programme in order to highlight the positive points of this programme.

First of all, phonics is usually taught in alphabetical order.  Usually, you find that by the time the last few alphabets are taught, the child would have forgotten the ones in front already.  He perhaps would remember a, b and c cos these are the first few he learned, but those after that are likely to be forgotten or mixed up.  I think the reason why this is so is because phonics is not taught in context.  The way the brain works is by way of connection.  We remember things in connection with something else, in turn in connection with some other things again, and so on.  Taught in alphabetical order, phonics has no meaning.  Therefore, it is not easy to remember.

Some phonics programmes attempt to help the kid remember by attaching a character or picture to the alphabet.  #1’s school used to use a certain programme that did that but it failed miserably because instead of remembering the phonics, the kids only remembered the characters/pictures.  This is actually creating a 2-step process, which is one more than necessary.  The child sees the alphabet, remembers the picture, then (hopefully) remembers the sound. It should have been : child see the alphabet and remembers the sound.
The Reading Lessons addresses both issues.  First of all, alphabets/phonics are not taught in alphabetical order.  Instead, they are taught in such a way that the child can start reading words from the very first lesson.  For instance, the first five alphabets (Lesson 1) are C, O, S, A, T.  Immediately, the child can be taught to read cat, sat, at and cot.  The child can read short sentences like ‘cat sat’.  This really boosts the confidence level and gives the child a sense of accomplishment.  Most importantly, this puts the alphabet in context.  After learning the individual sounds, the child immediately learns how the sounds blend together to make words.  He learns that a few alphabets put together will form a word; a few words put together will form a sentence.  This helps him to remember the alphabet sounds easily.

Besides putting things in context, the words are repeated throughout the book.  In this way, there is repeated exposure to ensure the child does not forget what he learned in the earlier lessons.

There are some pictures associated with the alphabets, e.g. alligator for a, but the alphabets are not all dressed up as characters.  The pictures only appear to make learning more interesting.

Some alphabets have different sounds.  E.g. ‘e’ can be like it sounds in ‘elephant’ or it can be like it sounds in ‘me’.  The book annotates the alphabets such the child can differentiate between the different sounds of that particular alphabet.  Kids get confused over b and d and this book puts a small circle inside the letter b so that the child will not confuse it with d.

Right now #3 is learning how to read using this programme.  I just started him on this beginning of this year (2011) and we are already at Lesson 6.  Each lesson is about 17 – 19 pages long and it is not meant to be finished in one sitting.  #3, who is 4 this year, loves to do reading lessons with this programme and will ask for it all the time.

I think this is an excellent programme.  It is systematic and easy for parents to use.  The website even has some free downloads that parents can use to help with the teaching.   It does come with CDs and CD-Rom but I find that just using the book is sufficient.  If your budget is tight, you don’t have to buy the CDs or CD-ROM to make this work.

Visit the website to view sample lessons.

Note : I do not earn any commission for recommending this programme.