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Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

by Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox, Elaine Bruner
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Softcover book, 393 pages
Price: $24.00

There are a lot of one-volume programs designed to help parents teach their kids to read. That's actually pretty vague—there are literally bajillions of such books, and more come out each year. But everything has a source, including curriculum trends, and it's often a good idea to go to the source when trying to choose the best option.

For one-volume phonics decoding programs,Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is the granddad. Originally published in the early 1980s after extensive research, the authors actually attempted to think like children and tested the program at various stages on beginning readers, so that the resulting program was the best of both worlds.

Something is very wrong with the way schools in the United States teach reading, but finding a good alternative can be very frustrating and time-consuming. As a pioneer for advancing phonics and word-recognition based reading instruction,Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons remains one of the giants in the field.

How Does This Work?

Other than pencils and paper, this book is entirely self-contained. There are 100 lessons, each one complete and entirely scripted for parents—what you say is in pink type, what you're supposed to do is in black, and words for students to read are bolded black and underlined. It'll be easier on you if you read the lessons beforehand, but you don't have to.

Lessons should take about 12-20 minutes per day including prep time. Students read words and sentences with parental assistance and oversight, and also writesounds. Students don't write letters per se, they write the letters or blends that produce specific sounds, and thus learn to think of words in terms of their sounds rather than simply memorizing the way they look.

In light of this, letters and blends appear in a kind of code throughout the text. Children are taught to identify sounds, and these sounds are represented by letters with specific markings to clue readers toward proper identification. Every word students read is also underlined by an arrow pointing toward the right; parents follow the line with their finger to help kids master the left-to-right movement of the English language.

Some lessons include black and white illustrations that students look at and answer questions about. This builds observational skills fostering an ability to understand context and to distinguish between letters and sounds. Illustrations correspond to what kids read in the lesson in which they appear, though more and more interpretation is required as they progress.

All of these elements point to an underlying assumption—that reading isn't just a hurdle to jump through to make the grade, or a set of information to be memorized. Reading is the primary skill of any successful learner, and it has much more to do with critical thinking, making connections, and expanding one's awareness than it does with simply culling content from the page.

This deeper importance of reading is emphasized throughoutTeach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Each lesson is designed to grow your child's ability to decode words and understand them, and because you'll be interacting with them at every stage, you'll know how they've progressed and where they still need work.

No program is intrinsically suited to teach every child without adaptation. The authors of this course are aware of that, and make two points: great attention was paid to making the communication in the text as plain as possible, and you can move at any speed necessary to ensure your kids learn to read well. The authors are in no hurry, and neither should you be.

Our Honest Opinion

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessonshas been popular at Exodus for nearly two decades. It actually does what the title promises, helping you teach your children to read one easy lesson at a time.We've sold hundreds of copies, and receivedplenty of positive feedback.We've heard fairly consistently that most children finish the course reading at a standard second grade level.

But there are frustrations, too:

  • First, the course uses "odd letters." For instance, a dash is used above a long vowel, silent letters are reduced in size, blends are connected. But this tends to be a frustration only if the book is not finished, as those letters are phased out and replaced with normal letters towards the end of the book.

  • Second and more importantly, the book doesn't teach phonics rules. This makes it easier to teach, but also leaves gaps, especially in spelling skills. Be prepared to supplement or follow the book up with something more focused on spelling.

We recommend this book for bright preschoolers or older level students who haven't learned to read (or even better, haven't even learned their alphabet). We do NOT recommend it as a remedial course, or if you've tried other things that haven't worked. It begins by introducing sounds, and it starts slowly, causing frustration for students who already know some of the material.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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