If you're looking for frills, look elsewhere. There are plenty of phonics programs that offer elaborate systems, fun games, and colorful readers that nevertheless fail to teach kids how to read. Jessie Wise believes those best suited to teach kids how to read are ordinary parents, and in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading she simply promises to show parents how to teach reading—and proceeds to follow through.
Eschewing modern educational jargon and "sight reading" methods, Wise offers in 231 brief lessons a program for reading education that employs nothing more than good old-fashioned phonics. And you don't even need to prepare anything. After a preface that is less than half a page long, Wise and co-author Sara Buffington launch into lesson one....which is fully scripted, so you can just start reading it to your student after you've finished the preface, if you want to.
How Does This Work?
Lessons are usually 1/2-2 pages long, are fully scripted for the parent, and include everything you need. Supplemental material, teaching tips, and sentences for students to read are all included. An introduction and appendix provide the author's philosophy behind reading instruction, and advice to parents just getting started. The approach is organic—parents should speak clearly in front of their children, read aloud to them as often as possible, and prepare them to be comfortable with words and language.
There isn't a lot of prep time for parents (you should probably read through each lesson before leading your child through it), but this is an instructor-intensive program. (That shouldn't come as a shock—kids can't teach themselves how to read.) When we say each lesson is fully scripted, we mean it: Wise and Buffington include both what you (the teacher) should say, and how the child should respond. You need to be right beside your kids the whole time, therefore, ready to read your cues.
This is a phonics-only course, with sight words included only when there are no applicable phonics rules to define them. Kids learn the letters and their sounds first, starting with vowels and proceeding to consonants, then they begin to learn and master blends and all the oddball individual letter sounds, like differentiating the various uses of the letter "c" or the hard and soft "g" sounds. Because this is a reading course and not a general language arts program, kids just read—there are no written exercises.
Our Honest Opinion
In the preface and again in the appendix, Wise asserts that she's never encountered a child she couldn't teach to read, including children with diagnosed learning disabilities. She says most such disabilities are actually instructional failures, and that this book is the remedy to such failures and the heartache they produce. For Wise, intelligence isn't the key to learning to read well; learning to read well is the gate to education and intelligence. She aims, therefore, to teach reading right.
We believe she succeeds. Reading doesn't need to be some difficult, arduous process that leaves parent and child in tears; nor does it need to be all fun and games and cute animals. All it needs to be is a series of succinct lessons ready for parents to teach their kids with, thus opening for them the doors of imagination and learning that would otherwise remain closed. Whether you've got preschoolers or older children in need of remedial work, we highly recommend The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.
You can view sample lessons and FAQs at the Ordinary Parents website.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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