Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann
Yes, YOU can Teach Your Child to Read
The idea that a parent can teach their three or four-year old child to read in 100 lessons seems a little outlandish, doesn't it? It is not only possible, but the unassuming yellow book pictured here will help you do it, and is scripted by professionals with thousands of hours of practice so you don't have to figure out how to teach your child to read!
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox, and Elaine Bruner (ISBN 0671631985) is one of the best-kept secrets for parents who want to play a role in their children's educationally formative years. This book is written by experts at the University of Oregon who developed the Reading Mastery program. They have created scripts that any parent can follow to present reading lessons to their child. In each lesson you do reading activities and games that are easy and fun. During these lessons your child will gradually learn to identify common letter sounds, play "games" that reinforce the lessons you are learning, and within about 10 lessons, begin reading three- and four-letter words. This method of reading teaching decoding and comprehension skills, and is just top notch. Yes, I am a rabid fan.
This book uses the DISTAR method to teach your child to read. This method is touted as the "most successful method" for teaching children to read both on Amazon.com's review page and within the pages of the book's introduction.
Each lesson is written as a script that you present to your child. You can read it word for word, with a 5-10 minute preparation time for you as the parent before you sit down and do the lesson with your child. With a little practice, you will find these lessons quite easy to work through. Everything you need to say is right there on the script, including phrases you need to use to guide and correct your child if he or she doesn't understand some part of the lesson.
Each lesson is divided into smaller segments, which include an activity or a game. As you work your way through the lesson segments, you will notice your child "getting it" or not. If your child doesn't understand or doesn't do the activities in the lesson correctly, you as the parent are supplied with the language and phrases you need to correct your child in a positive manner that helps move you to the next lesson. You should master all aspects of each lesson before you move on to the next.
Does It Really Work? Will This Book Teach My Child to Read?
I know it sounds too good to be true, but it isn't. And I apologize if I sound a little bit like a Bible salesman here. I really believe in the program. I have taught two of my three children to read using this book, and the third hasn't started yet only because she is one and a half and not yet talking!
I have recently been using this book with my three and a half-year old son. I was a little concerned that my success with this book wouldn't be repeated as with my first child, who is very verbally gifted, and she started working through this book at a later age. He is a little "numbers guy" and has some issues with word pronunciation, which is common in three-year-olds. He has managed well with the lessons, but we did have to work through them a little more slowly than my daughter, who raced through the first lessons and wanted to skip ahead because certain parts seemed too easy for her.
How Do the Lessons Help My Child Build Reading Skills?
The DISTAR method teaches the child some specific skills using the activities within the lessons. The activities are simple and repetitive. Each of the games are easy to master. You will repeat the same "games" with different letter sounds, which are introduced gradually, every few lessons.
The first 10 lessons focus on working with the child to develop rudimentary skills of looking at letter sounds and blending them together to form words. This skill is called decoding. Decoding is of the most challenging aspects for most children in learning to read: identifying a sound and seeing it next to another sound, then being able to put these sounds together to make a word.
This book uses a funny-looking alphabet that identifies the phonetic sounds of letters. You won't actually refer to the letters as "the letter a" or "the letter b." Instead, for the letter t, for example, you will learn the "t" sound, and every time you say that letter, you will say the sound the child needs to read. After about the first 10 lessons your child will know 6 or 8 letter sounds, and you will begin blending letter sounds to make words. You AND your child will be so excited after you read the first word. The book teaches 40 different, most commonly used letter sounds and blends. There are other letter sound and blends that your child will eventually need to learn, but by the end of lesson 100, your child should be reading at a second grade level.
This book relies heavily on rhyming to reinforce the letter sounds your child will learn, and to teach the sound blending process.
After the first 6 or 8 lessons, your child will be trained to read and blend the sounds together that she sees in a short word.
Each reading lesson requires your child to write the letter sounds your child is learning: usually two letter sounds per lesson.
My son, who is currently working through the lessons in this book, is only three and a half. His hand-eye coordination isn't quite at a level that allows him to actually write the letters. Usually I write the letters out in a very large size on a piece of paper, which I then ask him to trace. At first his scrawling didn't look much at all like the letters, but after about a month of reading and writing lessons, he can now trace the letters quite well, so I can recognize the letters he traces. He's not writing the letters on his own yet, but he immensely enjoys writing time.
The purpose of writing is not to develop penmanship, but to learn the letter sounds, so it doesn't really matter if your child has the ability to write the letters well, or not.
Using Stories to Build Reading Comprehension
Almost as soon as your child can read four or five words, the book introduces reading "stories." The stories begin as three word sentences and are accompanied by pictures. Reading stories build confidence in your child and moves your child from reading words to reading sentences and paragraphs.
Reading stories serves the purpose of reinforcing the skills of sounding out words and blending letter sounds, and also introduces a new skill, which the book calls "reading the fast way." Reading the fast way means that the child eventually stops sounding out new words, but will read them from sight.
All of these skills are put into play as the book introduces one new letter sound at a time. So you will work through 50 or more lessons before your child is introduced to all of the letters of the alphabet.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
This is the best reading system for the money on the market, hands down. For less than the price of dinner out, you can teach your child to read at home. I strongly recommend that you buy this book. You will use it over and over. I would like to add a few things, however, based on my experience using this reading program with my own children that may help you be more successful.
- As a parent, I encourage you to thoroughly read the 15 pages of introduction at the beginning of the book. It isn't mandatory, but the information in there will help you understand the system.
- If your child already knows her abc's, don't skip the first few lessons. Working through the first 8 lessons in a methodical manner, exactly as the book prescribes, is essential to your child's reading success with this program. By lessons 7 and 8, if your child catches on to the material quickly, she will likely be impatient to move forward. Do follow the lessons as they are presented in the book.
- Don't skip around in the book. The book presents important concepts that build upon each other.
- Keep your lessons positive, and don't try to push to the end of the lesson if your child loses focus, or you lose your patience. If you lose your patience with your child because they are unable to focus, finish the lesson in the middle and begin the next day where you left off. My three-year old son sometimes loses interest in reading. It's okay.
- The lessons are highly structured. Just because your child can read "the" and "cat", he or she probably is not ready to read the Cat in the Hat with you. However, now is a good time to introduce rhyming stories in a separate read-aloud time. Not until the end of the lessons will reading outside books become easy for your child. Don't push it early on.
- Show off your child's reading skills at the end of the day to another parent or grandparent. Doing so will reinforce what your child is reading and build confidence and self-esteem.
- Don't be negative if your child doesn't master some aspect of the lesson. Keep it positive and try to avoid sounding disappointed if your child doesn't understand everything.
- Work on a reading lesson every day at the same time. We usually have our reading lesson right after lunch. Baby sister is napping and I can give my son my complete attention.
I love children's picture books, and in addition to having four children of my own, I volunteered as a story time presenter at my community library for three years. Here are some of my book reviews and reading lists. Enjoy!
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