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Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann

Updated on October 24, 2011
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book cover
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book cover

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'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.

This sample page from the book shows how the lessons are scripted in different colors. This page is about 1/3 of the way through the lessons.
This sample page from the book shows how the lessons are scripted in different colors. This page is about 1/3 of the way through the lessons.

Writing Time

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.

Writing Time

Handwriting time at our house involves me writing letters and my child tracing them. This reinforces learning letter sounds and is not meant as a lesson in handwriting.
Handwriting time at our house involves me writing letters and my child tracing them. This reinforces learning letter sounds and is not meant as a lesson in handwriting.

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!


Submit a Comment

  • Enlydia Listener profile image

    Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

    Interesting book, I probably would have bought it when my kids were young.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 6 years ago from Iowa

    I'm happy to hear you found something that worked well for you and your daughter. This book helped us with our foundation of early reading skills. Regards!

  • Joy M profile image

    Joy M 6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

    I used the K12 curriculum, which worked great for my daughter and I, but the approach sounds similar. There was a real focus on hearing the different sounds in words before the letters were even brought into the lessons.

    Great hub! I know this was something I worried about until I found the method that worked for us.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    I am not usually one for this kind of teaching, but I believe it really, really works. I have heard that the reading system used in this book has been used to help remediate older students and kids with learning difficulties. But enough also can't be said for reading to your children as often as possible. All of my kids, even my 8 month old, love to have their hands on a good book!

  • VirginiaLynne profile image

    Virginia Kearney 7 years ago from United States

    I taught all five of my children to read but didn't really follow any particular method. I just read to them aloud twice a day from the time that they were about 15 months (and would finally sit in my lap to read). Most of them did not learn to read very early but that wasn't really what I wanted. What did happen is that once they did start reading, they leaped past the early readers into 1st or 2nd grade reading level. Ok, now I've convinced myself to write a hub about this! I really do like this hub because I think it is very helpful for people to have a model to follow and to have ideas of how to break down the reading. I am a teacher, so perhaps I did some of this naturally. I'll be sure to use these ideas when helping others.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    Have you looked at Amazon's UK site? I hope you find the book, it is an excellent resource.

  • jill betts profile image

    jill betts 7 years ago from England UK

    A good informative hub- thank you I live in UK so I will try and source a copy of the book.

  • profile image

    FMA001 7 years ago

    Thank you for the indepth information about this book. I've been looking for a good teach your child to read book for my almost 3 year old.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    Thank you, I didn't know that, but I wil look it up. My son loves the computer! Regards!

  • pdxren profile image

    pdxren 7 years ago

    I applaud your attention to this book for your children. Siegfried Engelmann has more recently developed a computer version of early literacy training based on Direct Instruction design principles and designed for parents like yourself. It's called Funnix.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    That is a good question. I can't promise that your son will breeze through the lessons, but the book is designed to teach children to read starting with learning each letter. As part of the lessons you will be introducing each letter and the sound that goes with it. He doesn't need to recognize the letters. This is all scripted into the reading lesson, so you don't have to teach him anything extra. Also, he will only learn one new letter during each lesson, and the lessons use "games" to help teach them!

  • profile image

    Kristen 7 years ago

    Does your child have to be able to recognize the letter or know letter sounds? My 3 year old can sing the alphbet, but does not know his letters or letter sounds. I bought the book, but I am nervous to start and be disappointed. He is very active, and I worry that this will be just to much. If each lesson just moves on to the next letter, how is he suppose to remember to recognize the letter M and S and remember their sounds?

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    My son had a similar issue with reading the fast way. One thing it could be is blending the sounds together. In order to read the fast way your daughter needs to be able to sound out the letter sounds and blend them on her own. The lessons should lead her to a point where she is doing this before she reads the fast way. (Basically the process of blending and sounding out become automatic.) I wouldn't fret. Every child is different. If you're getting frustrated with your lessons maybe it would be a good idea to put them away for 3 or 6 months and then restart the process. Then she won't be so frustrated. Reading, sometimes like potty training, takes a few tries. Good look Viv!

  • profile image

    viv 7 years ago

    thanks for the review , i was googling online trying to find some help . i am using the book with my 4 years old . we are at lesson 54 but till now although she can sound out everything , she still not able to read the fast way . still i am moving on with the lessons not for her to be bored for repetition of the same lesson over and over . i am puzzled when the ability to read fast from sight will come despite reading the word 10o times she never shouts it out fast to me still need to sound it out .

    any idea ??

    love and blessings


  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    That is my feeling too Ingenira--I have met many homeschoolers that started their children reading with this book and supplemented with games and easy readers. It is a great resource.

  • Ingenira profile image

    Ingenira 7 years ago

    this is a popular book among homeschoolers.... thanks for sharing it.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 8 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks for your endorsement, sagebrush. I love this book. It is an amazing resource to anyone who wants to teach a young child to read!

  • sagebrush_mama profile image

    sagebrush_mama 8 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

    This is my preferred resource...have taught 6 of my 8 kids using 100 Easy Lessons!

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 8 years ago from Iowa

    Wow thanks Susan, that is always OK. LOL! I'm checking it out!

  • susansisk profile image

    susansisk 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

    That book sounds really good, I will consider getting it for my granddaughter. I mentioned one of your hubs that i liked in my newest hub. I hope that is OK.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 8 years ago from Iowa

    I hope you enjoy the book. It costs about 1/10th of the price of hooked on phonics. I hope it works as well for your family as it has for mine.

  • littlemarkiesmom profile image

    littlemarkiesmom 8 years ago from The hot, humid South

    What a great hub! My son is 3 1/2 and we've just started doing some "school" at home. This is just the type thing that I've been looking for! Thanks a bunch!! :)

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 8 years ago from Iowa

    @Hello, hello: Thank you! I appreciate you reading my online articles!

    @BKCreative: I agree with you. Teaching children to read can be daunting, so having a system like this is a great way to go. All of the steps are right there to follow. This system is much more effective than teaching kids the alphabet and trying to work from there. Thank you for your impassioned remarks!

  • BkCreative profile image

    BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    I taught my children to read before they started school. I think this is a parent's obligation - to start their child's education - children are like little sponges and can soak up far more than we realize.

    We need to do this - thanks for showing so many parents how they can do it.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you for your fantastic advice and information.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 8 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks Dohn. It has been a while since I brewed up a Hubmob hub. This is a topic I feel passionate about, though technically I'm not an expert. But the book does work.

  • dohn121 profile image

    dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

    If and when I do have children, I'll be employing this exact same method. What a great idea sharing this with us and the best part about it is that the proof is in the pudding! Thanks for a great HubMob Hub.


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