Want to teach your child to read?
But learning to read is a complex skill and I worried I’d do something to confuse them, which could do more harm than good.
My grandchildren had nailed the pre-reading skills; letters of the alphabet, how to hold a book and turn the pages the correct way etc. But how could I help them make the leap from single letters to words?
The Biff, Chip and Kipper series were recommended to me. The first set came with a ‘Teach your Child’ booklet as slim as the reading books themselves. Surely the knowledge I searched for couldn’t be condensed into a booklet so small?
After much research, I settled on Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann as the main book I would use. Siegfried Engelmann was an American educationalist who has written 456 books, so I figured he might know what he was talking about. There were other resources I used which I will get to in another post, but for today here’s the reasons I chose the Englemann book.
What I liked:
- This book has very detailed instructions. You will need time to prep a lesson before sitting down with your child, especially at the beginning. There is a lot of reading before you get to Lesson 1, but you don’t have to remember everything as the ‘teachers instructions’ are on the page of the lesson in red.
Using the book gets easier as you go along, just make sure that you do actually read the instructions as they can change subtly to get your child to practise slightly different things as the lessons progress.
- The lessons included practise in writing too, which I felt reinforced the letters and words the children were learning.
- The way Englemann differentiates between letter sounds was slightly unorthodox to me. For example an ‘a’ sound (as in ate) had a line over the top, while an ‘a’ sound (as in apple) did not.
It did make things easier at the beginning, as the child knows exactly how to sound out the word, but I worried this would confuse things when we switched to ‘normal’ books without this help. Happily, the kids took it in their stride, so I needn’t have worried.
What I didn’t like:
- Each lesson ends with a little ‘story,’ which increases in complexity, but many of them were terrible stories. I mean, I know you can’t expect much from the simple ones.
But some were just completely random, and the pictures are not inspiring at all to modern day children used to all-singing, all-dancing graphics on everything.
We ended up getting to lesson 78 and moved on to Biff, Chip and Kipper books because a) they were more interesting, b) the kids had got the hang of the basics and c) I was more confident I could teach them.
- UK parents also be warned that some of the words use the American spelling, for example ‘mom’ instead of ‘mum’. I did think of tippex-ing the word out and writing the English spelling, but I explained the book had been written by someone in America (which my grandchildren thought was super-cool) and they’ve obviously watched enough US television to not be phased by this, so in the end I left the words as they were.
Did it work?
Yes, it did.
Grandson was five when we started and we were able to work through at the rate of one lesson a day. However, by lesson 78 we switched over to Biff and Chip, as his interest in the ‘stories’ began to wane, but that didn’t matter. He could read. Yay!
Grand-daughter was only three and I never intended to do the book with her, but she had a real interest in reading and she wanted to be like her brother, so we gave it a try. She wasn’t as proficient in her alphabet at the beginning and we spent several days repeating one lesson so initial progress was slow. Then all of a sudden, things clicked into place and we were speeding through.
This is a great book for homeschooling, or for using if your child is struggling at school.
P.S check out Read with Rhino, my new series of early readers launching 16th June 2020.