This is the same book that one of my dear friends used to teach her (now adult) children to read. It seemed too simple but when it was time for my oldest to start kindergarten I thought I’d give it a try. At first it really reminded me of Hooked on Phonics or Great Leaps- programs I used and was familiar with in the classroom. As we started to use the book I quickly realized this was going to be a wonderful tool.
These were her first “formal” lessons. Naturally when we move beyond play to didactic lessons friction arises. I really appreciated that the early lessons are very short. You can do them in minutes. To sweeten the lessons and ease the transition to formal lessons we started to call it the “jelly bean book.” After we finished a lesson we celebrated with a jelly bean as a prize. It never matters how much of a lesson we completed or how well she did- every time she got a jelly bean. It didn’t take long before she was asking for her lessons.
The jellybeans were a helpful tool to make that transition but it’s not long before your little will be reading. At that point the thrill is more from the ability to read than wanting a jellybean. Most days she would forget all about it.
As you move further in the book it’s important to remember that completing a lesson isn’t the goal as much a full understanding is. As we got to lessons 50+ we would frequently repeat lessons 2-3 times. Also as lessons included bigger stories or longer phonics practice I would set a timer for 15 minutes and when it went off- no matter where we are- we stop.
With that background I wanted to share a couple tips that have made our experience even better.
One of my critiques of the book is the way the lowercase letter “a” is printed in the book. I would so much rather the traditional Zaner-Bloser style. One way I combat the issue is with a small white board. For the early lessons I write out the child portion on a white board for her to read and practice.
I really like how the early lessons encourage the child to stretch out words. This is a great way to develop those blending skills before they even realize that’s what they are doing. When my younger daughter began these lessons she struggled with the concept of stretching out words. To help her I would draw dots on our whiteboard for each sound in a word. For example, if I asked her to say, “at.” I would draw two dots for her to tap as she said the word slowly. This was a huge difference maker for her!
This is a pretty big concept that the book sort of leaves out in the lessons. When we read our first word together (very early on in lessons) I took a few minutes to draw out and explain that when you put letters together they make words.
Just the same, when we got to the first lesson with a sentence to read I took time to explain the idea of a sentence. While this is beneficial in reading lessons, this is also very helpful in writing and spelling as well.
One last piece of advice I want to leave you with is an encouragement to give your little and yourself and time. If you sense frustration or feel tension building with lessons (because they can be maddening at times) try your very best to stop immediately. It is so much more important that your little develop confidence and a love for reading than what age they attain reading capability. If you feel frustrated there’s a good chance they will pick up on it and at that point it’s better to set it down than to continue. Come back to it the next day when everyone is feeling more refreshed and patient.
Any more questions? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below! I hope this was helpful! Happy reading!