Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Learning to Read: What Worked for Us

Learning to read is a messy process, and there isn't one clear-cut way to do it.  I've shared many of my favorite reading resources here, and today I'm going to share with you what exactly worked for us.


I did NOT push formal reading lessons on my kids early-on. If you're not sure why on earth I chose to wait then please read this. Instead, we strongly encourage a LOVE of reading by reading aloud, a lot.

Gentle Introduction:

We received a copy of the LeapFrog Letter Factory DVD, which turned out to be a super-easy way for my boys to learn their letter sounds with NO drilling, no flash cards, no formal lessons whatsoever. Just a simple video. The follow-up, LeapFrog Talking Words Factory DVD, is for after children know their letter sounds and introduces how to blend them together into words. My boys didn't watch these DVD's a lot or as "lessons," they were just in our family movie library and they watched them from time to time.

As they showed interest, we formed simple words as a game, using Lauri Letters. They thought this was great fun and were able to sound out three letter words in pre-school.

First Formal Lessons With Bob Books: 

I considered spending a boatload to buy a full-blown phonics program. I also considered spending a whopping fifteen bucks to buy Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. (It's a super-popular program that works for a LOT of people, with a LOW price, ONE re-usable book, and NO  consumable products you have to re-buy for each child.  My sister-in-law used it and recommends it for kids who are starting from the beginning with letter sounds rather than kids who already know how to sound out basic words. Since my son already knew his letters and was starting to sound out words, I looked for something else.)

Then I found this post linking to the Teaching with Bob blog, which is written by a former reading tutor and home school mom who posted her week-by-week lesson plans for each and every Bob book! I decided to give it a try. It took me a while combing through her site for the lesson plans, but I wrote them all out, tweaked & printed them and we gave it a go. The basic concept of it is to teach what ever new sound or concept is coming up in the next Bob Book, and then to read the next Bob Book. Since she wrote her lessons for younger students than mine, she spent several days teaching one Bob Book, where as we spent a grand total of two days per book (day 1 teaching the new concept and day 2 reading the Bob Book). If you decide to try her method, I'd say that her website was both helpful and time consuming for me. Now that I have my lessons done though, I have a reading program I can use over and over again. I wish I could share my version of her program as a simple download so you didn't have to spend the time copying and pasting together the lessons, but I'm pretty sure it would be considered plagiarism. :(

Update: She now offers her curriculum as a downloadable PDF file. You can see it here. She sent  me the curriculum for Set 1 to review. I tried it with my second son, and it was nice. I wish it was available free.

The idea I LOVED from her site was how she adapted the SCM memory system to be used for phonics.  She explains it in this post: The TRwBB Binder System. It's pretty genius. Of course I tweaked mine too, but isn't that what home school moms do... take ideas and make them their own?

One thing I found after-the-fact is that there are a lot of free printables online for the Bob Books too. I think this would have been a nice way to review in a different way so it wasn't the same-ol same-ol every day, but oh well, my next son will get the benefit of this resource. :) Here are where you can find free printables (activities/review/games) for every one of the Bob Books:

After Bob Books:

After Bob Books, we moved on to The Primer by Harriet Taylor Treadwell and then the next book in the series, First Reader.  After First Reader, he was able to take off with easy readers from our library, which we did for the remainder of first grade. I may still get the Second Reader to begin second grade, but at least we've crossed the bridge of learning to read. Now he's to the point of PRACTICING, which he does a lot.

Update: We started using Pathway Readers in second grade, which my son really enjoys and always wants to read "one more chapter," The readers are reasonably priced, nice little hardcover books available for Pre-K to 8th grade reading levels. They're enjoyable stories that encourage good morals and family values, so I'm glad to have found them. 

Thanks to the random home school mom who happened to sit next to me in a doctor's waiting room, I was introduced to the Victory Drill Book. I started using it this year for first grade. Some people use this book alone to teach reading (after the child knows basic letter sounds), but I used it to mainly build speed, as well as for phonetic review, spelling & syllable rules. It's a pretty handy resource and can be used to build reading speed for kids of all ages!

*** Go back to my Reading Resources page! ***

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