Teaching Your Child to Read: Our Favorite Curriculum

Jacob is seven years old and in first grade so we are right in the middle of teaching him how to read. The process started on its own when Jacob began to recognize his letters as a toddler. Once Jacob recognized most of his letters, he moved on to learning the letter sounds. After Jacob learned his letter sounds, I taught him how to sound out three letter words with short vowels. I made up some games on my own and also found fun game ideas in the book, Games for Reading. Once Jacob understood the concept of sounding out simple words, we started using Alphaphonics and reading from a variety of beginner readers. In this post, I will share our favorite beginner readers and other resources we have used to teach Jacob how to read.

Before I share our favorite learn to read curriculum and more, I wanted to mention a few things. Jacob is the first child I have taught how to read, although I have helped other children with reading in the past. I did a lot of research on how to teach a child to read and have read many books on the subject. Two important points I read over and over is that children are not all ready to learn how to read at the same age and what works for one child may or may not work for another child. I have also found that some reading materials that did not initially work for Jacob were great for him a year or so later. There are huge debates on whether you should teach your child to read using phonics, whole language, or a combination of both. We have chosen to focus on building a strong foundation in phonics and have added in whole language when necessary to help with learning the tricky sight words.

The base for our reading program has been Alphaphonics. I have found this to be an excellent book for me as a parent. It is a very clear and systematic way to teach phonics and is easy to teach from. The downside is that Alphaphonics is not the most exciting way for kids to learn to read by itself. We remedied this issue by going through the Alphaphonics book slowly over a year and a half period and adding in fun beginner readers, activities, and games. The Alphaphonics book has 128 lessons and we averaged 2 lessons a week. We were able to get the beginner readers through our library which made our reading program very inexpensive. I highly recommend Alphaphonics as a base for your reading program!

We have a number of favorite beginner readers which I will list below.

Favorite Beginner Readers
Now I'm Reading: Playful Pals (Level 1) by Nora Gaydos
Now I'm Reading: Amazing Animals (Level 2) by Nora Gaydos
Now I'm Reading: On the Go (Level 3) by Nora Gaydos
Now I'm Reading: Let's Play (Level 4) by Nora Gaydos
Bob Books (Sets 1-4) by Bobby Lynn Maslen
Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel
Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad (series) by Arnold Lobel
Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
Small Pig by Arnold Lobel
Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
Starfall Learn to Read Phonics Book Set

The last books I mentioned from Starfall can be printed off in black and white for free on their website here. Starfall is a fabulous website and they have lots more free printables here. Jacob and Rosa have enjoyed playing on this site as well. Another great website is The School Bell which has a Dolch Kit of printable flashcards and games using the Dolch list of 220 high frequency sight words. We have also made our own sight word Bingo cards from the Print-Bingo website using the sight words from Alphaphonics.

Jacob has fluctuated in his enthusiasm over learning to read. He really likes the games we have played and he also enjoys using sight word flashcards for some reason. He has progressed steadily over the last year and a half but learning to read has definitely involved work for him. I have also had to work on my level of patience and tone of voice when we are practicing reading aloud. Listening to a child sound out words can get very tedious and it is easy to get an edge to your voice when you are correcting mistakes. When I keep my voice cheerful and relaxed, Jacob enjoys reading a lot more. Sometimes I need to take some deep breaths or take a break from reading practice if my patience starts to deteriorate. We have also used the technique I previously wrote about here in "Learn to Read with Raggedy Ann".

Recently we have added in Explode the Code workbooks. I do these with Jacob out loud so we can reuse the books with Rosa. It also helps me catch his mistakes by having him do the workbooks out loud. They have some really funny sentences and Jacob enjoys these books. We had tried them a year ago and he wasn't into them at the time. I am really glad we tried them again because they are great for reinforcing phonics. We use the words from Explode the Code for spelling as well.

There is lots of different phonics and reading instruction curriculum on the market and I have read good reviews on a number of different programs. I chose what I did because it was the most reasonably priced of all the well reviewed curriculum. You can read reviews of other curriculum at Home School Reviews.


Anonymous said...

Reading hasn't been easy to teach my son either. I thought the Alpha-Phonics looked good too.

I have to agree about the patience/tone of voice thing. I recently learned (duh!) that my son needs an inordinate amount of praise to stay happy and motivated and that criticism/correction is REALLY taken to heart by him (even when done w/patience and kindness). It's hard to know how a correction will hit him. "Matter of fact" isn't so matter of fact with him!

Anyway, you did a great post. Love all the links and ideas. I know it takes a lot of time to do that!

Unknown said...

What a wonderful blog! I stumbled upon you by accidentr and I am so pleased.
I am making you a favorite so that I may liberally borrow many of your great and wonderful ideas.

Parent and Child Reading Assistance said...

I know I'm a little late to comment. (June 2010) I found this post through a google search. You've done an amazing job researching, pooling together resources, and offering solid advice to parents. I have a blog devoted to offering advice to parents teaching a child to read. I use and recommend at least half of your resources and ditto your advice! I'll be checking out Alpha Phonics. I'm going to share one of my posts with you. Feel free to look around my blog. Although you don't seem like you need any advice. http://beginningreadinghelp.blogspot.com/2010/02/my-daughters-path-to-reading.html

Malcom Reynolds said...

While I do believe that teachers need to teach (that's what we pay them too little to do), you cannot abandon your responsibility as a parent. First and foremost, education should start in the home, to be expanded and specialized at school. Think how much better off your child would be if taught how to read at home, before being sent to school. Rather than waiting for the kindergarten teacher to try to teach your illiterate child, while trying simultaneously to maintain and educational atmosphere for the other kids. http://www.wordywormreading.com

Anonymous said...

I need to add my two bits worth regarding Alpha-Phonics. All of my grandkids have been taught to read using Blumenfeld's system and they haven't looked back since. Now nothing makes them happier than to receive books as gifts; we just have to stay current with what their latet preferences!

For the last two we did add another publication from the same publishers called "Little Companion Readers". They come in a set of ten and each is a separate story. After just a week or two using the Alpha-Phonics system they were able to read a complete story, actually finishing a book in the process. What this does to a kid's self-esteem is immeasurable - the joy, satisfaction and pride in his or her accomplishment will touch the heart of any parent (or grandparent). Their enthusiasm to continue the process and increase their reading skills was hugely encouraged.
It makes gift easing so much easier too!