Hello friends and readers. It’s been a minute since I last posted in this blog but times are changing (and with it my priorities) so look for much more content. Today I’m beginning a series of blog posts assessing the book Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I’m going to answer the questions “is it really easy?” “what are some stumbling blocks?” “how do I know if my child may be ready to start this curriculum” and “how can I use it to teach my child to read?”
We are 2 weeks into the lessons with my 4 1/4 year old and the recommended age to start the DISTAR Phonics Method is with average 4-5 year olds, or a “sharp” 3 1/2 year old. The child is not expected to have any letter recognition at the start of the DISTAR Phonics method.
My daughter has nearly mastered letter recognition, we’ve read to her daily since infancy, and she can sit for periods of time working on focused activities (manipulatives like play dough, painting, and short preschool lessons). I introduced her to early preschool lessons through the curriculum ABC Jesus Loves Me. All in all, she’s off to a good head start and has background knowledge that can aid in the ease of starting a phonics program. Now that you know a little about our starting point I’ll answer the question, “Is teaching this book EASY?”
It’s not easy to get a small child on board with this method as it is initially very challenging. For some exceptional children, it might be. It wasn’t easy for us (but it’s getting easier so stay tuned).The format is intimidating for a little one who’s been looking at picture books with contrast and clues up to this point. It looks hard and if a child thinks it is hard, then it is hard until they don’t think so. BUT does the book make the phonics method easy for the adult to understand how to teach and implement without a degree in education? YES! 100 times YES! There is value here so I’m going to share how I am gradually making it more approachable and less intimidating for my little girl.
Potential stumbling blocks include: losing your patience if your little student becomes inattentive;taking it too seriously; not prepping yourself the day before you introduce a lesson(which takes 5 minutes); feeling that you have to follow the script to a tee; and most of all FORGETTING TO KEEP IT FUN! If your child starts to get upset the moment you pull out the book, you have a problem. We had a problem ourselves 2 days into the lessons and I had to fix that because these early reading experiences should inspire a lifelong reader. They will also learn more when they are relaxed. So relax!
This curriculum is intended for a child who has not yet begun learning how to read. It starts with common sounds represented by lower case letters (what we see the most of when we read) and quickly encourages the concept of sounding out and rhyming. These skills are significant building blocks in decoding words for the long run. This program is not well suited for a child who has begun reading and is struggling; in that situation there are other ways to re-mediate that would be more effective. Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons is best suited for an absolute beginner. Prior letter knowledge is not required but I think with some letter knowledge the day to day lessons can move more quickly. If this is the absolute starting point, it may be a faster method to becoming a reader but each daily lesson will require more time and repetition.
Parents CAN use this book alone without extra prep work or materials (other than a white board or notepad) to teach their child to read, but that doesn’t mean that they SHOULD. Here’s how it panned out for us. The first few lessons I read the script and instructed my daughter to make the sounds I was making and follow my finger on the lines and dots, then she had to trace the lines and dots with her finger and make the sounds. It didn’t seem hard but she would quickly become frustrated with trying to follow all the steps. I decided to break it down by making note cards. The simplicity of looking away from the book with lots of black and white text and steps and focusing on 1-2 things at a time made the material more approachable. After practicing tracing lines and squiggles with her fingers on note cards for a while, repeating the procedure in the book went a little smoother. With more practice it went better. So you can easily make your own note cards or print some from my TPT Store.
Also, finger tracing is a very effective step to preparing a child to write. These motor skills take work. If they can first learn how to draw something out with their fingers, in time it will be easier to do with a pencil. My daughter didn’t want to so much as attempt tracing a letter or shape weeks ago. Today she is tracing letters and drawing pictures. She still naturally grips with a fist but is beginning to learn how to make her fingers like an alligator mouth and grab the pencil in a better hold. Did you know that writing precedes reading? (research). Writing practice is already important at this stage and this book addresses that with writing practice at the end of each lesson.
Look for my post at the end of the week and in the weeks to come as I report how we are progressing through this curriculum. In the end you’ll find out if it made my bright and bouncy 4 year old a reader in 100 lessons. Soon you’ll be able to see snapshots on my YouTube Channel. I’ll also post on TPT as I create resources that make it easier for us. I hope it’ll help some of you out there as well!