Reading Made Easy
The synthesis of years of planning, teaching, writing, and testing, this "Guide to Teach Your Child to Read" is truly inspirational! It incorporates so many great ideas and methods in an unforced, natural manner that it had to be written by a homeschooling mom! Valerie Bendt, author and homeschooling mother of six, has provided yet another wonderful tool to help us teach efficiently, effectively and personally! The course consists of 108 lessons which the author recommends using at the rate of 3 lessons per week with review and reinforcement of skills in between. Employing an approach similar to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, this low-stress (for teacher and student), gentle format allows you to sit alongside your child and enjoy a one-on-one adventure in learning to read. While Valerie has borrowed some great ideas from methods employed in that volume, her offering is distinctively different, too - both in format and, more notably, implementation. While both volumes are constructed as beginning reading programs (not intended as totally comprehensive phonics instruction), the instruction in Reading Made Easy goes far beyond teaching phonics rules to become a more fluid and total age- and skill-appropriate language arts presentation for the beginning reader. Valerie's program also puts much more emphasis on the value and enjoyment of reading and on instilling a love of the written word in your child than any other phonics/reading program I've seen. She incorporates multi-sensory learning that will appeal to children of all learning modalities, using both kinesthetic manipulation (via cards and drawings) and auditory exercises. Whether instinctively or deliberately, she has created an almost ideal reading program to incorporate many of the "multiple-intelligences" as well!
But, enough with the praise! On to the nuts and bolts of the program! Like Teach Your Child..., the lessons are meant to be taught side-by-side, preferably close enough to snuggle. Scripted lessons generally begin with skill review and practice, then progress to introduction of new phonetic constructs (and/or sight words) and end with reading practice. A special system of marking is used to enable the beginning reader to quickly master new and unfamiliar rules. Stories are all captivating, entertaining, and illustrated with a simple black-and-white illustration. Reading comprehension is incorporated in the reading exercises even at the earliest levels. Both volumes will have your child reading simple chapter books by the end of instruction. This is where the similarities end.
Now for the differences in both format and content. While Teach Your Child... uses larger type face in the beginning, progressing to a smaller (but still bolder) typeface at book's end, Valerie employs a consistent point size throughout. The type size is roughly the same as the ending type in Teach Your Child.... This will be better with older beginning readers, but may deter the very young reader. However, the marking system used in Reading Made Easy is less distracting. Teach Your Child... uses overlines to indicate long vowels and makes silent letters smaller (in comparison). Consonant digraphs are shown by actually joining the letters. When you put this all together it looks a little - well, funny. The reader is weaned from these special markings by the end of the volume, however, and typeset becomes consistent. Valerie uses more evenly-sized lettering throughout, graying short vowels, bolding long ones, and "ghosting" silent letters (forming them with dots instead of solid lines). Blends and digraphs are circled, a visual cue that they work as a phonetic unit. This system of marking is employed throughout the program in reading sections. Some weaning is done in copywork and sentence work, however. As a whole, the text has a less cluttered appearance than Teach Your Child. I appreciate Valerie's scripted text being in a different font rather than in the red ink found in the latter. Missing also are the arrows beneath every practice letter, word, and sentence. If your child has an extremely difficult time with left-to-right tracking, you might appreciate the arrows; if not, it just adds extra busy-ness to the page. I do miss the stand-out bolding found in Teach Your Child. Some children may find it easier to ignore the rest of the writing on the pages if their "part" really stands out. If you plan on using Italic Handwriting, Valerie's use of LucidaSansSchool font (used in Portland State's Italic Handwriting program) will appeal. If you plan on using a pre-cursive (or modern manuscript) program, ditto. Reading Made Easy also uses a written "a" while Teach Your Child uses a typeset "a". Reading Made Easy covers a little more phonics "ground" than Teach Your Child and includes a list of phonetic constructs at the end of the book for concepts not covered in the body of the book.
The biggest differences in the two programs, though, is in their implementation. Lessons in Reading Made Easy are far more "spontaneous" and offer more variety in format. Impromptu games and activities are sprinkled liberally throughout, giving the program a more playful nature. Parents construct Sight Word Worms and a Sight Word Bingo game to help children add critical sight words to their reading repertoire. The incorporation of these in stories then results in more natural, interesting reading selections. Children are encouraged to flex their artistic wings by duplicating simple illustrations and writing is incorporated as they first write sentences, then stories to accompany them. Index cards are used extensively (buy lots of them!) for preparing aids to learn word and sentence construction. Many lessons include putting words from a simple sentence on cards (one word per card and usually marked using Valerie's notations), mixing, then having your child reconstruct the sentence. This kinesthetic activity helps children understand capitalization, ending punctuation, and sentence construction from early on. While all lessons include a short reading selection to reinforce your instruction, the final lessons in Reading Made Easy contain a real chapter book. In each of twelve lessons, you read a chapter of the story after which your child reads a simpler (but not too watered-down) adaptation written at his level of reading ability. Copywork is also included in most lessons (in the tradition of Ruth Beechick), but the author suggests omitting it if your child's fine motor skills are not ready for additional writing. One final feature that every mom will appreciate is ending each lesson with read-aloud time from a book of your choice (Valerie has thoughtfully included a list of recommended picture and chapter books in the ending section of the book). We all know that reading to our children regularly increases both reading aptitude and appreciation. This inclusion assures that we will make the time for it and provides our children with a fitting "reward" for completing each lesson. Reading Made Easy is now available in paperback format or on CD-ROM. The CD-ROM contains .pdf files of all pages and a 55-minute audio workshop ehelp desk software