Learning to Read

May 9, 2006

Asalaam 'Alaikum:

Teaching your child can be a very exciting time – but also difficult when faced with the many different types of materials available to teach your child. In this case – my experience has shown me that one size definitely does not fit all. I have tried many of the different learning materials available and still have not found one that fits all my needs – although I have found one that works for us in conjunction with other materials.

On the suggestion of the Well Trained Mind (in the older version of her book) I tried Phonics Pathways and absolutely hated it. It just didn't make sense to me and I had a difficult time trying to figure out how to make it make sense to my child. However I have a friend who is using Phonics Pathways and her daughter is already reading short stories – it worked great for her and she loves it. Like I said, not one size fits all.

I have also looked at Hooked on Phonics. For the life of me, I can't remember why – but it just didn't appeal to me. I actually didn't even try it with my child – however, I have heard other people say it is great.

So, what in the world did work for us? We are using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. While I am not absolutely in love with the book – it works for us. And, through trial and error – I have found other materials available that nicely supplement the work we are doing with 100 Easy Lessons that seem to make up for what is missing in the book. So, along with the 100 Easy Lessons book, we also use a nice website dedicated to teaching children Phonics – Starfall. It is an excellent site – and again, I actually have a friend whose daughter learned how to read just by using this website. While I tried it with my daughter – she just couldn't make the connection between what she was doing online and actual reading – that's why 100 Easy Lessons seemed to help in conjunction with Starfall. However, I still wasn't completely happy and satisfied that I was teaching her everything she needed to know. I found another excellent free program online (and I absolutely love it) called Studydog. Well, just looking up the address I found that the software is no longer free (unless you are from a low-income family) but it is well worth the money – in my opinion.

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UPDATE: I found a link online where you can still download it for free at the following website:

National Center for Family Literacy

You need to provide them with some personal information
and then they allow you to download any version you need.
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I really like this software for one reason that the other two materials I was using did not achieve for me – alphabet recognition. In the beginning lessons, they teach the child each letter – how it is written – and what sounds it makes. Then, the provide the child with a sentence and make the child find each letter that they are working on in the sentence (for example 'A' in both capital and small letter form). While Starfall is fun and cute, their alphabet recognition portion of the materials just seemed to be lacking for me. With 100 Easy Lessons – they get to it eventually – but my daughter was in the mood to know what the letters were now. Studydog really helped with this. One beneficial thing with Studydog is that they actually have an assessment – and after your child finishes a portion of the work – you can check to see if your child understood what they were doing or if they need to go back and review. I found this really helpful.

So, our typical day we spend time on one lesson of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons – which typically takes 20 minutes a day. Later (and she thinks this is fun) I will turn on either Studydog or let her have access to the Starfall website. She (so far) has not become confused by the different approaches – and it seems as though things she is learning from one material helps her with things she is learning from another. For example, I recently turned on Studydog and it was talking about double consonants – we haven't approached this topic before – yet, she did it herself and achieved a score above 90 (without help from me – she refused!)

Allah knows best – but I just think that we really need to try the different methods out there and see what works for our child and what works for us. While saying this I want to remind you of one thing – your local library. Sometimes people forget that we don't have to figure all this stuff out and spend a lot of money. I actually found Hooked on Phonics at my local library and checked it out to see if it would work for us. I did the same for Phonics Pathways and 100 Easy Lessons. After giving them a trial run – I found out what was worth spending money on. I recommend you do the same – it's a lot easier on the pocketbook that way.

Asalaam 'Alaikum,
Sumayyah Umm SAA

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