24 July 2011

Review: Happy Phonics and Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading

When Monkey was a still 1, he asked to use my mouse (what could be more fun than using this thing that captivates Mom's attention so much?!), and I turned him loose on Starfall. He could barely click at first, but by 2, I had to limit his computer time, and he'd learned all his letters and their sounds. I knew I wanted to teach using phonics, but was at a loss as to how to proceed, so I began looking at the various phonics courses out there. The ones I could get my hands on looked thorough, but they were hopelessly dry and so boring that I could barely stand to look at them myself. I couldn't imagine trying to use them with so young a child. Still, I felt that it only made sense to offer him the next step on the journey to reading, so I kept looking.  My search ended with the discovery of Happy Phonics.

Happy Phonics is a phonics-based system for teaching children to read, and everything is a game. For my very young reader, this was perfect. No stilted dialogs for us! We play games when we sit down to practice reading. Thus far, the "Reading House" is Monkey's favorite. It's a house with a window cut out, where the ending of the words peek out. Monkey "burns up" the beginning sounds as he reads them. Some days Mom is required to air-life water to put out the flames, though that doesn't actually contribute to the reading. But it sure is fun!

My only complaint with Happy Phonics is that it's not complete. It teaches cvc words, but leaves the new reader largely on their own for figuring out 2 consonant blends at the ends of words, for example. And, if Mom doesn't know very much about phonics, it doesn't offer much in the way of an education. This program makes a lot of assumptions.

Enter The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. This is one of those books full of stilted dialogs. Reading it, as I was trying to decide how to teach phonics, kind of made me want to poke my eye out. But it's very systematic, and very thorough. Each sound is explained, each rule gone over. I needed that sort of hand-holding. We skipped the first set of lessons, on what is each letter. Starfall had taken care of that for us. But we used the word lists to add to our Happy Phonics games, and also a few file-folder games we made. Some lists we made into "Go Fish" which became Monkey's new favorite. All of the lessons include a little reading, which I printed onto little booklets I'd made by sewing down the center of several sheets of paper. Then, Monkey's Daddy or I will draw simple illustrations (think Bob Books), and it's a real book for him to practice with. We carried on like that until we got into the section on vowel pairs - about halfway through the lessons. At that point, he could, with some help on rules we hadn't seen yet, read from real books, and, very slowly, do a verse at a time from scripture. Monkey never actually sees this book while we're learning, but it's an important part of my preparation. And I'm much more confident that I'm not missing something important.

Separately, I'm not very impressed with either one of these programs. But together, they make beautiful music at our house, and Monkey is doing great with learning to read.

2 comments:

mommyx12 said...

Love them both. I've never used either one but have looked through them extensively.

Michelle said...

Sounds like you are doing a great job teaching your son to read. What an exciting time!

I write a blog called Beginning Reading Help. I've shared some free flashcards to help sound out words and teach a few phonics rules along with a few free phonics books. There are some good free phonics books and early reader books available for free online. I think I just thought of a future post. I've posted about many free books, but I've never made a post sharing all the links I've found.

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