When we started homeschooling in 2010, my two eldest daughters (now 13 1/2 and 12) had already learned to read in school. My youngest was only three, and although she could memorize almost anything put to music, she wasn’t showing much interest in learning to visually recognize or write letters just yet. So I asked the most successful homeschooler I knew (my sister-in-law Rosanna) what she used to teach her son to read, borrowed a copy, and shelved it for future use.
That book was “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” And even though the concept sounded great, worked for her son, and seemed to work for my daughter initially, she got bored right away! It got to the point where she would grimace (as if in pain) when I pulled out the book, turn her face away and beg me to do anything else. So we took a break: I thought maybe she wasn’t ready.
The following year, we tried again. Same reaction. So we tried two more methods and books recommended by my homeschooling friends who have been successful at teaching reading, but my primarily auditory, kinesthetic learner seemed to dread each one. When I discovered The Reading Lesson, I was desperate to find something that would hold the attention of my now-six-year-old beyond the first few weeks of use.
I’m happy to report that The Reading Lesson delivered results for us! Not only were we able to get past the first few lessons without tears and complaints, we reached that “lightbulb” moment when my daughter began to understand HOW to read — not just memorize — and could sound out words on her own in any environment.
I originally purchased the downloadable PDF eBook version of The Reading Lesson online. After having great results, I contacted the publisher (Mountcastle) and was offered the opportunity to review the entire Reading Lesson package. I was thrilled!
Here’s what The Reading Lesson “Big Package” includes:
- A print copy of The Reading Lesson book
- An interactive Reading Lesson CD with games, printouts, and more
- The Storybook CD
- The Writing Lesson CD
- The Sounds of Letters DVD
- Verbal Math Lesson 1
- Verbal Math Lesson 2
- A soft Giggle Bunny toy
- Giggle Bunny Tee Shirt
- A free ebook version of Teach Me Handwriting
- Shipping is FREE (for all orders within the US)
This set (a $179.90 value) is currently on sale for $124.95. For the purposes of this review, we used The Reading Lesson book, the interactive CD, the Storybook CD, the Sounds of Letters DVD, and the Writing Lesson. I will be reviewing Verbal Math in another post.
What We Loved
The Method: The Reading Lesson combines the Phonic and Whole Language methods in a simple, structured, parent-directed format. According to the publisher: “The majority of children – nearly 80 percent – can learn to read regardless of the teaching method used. But for the other 20 percent – particularly those with reading difficulties – the combination of Phonics and the Whole Language is the best way to teach reading.” I believe this was definitely true of my daughter.
The Reading Lesson is divided into 20 individual lessons that consist of words, exercises and short stories. Approximately 250 key words form the basis of reading skills in The Reading Lesson, and each lesson introduces a set of key words that your child will learn before you proceed to the next lesson. The short stories (and writing assignments, if you use the complementary Writing Lesson program) use the same key words, which helps strengthen and speed up the process of learning to read. How it works in detail is explained online here.
For my daughter, the combination of these reading methods and the way the lessons were presented made perfect sense, and she was able to progress quickly without forgetting what she had just learned (which happened a lot with previous attempts). I also think the complementary writing component really helped her solidify her reading skills. This combined method made the most sense to me as a teacher as well.
We also liked the structure of each lesson. After mastering the new sounds, she would color the visual prompts for the sounds and we would move on to the words. After practicing the words, we’d start the first short story of the lesson — first coloring, then reading. This flow worked really well for my little mover and kept her attention for the 15 minutes or so that we would focus on the lesson. I think that having several short stories sprinkled through the lessons also gave her a sense of accomplishment every day. We celebrated every story completed with stickers on the pages and our tracking chart, and this kept her excited about moving forward.
The Tools: As I mentioned earlier, my daughter learns more naturally when she’s listening and moving. We really enjoyed the interactive computer games and animation provided by the supplementary CDs and DVD. Although she was already comfortable with her alphabet sounds when we received the package to evaluate, she still enjoyed the Sounds of Letters DVD. Holding the Giggle Bunny and getting to play with him on the computer engaged my daughter with the program in a way that nothing else had before. We also received Giggle Bunny stickers for the free downloadable progress chart — and who doesn’t love stickers?
The Price: Initially, I downloaded two free lessons from The Reading Lesson Web site. I really appreciate companies that allow you to try before you buy, and within two lessons, we were sold!
I initially purchased the eBook version of The Reading Lesson (on sale at the time for less than $30), and I found it to be very affordable when compared to other reading programs I was evaluating and those I had already purchased. It’s more than the $14.95 Amazon.com price for the first book we purchased, however I think it’s a great value for what you receive. This is a very complete, stand-alone curriculum that can deliver results without supplements. Personally, I recommend the writing supplement, and the interactive games are wonderful if your child isn’t primarily a visual learner. However, even without these tools, your child should be well on his or her way to reading proficiently with The Reading Lesson alone.
What I Missed
No Flash Cards: The only thing we missed in The Reading Lesson were flash cards, which are left out intentionally. The creators of the program explain that they did not want to offer too many “moving parts – flash cards, worksheets, and unnecessary instructions for parents” in their program. Having purchased a program with many, many “moving parts” in the past, I can understand where they are coming from.
However, for my little mover, flash cards provide a break from book pages. Even though the pages in The Reading Lesson are visually clean and simple, there are still a lot of words on the page — and easily distracted young readers may struggle with that. When I can see my daughter starting to lose focus on the page and jumble her words, I like to be able to pull her attention away from the book and onto something more simple, like a flash card. As we got deeper into the book and the key words were longer, I began simple making flash cards of my own for this purpose, but I would have loved the option to purchase a pack that mirrored the books clean and playful design.
That said, we have no complaints about The Reading Lesson: We love it! It’s affordable, easy-to-follow, and effective reading curriculum based on proven reading methods working in combination to improve your results. And we’re happy to share that Mountcastle is giving away The Reading Lesson “Big Package“ to one NextGen Homeschool reader! Enter the giveaway below: Giveaway is open until midnight on Sept 30!
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Review Disclosure: After purchasing my own digital copy, I received the Reading Lesson set listed above for free for evaluation purposes; however, I was not compensated for this review post, and my opinions are entirely my own and based on a personal review of the entire curriculum set. Although we receive a small commission for any other affiliate links that are used on our site to make a purchase, we are not compensated in any way for the purchase of this product.