By Rosanna Ward
“Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons,” the title beckoned me. Wait, what? Only 100 easy lessons? I can do that, or at least, I think I can. Would I take the bait?
I started preparing myself to teach Joel to read more than two years ago. I did a lot of research, bought and borrowed books, and took workshops at conventions — all in search of “The Way” to teach my child to read. Although I have been homeschooling for six years, Joel is the first child I was going to teach to read on my own. And that is a foundational subject to teach. I felt a sense of great responsibility: If you screw up reading, well, the rest of school just crumbles around that broken foundation. I was very anxious, to say the least.
Thankfully, I took a workshop about teaching boys — taught by Institute for Excellence in Writing’s director Andrew Pudewa — at a homeschool convention two years ago and learned that boys are, well, boys, and learn differently. Without that knowledge, I might have been in a lot of trouble this year. But I took the workshop, and I was ready to be patient with my wriggly, imaginative, action-oriented son.
I looked at many different reading programs, dismissing the “picture word” readers right away. I also dismissed the “whole word” only reading programs. I knew I wanted my child to learn to read the phonics way. I believe learning to decode words by sound is an important foundational concept. Memorizing words may work for a while, but without the ability to decode phonetically, kids will eventually be frustrated readers, as well as bad spellers. I understand some kids just automatically memorize words — I think I did. But I had phonetic teaching behind me to fall back on when I needed it.
So as I was looking through phonics programs, I felt like many of them really seemed like a lot of work, with a lot of pieces (and to me, a lot of ways to mess it up). Then one night I was reading some posts on a Robinson Curriculum group site I participate in, and they were talking about this book: “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” Hmmm, really? Sounds too good to be true.
I determined to check this out, so the next time I was at our local homeschool used bookstore, Bibliomania, I looked for this book and there it was — used — for $14.99. I took the plunge and bought it (OK, I used my credit). I read through the initial instructions on how to begin and put it on the shelf. The script seemed kind of hokey to me.
But as I was reading blogs and group posts, and just paying attention to the reading curriculum world around me, my mind kept being drawn back to this book. Every review I have read has given it high marks. It was the type of reading (phonics) that I wanted my son to learn, it was inexpensive (I already had it), and it was only 100 easy lessons.
I had also heard good things about Bob Books and had bought all three sets of those (with credit as well). So I determined that I would try these two programs and see how it went.
We started slowly, and not every day, last year. Technically, Joel was a kindergartner, and I knew that he might not be ready for extended periods of table lessons. We had already played with flashcards: He knew all the sounds the letters made (even though he didn’t know the names of all the letters). About halfway through last year, we started the 100 easy lessons book. The Bob Books we tried off and on together.
At first it was slow. Not because he didn’t grasp the concepts — he did that readily enough — but just because he had a hard time sitting still for any length of time. But I was ready for this, and I was patient. By the beginning of this school year, we were on lesson 75 and Joel had already progressed to the third set of Bob Books. He was also able to read many other readers. We quickly traveled through the rest of the lessons, and today we finished! I am so proud to officially say I have a new reader in our home — and that I taught him to read!
And you know what, he does memorize words. I tested him on the Dolch Sight Words through first grade, and he knows most of them by sight, but he learned them by sounding them out.
This is just the beginning of our reading journey, but the foundation is set — and it looks solid!
— Rosanna Ward is a devoted wife of almost 19 years and mother of four children, two of which are currently homeschooled. Her oldest daughter has graduated, and her youngest son is a toddler. She is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling for six years. Rosanna loves to study History and Genealogy, and currently resides in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.