Have you ever had the privilege of teaching a child to read? It is one of my greatest joys as a mom to help my children learn how to decode print and then help them to enjoy books. I've done it twice and am now doing it for the third time with Jonathan. I have a strong hunch that one day, Anah will be able to learn how to read too. When it comes to reading curricula, the options abound. Some are pricey. Some are quite simple. To be honest, I think that most kids learn to read because they are developmentally ready and interested. Throughout my homeschool journey, I have tried different programs and have seen success, but mainly because my child was ready and it was a good fit for them. In this season of our homeschool journey, I had the opportunity to use ABeCeDarian Company's program with Jonathan...and am very pleased with the results so far!
Company Information: Being me, I like to try different curricula and learn something new about teaching a particular subject. This review was no different. I am always interested in better understanding the learning process so that I can help my children along in their journey.
Right from the start, ABeCeDarian doesn't claim to utilize fancy gimmicks to teach your child to read. Instead, it uses simple, tried and true basic techniques to help your child learn how to read efficiently and fluently. It doesn't have a lot of fluff; in fact, the black and white pages may seem a bit too stark for kids. However, what it doesn't have in flash and glitz, it makes up for with straightforward yet fun and simple games and practice.
Both books are spiral bound and include worksheets for the tile activities and written practice. The Teacher Manual includes the full script of each lesson written out so all you would have to do is simply read the script.
By Unit 4 of Level A1, you will also be needing the set of ten storybooks that go with the program. I received them but did not get that far in the review to actually use them.
Price: $12.25 for the Level A1 Student Workbook; $28.50 for the A1 Teacher Manual; $21.50 for the set of 10 storybooks.
Age Range: Kindergarten to mid-1st grade for the A levels of this program. Non-readers and very beginning readers would benefit from starting here. For older students, you may need to use the Placement Assessment (described below) to determine the best starting level.
Parental Preparation: To ascertain which level to start with, you may wish to utilize the Placement Assessment available on the supplement page to determine the best starting point for your child. The Assessment instructions begin midway through the document, so scroll past the student pages and you will find full administration and scoring information. I already knew that I was going to start at the first level so Jonathan could get the basics and learn the terminology from the beginning.
Be prepared to spend a good amount of time reading through the introductory material in the beginning of the Teacher Manual. I would say carve out about a full day's worth of time to read the introductory material (or break it down into smaller chunks and read over a week). I found this information very helpful as it explains not only how to use the program but the methodology behind it. It is not difficult reading, but it is detailed. Have a pencil or highlighter nearby to take notes.
After that, as this was the beginning level, I needed to print out the letter tiles (available as a free supplement on their website. Look for "Level A Letter Tiles") onto card stock, laminate them (I went to our local teacher supply store that had inexpensive lamination services), and then cut them apart. These are needed for the first lesson, so you'll need to do this right away. I also printed, laminated and cut out the Level A Word Cards and downloaded the other Level A materials as well as the Error Correction Guide (all on the free supplement page).
Lastly, I reviewed the scripted lesson so I knew what was going on. It would also help to pull out the letter tiles you need first so you don't have to hunt around for them during the lesson (I only suggest that because I wasn't prepared!). It just makes it smoother, but don't worry if you forget! It won't kill your child to wait a minute for you to look for the needed tiles. I just found it easier personally to have my supplies ready.
Make sure you know what they mean by "Tap and say," "Turtle Talk" and "People Talk." These are fully explained in the introduction, but as they will be used over and over in the program, it helps to know exactly what they are referring to. The guide also said we should verbally practice presenting the lesson before trying it on our child, which you can do if this is your first time teaching your kids, but I didn't find that necessary.
How We Used It:
This is such a simple program to use. It is fully scripted so I really did nothing but open up the page and read. The teacher's script is in bold, with explanations underneath. If I forgot what the procedure was, it would be summarized for me under the script.
Jonathan and I would do about a lesson a day. One day, he was on a roll and wanted to do two lessons, which was not a problem for me. Each lesson takes about 15 minutes or so to complete. We spent about four days a week using the program and was able to comfortably complete Units 1 and 2 and start on Unit 3 for this review.
- The entire program is scripted clearly and simply. If you don't want to use it word-for-word, it is not difficult to re-word it in your own style.
- Even if your child does not know any letter sounds, they start reading real words right away.
- There is a variety of activities your child does with each set of words in a lesson: word puzzles, spelling chains, and the "error game" are some of the things your child will do. Jonathan especially liked catching me making "mistakes" and learning how to correct me.
- The lessons move at a pretty quick pace. It was not at all overwhelming for Jonathan.
- Unit checkouts at the end of each unit help you to know whether your child needs to spend some time reviewing the material or is ready to move on.
- Kids are going to make a lot of mistakes while learning to read. The discussion in the introduction of the Teacher Manual explains how to productively help your child correct their errors was very helpful. I wish I had this instruction when teaching my first two kids to read! It would have saved us (both) a lot of tears!
- This program is a very good value for its price. Compared to other reading programs, it is not very expensive and yet thoroughly researched and presented.
- I found the spiral-binding made the workbook easy for Jonathan to work with. This helped us not have to "fight the book" in order to write or do the tile activities.
What We Didn't Like:
I didn't personally have any complaints, but I can imagine there may be some difficulties:
- if you want something flashy and cute. The pages have no color and only line drawings.
- if you don't want to read a lot of instruction in the beginning and want to dive in right away.
- if you don't want to prepare your own supplementary materials.
- if you are looking for a handwriting program. This is not meant to be one.
If you are looking for a simple, reasonably priced, yet thorough, well-researched and thought out reading program, this is it. If you don't mind investing the time on the front end working through the introduction and preparing your own materials, if you don't want to be distracted by a lot of parts and pieces, perhaps ABeCeDarian will work well for you. For us, I think I will continue to use this, probably alternating it with other reading programs that I am using to give a little variety (not just for Jonathan, but for me too!). Check it out!