And an update as of May 2015: After stalling out on using The Reading Lesson, I went ahead and tried All about Reading Level 1. In short: We love it! It’s fantastic! I’ve written about Levels 1 and 2 already, and will eventually share my thoughts on Levels 3 (which we’ve just finished) and 4 (which we’ve just started).
So I mentioned on a recent library haul post that I’ve been looking at some of the “teach your child to read” books available from my library. It’s been nice that I could borrow them all and examine them without having to commit to purchasing one of them and hoping that it’d be a good fit for us.
The books I examined were The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons. From reviews, blog reading, and forum stalking, I expected to like the Ordinary Parent’s Guide most, then Teach Your Child, and The Reading Lesson the least.
Instead, I vastly preferred The Reading Lesson to the other two. It was easy to use, and my son is enjoying the lessons from it. He quickly worked through the first three lessons and was very enthusiastic about his new abilities to sound out short words.
The Reading Lesson has a short introductory section, and then each lesson itself has an introduction for the parent. The rest of the pages in the lesson are visually uncluttered, and easy to use with my son – I don’t have to write flashcards or pull together any other materials; the book itself works as the teaching material.
Teach Your Child has a fairly long and dense parent’s guide at the beginning, including an explanation of the Distar orthography that’s used in the rest of the book. My biggest complaint with it, and why it didn’t work well for us, is that it is so scripted that each page is filled with tons of text for the parent. It was distracting for my son when I’d try to point to the parts that he was supposed to pay attention to. The arrows used under the letters and words also distracted him a lot more than I would have expected. It wasn’t a matter of me just skipping their script; it was that the pages themselves were so full that it became hard for him to focus on what was the specific lesson. I suppose I could have rewritten each lesson on its own sheet of paper, but realistically? That’s a hassle.
Ordinary Parent’s Guide is less visually cluttered, but it’s still not as appealing to use as a lesson book on its own. The book has big chunks of text, and the detailed scripting that is provided was not helpful to me. It also expects that the parents obtain a magnetic board with alphabet tiles, and other supplies (most of them very simple – I think yarn, magnets, and a dowel were the only ones I didn’t already have on hand, and I am not well stocked with craft supplies). Despite this not really being a big deal, it did again add to the appeal of The Reading Lesson where the book itself was the lesson, and nothing else was needed. No cards to keep track of even! If I didn’t have a younger child around who likes to run off with things that might not have been as big of a plus as it was for me.
Neither of the other two books are bad, and I’m sure they’re successful for a lot of parents. For us though, after being convinced that I’d love Ordinary Parents, and really only grabbing The Reading Lesson because it was the one recommended by Timberdoodle (one of my new favorite resources for educational items), I was fairly astonished at how clearly it was the winner for us.
I feel like I need to add some disclaimers, or additional info before I get comments questioning some things. No, we haven’t finished the book, so my opinion might change. Yes, I understand the potential benefits of the Distar program. No, I’m not saying that everyone should use this book – I can easily imagine the other two working well for others. For us though, The Reading Lesson has been (five lessons in) a great fit, and is working well to give my son confidence as he learns to read.