One of my requirements for a good phonics program is SIMPLICITY. There are enough areas of school that are necessarily complicated; I like to think that learning to read can be done without expensive and complicated means. There is a resource now available from Peace Hill Press that is a thorough, straightforward, yet simple, phonics program. Co-authored by Jessie Wise (co-author of The Well-Trained Mind) and Sara Buffington, The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading is a one-volume resource, with scripted lessons to take your child from beginning vowel sounds all the way to reading supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Jessie Wise has been helping children learn to read since she was a child herself. She had been taught phonics at home, while her classmates were trying to learn to read by less effective methods. Her education was made stronger by her ability to read, so she taught her classmates what she could, and she has continued her commitment to teach by being a classroom teacher, teaching her own children, and now providing materials that can be used by home educators.
Using the explicit phonics method (rather than sight-word or basal reading systems), the lessons begin with short vowel sounds, and then move through consonants, blends, long-vowels, silent letters, r-changed vowels, two- and three-syllable words, possessive words and contractions, and more. Each lesson is organized with notes to the teacher, scripted lesson content for the teacher to give to the student, and words for the child to repeat after the teacher or read to himself. There are no pictures on the pages, and this keeps students from being distracted or from becoming dependent upon pictures for guessing. Guessing is not the goal; memorization is.
The philosophy that is used in this volume is summed up in the Question and Answer section in the back of the book with these three words: patient, frequent, consistent. Reading lessons don't need to be long and laborious. But, a good attitude on the part of the teacher, and regular lessons to keep the material fresh in the student's mind, can go a long way in making reading instruction successful. There are 231 lessons that make up Part I of the book. Part II has short articles on pre-reading suggestions, tips for managing the reading session, encouraging a child to be a reader, questions and answers for the ordinary parent, remedial reading with an older child, a lesson index, and a key to phonetic symbols. This section is filled with practical, detailed and incredibly helpful information.
Mrs. Wise is obviously a kind, intelligent and experienced reading teacher. She understands the teaching process, has watched countless children experience the thrill of learning to read (students of all ages) and continues teaching her grandchildren today. Her practical suggestions are a delightful blend of understanding that a child needs short lessons to keep from being distracted, and that the same student can be made to concentrate during the lesson. Gentle but firm instruction, and short but regular lessons are characteristic of these teaching recommendations.
In addition to the text, you will need to use a magnetic board with alphabet tiles, and index cards for phonics flashcards. There is also one special activity that requires paperclips, yarn, magnets, and a dowel. The magnetic boards and pre-printed cards can be purchased from Peace Hill Press, or you can use the instructions that are included for making your own flashcards.
Learning to read is often thought of as a mystical process that requires a trained professional. Remember: patient, frequent, and consistent is the key. Take as long as you really need to, but faithfully move your way through "A is the first vowel we will say", to the fourteen syllable supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
When a child learns to read, a whole new world of people and places opens up to them. Don't make reading any more complicated than it needs to be; with the carefully scripted lessons of The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, you can be fully equipped to teach your own children to read with confidence.