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Artsy Animals Learn to Read / Artsy Animals in the Ocean Review by Christine Field

By Sharon Jeffus
Visual Manna
PO Box 553
Salem, MO 65560

Sharon Jeffus of Visual Manna wants to bring out the creativity and individuality of every child. Her books and materials help in that goal. This new series, called Artsy Animals, is delightful! Artsy Animals Learn to Read makes learning fun and exciting for our young learners. The book provides several benefits to children. First, it teaches reading using phonics and rhyming. Next, it develops fine motor skills through drawing using basic shapes. The text begins by reminding children of the basic shapes of drawing. Then the letters of the alphabet are shown, each with step-by-step illustrations for the student to follow. Some text about the subject animal is supplied. For example, for the letter M, the student reads a little rhyme--"I see a moose beside a mouse"--learns to draw a wavy line, then antlers, then ovals. After adding a few details, the student has drawn a moose! Next to the moose is an illustration of how to draw the mouse. Then Ms. Jeffus provides a few lines of text. In this instance, the student reads, "A mouse can weigh one and one half ounces. A moose can weigh over 1300 pounds."

All of this ties in to meet the other goal of this book: To teach science/habitat facts and enhance vocabulary. Ms. Jeffus notes that the book works well with children who do not know English and children who have learning disabilities.

Younger children will be delighted by this gentle, fun approach. I gave the book to my 9 and 12 year olds and they had a ball copying the animal figures!

Artsy Animals in the Ocean begins with a page of Dolch sight words that occur in the reading. The lessons then proceed with the goals of increasing phonetic awareness, art skills, vocabulary and science facts. Individual lessons introduce beginning sounds, blends, or vowel combinations. For example, to introduce the /ar/ and /oor /sounds, the text reads, "Draw a man of war on the dance floor," and "Draw a manatee who is a he," and "Draw a manatee who is a she." Then students sketch a dancing man of war and a manatee decked out with a hair bow and a necklace. Very cute! Your kids will be amused and pick up some fun nature facts with this whimsical volume.

These new books are a great contribution to your phonics, art, and nature education. Visual Manna has been "Educating with art since 1992." We hope they will endure for years to come and add many more volumes to their collection.

Product review by Christine Field, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2007