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Itchy's Alphabet Reading Program Review by Heidi Strawser

Brenda Larson
ABB Creations Ltd.
740 Westpoint Court
Kelowna, BC Canada V1W 2Z4

Of all the many phonics and early reading programs that I have seen, Itchy's Alphabet is by far the most thorough. The Starter Set for Homeschoolers that I received for review includes a teaching guide, game cards, alphabet book, songs, blackline masters of outline letters and printing practice, individual sticker set, a deskstrip, and a stuffed "Itchy."

The Teacher's Guide is the most important element of this program, as it ties the entire line of Itchy products together.

Each letter is introduced individually, and the program is based on a visual-learning style, in that each letter is shown in the form of a drawing of something that a child will identify with that letter. For example, the letter "C" is the first letter introduced, and is drawn in the shape of a cookie (with a bite out of it). The objective of each lesson is for the student to learn the name of the letter, the sound the letter makes, and to picture cue to associate with the letter and the letter's formation.

Each lesson includes a recommended read-aloud, along with alternate read-aloud titles (many of these are familiar and will be available through Scholastic or from your local library), and step-by-step instructions for introducing the letter, follow-up activities (this is where you will make use of the blackline masters), and words to read or spell.

The remainder of the Starter Set for Homeschoolers is filled with ways to enhance the lessons taught in the teacher's guide.

The Game Cards are a 26-piece set of picture cards and a 26-piece set of alphabet cards which are used to reinforce the sounds through games and flashcard drills.

The Alphabet Book is in the style of a flip-chart and will stand up on its cardboard a-frame stand. As you flip the pages forward, you first see the picture cue (along with the letter and a description of the sound it makes), followed by a transparent overlay with a black letter to show the connection between the picture cue and the letter.

The Alphabet Songs are on a CD (words and pictures are on an accompanying cardstock sheet) and each song is a four-line rhyming song with an easy tune for children to sing along.

Blackline Masters V is a set of outline letters. There are 13 worksheets, each containing two letters that children can first trace with their fingers and then work up to tracing with crayons, pencils, or markers. Blackline Masters II is a set of 26 pages that give students practice in the formation of the letters; each worksheet also includes a small picture to color.

The Individual Sticker Set contains two sets of A-Z stickers (with extra Itchy stickers) and a cardstock record sheet to keep track of letters learned (by placing the stickers on it).

The single Desk Strip is recommended to be mounted on the student's desk (laminating is suggested for added durability and longevity).

Itchy is a plush inchworm (that I might recommend also using as a pointer). He introduces and represents the letter "I."

Other products that I received for review that are not part of the Starter Kit for Homeschoolers but are available individually are:

  • Large Cards--26 7"x11" full-color flashcards
  • Small Cards--26 5"x8" full-color flashcards
  • Reproducible Readers Set 1--this set contains 119 reproducible pages to make 26 booklets (one for each letter of the alphabet)
  • Reproducible Readers Set 2--this set will make five fold-over books, three that focus on rhyming and two that focus on opposites
  • Interactive Games CD--this CD contains three games--memory, matching, and initial sounds (each game has a set-up option for teachers to choose all of the letters or individual letters to be practiced)
  • Blackline Masters I--26 8"x11" coloring pages (one for each letter)
  • Blackline Masters III--this set creates a fold-over mini-book to color and practice letter formation
  • Blackline Masters IV--25 worksheets for practice in identifying initial sounds in words
  • Blackline Masters VI--worksheets to teach children the proper letter formation/direction of letters D, B, and P
  • Blackline Masters VII--worksheets to teach children the proper letter formation/direction of letters G, P, and Q
  • Blackline Masters VIII--timed drill sheets for developing rapid recognition of consonants, vowels, consonant-vowel patterns, short vowel words, nonsense words, consonant blends, diagraphs, and two-syllable short vowel words. Also contains a record-keeping and graphing sheet
  • Blackline Masters IX--timed drill sheets for developing rapid recognition of long vowels, vowel + E, vowel + R, and irregular vowel patterns. Also contains a record-keeping and graphing sheet
  • Blackline Masters X--timed drill sheets for rapid recognition of basic sight words. Also contains a record-keeping and graphing sheet
  • Blackline Masters XI--blend sheets and word lists for developing skills in listening for blends
  • Hands-On-Vowels--plush toys in the shape of each lower case vowel (apple, elephant, Itchy, octopus, and umbrella)

This is a very well-rounded introduction-to-reading program. I feel that Itchy's Alphabet has definitely covered all the bases as far as introducing letters and their sounds, letter recognition and letter formation, and early reading skills. All the components of this program are nice quality. I also appreciate the fact that all the blackline masters are reproducible; in other words, this program can be used with just one child or a whole classroom (or large homeschool family) and you only ever have to buy it once!

I must admit that, upon first opening the box, I was a bit overwhelmed. There is just so much included with this kit and its extras. It took me quite awhile to sort through it all and figure out how it all works together. However, once I had it all figured out, I was very impressed. Each individual component comes packaged in a zip-style plastic bag. I might recommend hole-punching these pages and filing them in a three-ring binder with divider tabs for ease of use.

I am very anxious to start working with this program with my son. He's still a little young (only 2 and way too busy to sit still for long); but I definitely plan to pull this program out in about a year and begin to gradually introduce him to the components of Itchy's Alphabet. I think the visual aids and hands-on plush vowel toys will be great for teaching an active boy to read!

The Starter Kit for Homeschools sells for $79.98 (which is 10 percent off the price of purchasing these components individually). I have purchased reading programs that have cost much more than that, and weren't nearly as good a quality, nor were they reusable for many children.

I feel that Itchy's Alphabet is a good value for the return on your investment--little ones who not only learn to read, but enjoy doing so! The extra components (listed above in bullet points) are not necessary, but make wonderful supplements to the program and are very reasonably priced.

Product review by: Heidi Strawser, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2008