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Ready, Set, Read Review by Kate Kessler

By Vera Clark, M.A.
Very Clark Consulting, Inc,
65 Enterprise
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
Phone: 1-877-307-READ (7323)

Teaching a child to read is foundational to homeschooling and can be one of the most rewarding experiences a parent and child can enjoy together--or one of the most frustrating. Ready, Set, Read, by Vera Clark, M.A., aims to alleviate the frustration so that the learning process can be successful. An educator for over thirty years in all settings: public, private, homeschool, special education, regular education as well as gifted, Ready, Set, Read is the product of her own experiences in these settings.

Step 1: Learning Letter Sounds is where you begin. All the basic phonetic sounds of the alphabet are given in two formats: flash cards located in the back of the book, or in list format. The flashcards are also available in PDF format for free download from the website. This is a great resource as you can print them on cardstock. There is one sound per letter given. She gives thorough instructions for teaching even the youngest of students the phonics sounds in this section. Once your child has mastered the phonics sounds then you will move on to the Step 2.

Step 2: Blending Sounds Into Words is the section where you find out whether your student is truly ready to read! I have found, after teaching my own children to read, that this readiness will vary widely. Some children are ready early, pick it up in no time, and are off and running--and some children take a lot more time. She gives encouraging instructions and great suggestions on teaching the "code" of reading to the children. The blending lesson is a simple list of words that end with "at" and "an" with the first letter changed out (cat, rat, bat, can, ban, fan, etc.). This may be where you stay for a while unless blending clicks for your child and they are ready to move on. Once your child is ready then you move to Step 3.

Step 3: Reading Lessons is where the fun begins. At the top of Lesson 1 is a box of phonetic vocabulary words your child can read because he learned them in the blending section (all words that end with "an") as well as a short list of sight words you will teach them. (The site words for the first lesson include: "I, the, to, is.") This is one of the best parts of this curriculum. Ms. Clark does not ignore that there are aspects to the English language that don't line up with phonetic rules ("is") or easy words that do ("the"), but they will not know how to read them until much later. She uses the site word area to help them become familiar with these kinds of words. These are all common words found in many early reader books, but as in the word "the," the "th" blend isn't taught until much later in the lesson book. This opens up the ability for your child to read actual sentences on the page in their very first formal lesson. The first lesson has 14 sentences and if they can blend, they can read them. Sample sentences are: "The pan is tan." "I ran to the van." "The man is Dan." "Can I fan Jan?" In each lesson there is one cartoon on the second page that corresponds with one of the sentences. It is an aspect my youngest loves to figure out. Which sentence does the cartoon illustrate?

Each lesson then builds on what the student has learned in the previous lesson. Some words from Lesson 1 will be used in Lesson 2, but will also include new phonetic words and new site words. For example, all the phonetic words for Lesson 2 end with "at" and the site words are: "a, and, are, on." A few of the sample sentences are: "Is Nan on the mat?" "Dan can pat the bat." "Is Pat at the van?" Each lesson progresses upwards from there. We have taken to making a flashcard for each site word as they are not all reviewed in each lesson and for my youngest early-reader, this has been something she needed. I love the combination of phonetic words and site words. Each lesson has 14-16 sentences to read following the word lists. Of course some of the sentences are made up of words your children will not know or understand so explanations now and then become necessary (and provide learning opportunities too).

There are thorough instructions given throughout the lessons and many notes to the teacher on various aspects of the upcoming lesson. There is a large section in the back of the book of Optional Activities that include vocabulary building, reading comprehension, writing development, spelling, questions and answers, parenting/teaching tips, and more. On page 19 she gives the Lesson Index for all 100 lessons. This is a helpful list as it shows you the focus of each lesson (the letter blend(s) studied in the lesson) and gives you the long view of what your child will be mastering. I use that term because she does not encourage you to move on to the next lesson until your child actually masters the information. I completely agree with this as it will undermine their ability and confidence if they move on before they are truly ready. By the time your child is done with 100 lessons, they will be reading thoroughly complex sentences. It is really very exciting!

Providentially, I came upon this resource at a homeschool convention in Modesto, California, and met with the author. She was an empathetic listener as I explained my own child's struggle with reading. She explained how the simple three-step process of her book could help me. I was hopeful that her simple method would help my daughter. I am here to say that her book has done everything she promised it would. I have only added one thing to our reading time and that was flash-cards of the letter blends. I used these with her older sister and found them helpful to have the list of phonic blends in her mind when she encountered words in reading books she had not yet met in Ready, Set, Read. I am so pleased with the progress my daughter has made and consider her an official reader now. She has gone on to read stories of her own choosing and there is no way to communicate how that makes this mother/teacher feel! I wish I had known about this complete resource when my other children were younger because it might have saved us a great deal of frustration. Ms. Clark's sentiments here say so much: "The most exciting and fulfilling teaching I have ever done is teaching my children how to read at home when they were very young." Ready, Set, Read will help you accomplish the same thing in your homeschool.

Product review by Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Manager, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2011