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Discover the Secrets of Reading with Creative Phonics Review by Courtney Larson

By Mackie Ramsay
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403

Discover the Secrets of Reading with Creative Phonics is a phonics program targeted at children ages 3 to 7. It is "especially formulated for children who are dyslexic." This book contains 80 lessons and an audio CD, and it is written for parents to use to teach their children to read.

The first thing I noticed when I received Discover the Secrets of Reading with Creative Phonics was the beautiful, full-color drawings throughout the book. These original, colored pencil drawings (by illustrator Patricia Shubeck) are delightful and engaging. The next thing I did was listen to the audio CD. The CD includes a song for each letter of the alphabet to reinforce the sound(s) of that letter. For example, in the song "Kicky Kangaroo," you hear the lyrics "Kicky Kangaroo kicks the kickball." The songs are performed by MaryLee Sunseri, and the vocals and guitar are catchy for younger children. Finally, I sat down with Discover the Secrets of Reading with Creative Phonics. The book begins with five short chapters that explain the learning-to-read process and how parents can use the program to teach their child to read. There are also a handful of extension activities suggested, such as making alphabet letters out of cookie dough.

The lessons themselves are short and to the point. The first 26 lessons focus on the "secret sounds" of letters of the alphabet, and here the child is taught to write all the letters. In each lesson, there is a large full-color drawing of the letter on the left side, and on the right side are short instructions for the parent about the sound. Many of the lessons have optional activities to do to reinforce the letter sound. Below the teacher instructions are lines for the child to practice writing the letter. Children are instructed to look and say the letter as they trace it or print it. Blending is introduced in lesson 27, and the remaining lessons have small color pictures sprinkled throughout. After blending, the program moves into digraphs, diphthongs, and syllables. The parent is encouraged to have the child continue printing the words they learn, but there are no longer any lines in the book for practice, so the child must use their own paper.

Overall, I think Discover the Secrets of Reading with Creative Phonics is a fine program, though I did find the writing in the first five chapters to be choppy. There is also a dubious reference to "Spirit" in the acknowledgements, and there is an oddly timed thank you to President Barack Obama for supporting early childhood education in the first chapter. That said, the main thing that sets this phonics program apart from the others I have seen is the full-color artwork. There isn't anything special or spectacular about the actual lessons; however, the phonics instruction is solid. If you're looking for a phonics primer for your student, take a look at Discover the Secrets of Reading with Creative Phonics as a visually appealing option.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2011