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Charlie's Reading Rescue: Improve an Older Child's Reading Review by April Elstrom

By Chris O'Donoghue
Strategic Book Group
PO Box 333
Durham, CT 06422

It isn't very often that a math teacher writes a reading curriculum or supplement, yet that is what Chris O'Donoghue has done. Mr. O'Donoghue wrote Charlie's Reading Rescue in order to help one of his students overcome his reading difficulties. This supplemental reading course is broken down into small sections that build upon each other, systematically covering some of the tricky parts of reading (and spelling) the English language. Charlie's Reading Rescue is intended to be used with an older child who has already completed a phonics course but who still struggles with reading quickly and smoothly. It is not designed for use with students who have severe learning disabilities, and it is not a phonics program.

Charlie's Reading Rescue is a small paperback book, just 106 pages long, with ten chapters. Within each chapter, the student reviews different sounds, such as "oo," "ing," "ough," and "oor." The teacher is provided with several different tools within each chapter to help the student:

  • 6 stories that use a variety of words with the same sounds in them
  • a review story that covers all the sounds practiced in that chapter
  • word lists for the chapter
  • spelling lists for each story
  • word building exercises
  • comprehension exercises (answers at back of book)
  • a play
  • a writing assignment
  • a word search (answers at back of book)

Chris O'Donoghue explains in his introduction how to best use the course. It is meant to be worked through sequentially, as the words and stories grow more difficult over time. The stories grow longer as the student progresses through the book, culminating in two complete chapters about Ben at the end. The short practice sessions encourage new skills without allowing the student to become overwhelmed or fatigued.

The concept behind this book is a simple one that involves daily practice, focusing on one sound at a time. The stories that are provided for the sounds are a bit awkward at times. Some children will likely roll their eyes at the stories, but hopefully the shortness of the stories will keep the student moving along without too many complaints. This book requires the teacher to work with the student, offering encouragement along the way. Consistent use is the key to reading improvement.

This little book doesn't look very impressive, but its appearance is deceiving. I like how the book is laid out, focusing on just a few troubling sounds at a time and increasing in difficulty through the book. I like the different tools provided for the teacher to use with the student, if desired. I wish that the stories were more natural and interesting, but that is probably not possible when the author is trying to fit as many "oor" sounds as he can into two short paragraphs.

Overall, I feel this is a useful method of building reading skills in an older child. The reluctant reader lacks practice since they don't willingly pick up books to read. Charlie's Reading Rescue provides structured practice exercises to help students overcome reading difficulties and gain confidence. I would recommend it to any parent trying to help their child develop better reading skills. Don't judge this book by its cover or its size. If you do, you'll be missing out on a very helpful resource.

Product review by April Elstrom, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2011