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Alpha-Phonics: A Primer For Beginning Readers Review by Heather Vogler

Samuel L. Blumenfeld
The Paradigm Company
(208) 322-4440
P.O. Box 45161
Boise, Idaho 83711

When studying colonial history in our homeschool, I am drawn to the simplicity of the old-fashioned primer teaching method. The simple primer was used for teaching the alphabet along with the basics of reading. Recently, at a local museum, my kids were able to actually see an Old English-inspired hornbook! This type of primer was used in the 1600’s and was made of wood with a thin sheet with the alphabet written on it. Sometimes, I want to just go back to the basics and find an old primer used during colonial times and use it in our homeschool! Actually, I’ve looked into it and the problem is, the wording and spelling of many words are quite different than today. So, trying to go and recreate the one-room schoolhouse in my modern day home using these tools is probably not going to happen! Fortunately, for people like me, a simple, intensive phonics course can be found in Alpha-Phonics ($34.95). This is an effective primer for modern day learners! This program can be used to teach a student to read or it can also help tutor a struggling learner

When I first received my teacher’s manual, I was impressed with the format of the book. Each letter is written in beautiful, bold, calligraphy, large enough for a beginner reader—and  that’s it! No pictures, drawings or images, just letters! This is done purposefully, of course. The point is to teach the student to read, not to memorize images and words side by side. I know that most people I talk to from my generation were not taught how to read using phonics, but rather through memorization. This is not the best way to be taught! There are rules in the English language, patterns and phonetics that need to be understood when learning to read!

When you open up the teacher’s manual for this program, you see the alphabet written artistically and then you move onto lesson one; a single page of letters and sounds to be read by the student. It is written in a way that you can easily show the page to the child if in a tutoring situation or copy it on a board if teaching in a classroom setting. Then, in the back of the book are the lessons that you read to the student as the teacher, guiding them through each lesson. Each lesson is short, only ten or fifteen minutes in length. Even though it is short, I have to say from my recent experience with this program, it is still quite effective!

I have been using this program with my six year old son who knows only the basics of reading. The way that I have been teaching him has encouraged him to “sound it out.” Even though this worked for his older brother, it is not working for him. He just cannot seem to get past the sounding out into the blending in a smooth way. I originally was going to use this program with my three year old but after lesson two I realized that she just was not ready! She was memorizing, but not reading. So, I tried it with my six year old instead. He has been growing daily in his reading skills! Some sentences that would take him a while to sound out, he is now able to read though with ease! I definitely accredit this to the method used in this book. Don’t let the simplicity fool you! Some pages may seem like random letters and sounds but this is not the case. The teaching style used here uses purposeful “nonsense” words to help the student learn to read and not simply guess or memorize. The student is forced to think and pay attention to the sounds that they are reading. My son actually enjoys reading the nonsense words and gets a kick out of it! My only concern with this method is he might read the word, “kab” when focusing on the “k” sound and think that it is saying “cab.” Then, later on he might want to spell cab with a k. Honestly though, I’m just so excited that my son is able to read words through without having to sound them out when using this program that it doesn’t seem to matter! He’ll learn the rules soon enough, he just needs to get the basics down first!

Currently, when you purchase the guide you also receive a free CD-ROM version. This is perfect for the homeschool parent who might need to use it as a back-up in an emergency, when sick or after just having had a baby. If needed, you can simply direct your student to the CD-ROM to teach the lesson to your child. Personally, sitting down with my kids and hearing them read is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling so I preferred using the book. I also received the Alpha-Phonics Workbook ($19.95) which can be used with an older student.

This program is easy to teach, effective and simple. If your child learns best with colorful readers with plenty of enticing images and pictures then this program is probably not for you. This program has worked well for our family though and I look forward to continue using it with my son and eventually my daughter when she is old enough! Also, in the past, I have taught English overseas in a third world nation. Looking back, this would have been a perfect tool for that situation and I will keep this program in mind if I ever return!

Product Review by Heather Vogler, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May, 2014