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First Start Reading Set Review by Melissa Batai

Cheryl Lowe, Kelly Booker, Michelle Tefertiller
Memoria Press
4603 Poplar Level Rd.
Louisville, KY 40213

First Start Reading Set is Memoria Press’ Kindergarten reading program. This comprehensive set retails for $59.90 and includes eight different components: A Teacher Guide for Books A-D; a Teacher Guide Book E, Student Workbooks A-E, and Classical Phonics: A Child’s Guide to Word Mastery. First Start Reading teaches phonics by focusing on vowel-consonant study in conjunction with word families. Workbooks A-D are to be completed in kindergarten. Workbook E is a perfect bridge between the earlier completed workbooks A-D and first grade work. In addition, the Classical Phonics book can be used as review material. Lowe suggests that once students have completed Workbook A, and then the subsequent workbooks, that they use Classical Phonics as a way to review the words and the word families that children learned in each workbook.

These lessons are purposefully short but effective. Each lesson takes less than 15 minutes, excluding the assessments at the end of each workbook, though those are fairly short, too. In Workbook A, students learn the short vowel “a”; in Workbook B they learn the short vowel “i” and “o”; in Workbook C they learn the short vowels “e” and “u”; in Workbook D they learn the long vowels “a, i, o, u” and some consonant blends and digraphs “sh, th, ch, wh.” Other single consonant phonemes are learned throughout books A-D. The lessons generally focus on auditory skills (listening for the day’s phoneme at the beginning or end of a word), blending, and writing the letters correctly as well as holding the pencil correctly. Each day students use their workbooks to do a variety of activities. If they are learning a single phoneme, they practice saying that sound, listening for it at the beginning and ending of words, and then copy the letter (capital and lower case) in their workbooks. There is also a space for students to draw a picture that starts with the phoneme of the day. Other days, students work on blending words and write the entire word in their workbook. The workbooks have both tracings of the words that students can copy and blank spaces so students can write the words on their own. By Workbook D, longer words have the consonants written in the workbook and students must add the vowels. The assessments at the end of the workbook are not meant to pressure the child but just to see how thoroughly he learned the material.

My daughter is six; because she has a speech issue, learning to read is difficult for her. Before trying First Start Reading, we had tried three other reading programs, all of which left her frustrated and unwilling to read. I hoped First Start Reading would be different for her, and it was! She loved that each lesson is very short (usually less than 15 minutes). She was also excited that by the third lesson, she was learning words, not just making sounds. (The first words in First Start Reading are “am” and “I”.) In the fourth lesson, she learned a sentence, “I am Sam,” and she happily told me she loved the program. During the review period, she completed Workbook A and is now working on Workbook B. She is reading small stories, and she has so much more confidence thanks to this program! It was exactly what she needed. I love that it was designed for children’s short attention spans.

I really adore this program and don’t see any flaws with it. However, unschoolers, those who do not like workbooks, or those who have kinesthetic learners may not find this program the right fit for them.

I’d highly recommend this program to any homeschool parents who are looking for a successful program to teach their children to read that requires very little teacher preparation. I only wish we had discovered this program before we tried three other reading programs!

-Product review by Melissa Batai, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2016