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Reading and Spelling Pure & Simple Review by Melanie Schemanski and Rebecca Ray

Deede Hinckley Cauley
Real Reading Company
(432) 213-0383
2503 Rebecca Drive
Big Spring, TX, 79720

Reading and Spelling, Pure and Simple Phonics-Based Lessons for Elementary, Teen, and Adult Students, is a spiral bound book contains 90 lessons that can be used with an individual student, or in a small group setting. Due to its simple nature, this program has been successful in working with ESL, as well as persons with dyslexia and ADHD. Though it is helpful in those special needs area, it is also very beneficial for those who are just beginning to read and spell as well as those who are just a little lagging. It pretty much can work for anyone! Reading and Spelling, Pure and Simple breaks down the 48 sounds patterns into lessons and teaches them systematically. Introducing one sound pattern at a time, they build on one another until the student is reading five and six syllable words by the end of lesson 90. By ridding the text of pictures and graphics, the program takes the ‘guessing’ approach to reading, away from the student. The program starts with short vowel sounds in Unit 1 and introduces long vowel sounds in Unit 2. Unit 3 picks up additional patterns. Unit 4 covers irregular sounds and spellings as well as sight words. The program sells for $99.95 and can be used for all your children. It is not consumable which makes it ideal for large families.

I have a senior in high school who struggles with spelling. Despite various spelling programs, it just hasn’t seemed to click for him. I loved how Reading and Spelling Pure and Simple puts spelling in a simple learning style, without making it seem ‘babyish’ to my teen. I also used it with my 12-year-old daughter to make sure this was the case. It is truly geared for all ages.

As the teacher, I appreciated each lesson having instructions in layman terms. I did not have to be experienced in teaching to use this program. It was helpful to have bolded titles for the instructions so I knew if it was a new concept, a new sound, or simply review.

It is suggested to start with lesson 1, even if you are working with a 17-year-old. Yes, he thought they were ‘simple’ words, but that is needed to build on. With the struggles we have had with spelling, it was ok with him to start simple again, and gain some confidence in his spelling. We worked through the program daily. Each lesson has five sections of words, divided by roman numerals. First the student reads the words under roman numeral 1. Second, we discuss the word meanings, and look up any we do not know. This helps to build comprehension as well, rather than just memorizing and spelling words they do not even know. The third step I would read the word to the student (working individually with my 17, and 12-year-old) and they would write it down in a notebook. The words are repeated until they are mastered. We didn’t have to review words but once to master them at the early lesson levels. Lastly we marked the student’s progress chart which we photocopied from the back of the book. There were days we could do all 5 of the sections in a lesson, and others when pressed for time, would break up the lesson over 2 days. It is my desire to do one complete lesson per day, using it 4 days a week, but the length of the lessons made that difficult to do. We would do parts 1-3 on day 1, and 4-5 on day 2, completing 2 lessons a week.

I appreciated the simplicity of Reading and Spelling Pure and Simple. There were not little tiles, or cards to keep track of. No silly spelling pictures or graphics to ‘dumb down’ the concepts. I loved how I could use it with my teen and pre-teen in an encouraging way. I am looking forward to using it with my 8-year-old as well, beginning with the Pre-Unit which covers each vowel and consonant.

Each specific lesson it a bit long. If I want to get through a lesson each day, the attention span of my child couldn’t handle it. The lessons are broken down into five sections, and we often could do half of it. If we did half of each lesson a day, we would be done in 180 days which is a full school year. It felt a little long to me. There are 70 total words in a lesson. The author does mention that it isn’t a race, but for kids, they have a hard time if a program takes years to complete.

Covering all 48 sound patterns as well as 250 spelling patterns, Reading and Spelling, Pure and Simple is a simple, straight forward way to teach spelling, reading and comprehension for students of all ages. No flashing lights, distracting graphics, or bells and whistles makes this program easy to use, and efficient at teaching what needs to be learned. Easy for any teacher to use, and helpful for learners who may need a little extra attention. This has been an excellent resource for my family, and I intend to use it for my younger students as well. The price is a bit high given it is just one book, but the research and expertise behind the program is what you are paying for.

-Product review by Melanie Schemanski, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2016

Another Reviewer’s Perspective:

I have a child who struggles to read.  She is almost ten years old, and she still cannot most books fluently. As a parent, I have alternated between attempting to relax and let it happen on its own and trying every single reading program I can find to help her read and spell more fluently. As a trained teacher, I have often suspected that she is mildly dyslexic, but we have never had her testing for learning differences or difficulties. My daughter is a very intelligent child, however, and she feels a growing frustration with her lack of reading and spelling progress. So, when I had the opportunity to review Reading and Spelling Pure & Simple, I knew that it would be an excellent program for her to try.

Reading and Spelling Pure & Simple is a large spiral bound book targeted at elementary, teen and adult students. This book consists of ninety lessons, separated into four units. Each lesson has between four and six sections of words. These words are arranged on the page in columns and words with no distractions or hints to sounding out the words. Most sections have ten to fifteen words for the student to read and spell. Phonics concepts are presented sequentially, and detailed information to help instructors is printed on the left-hand side of each page. Students may cover as little as one section at a time, but many students, especially in the early lessons, will have the skill and attention span to complete several sections in one sitting. Your student will only move on the next section if they have correctly sounded out and spelled each word in the section that they are working on.

No matter what your child’s skill level is, you will start your child off with either pre-lesson A or lesson 1. This lesson starts with short vowel words using the short a sound. These words are words like, “am,” “mat,” “wag,” and “at.” My daughter was very skeptical and she asked me why I had decided to have her “do baby English.” However, by the time we reached the fourth section of lesson one, I had found the first of many words that she would have difficulty with over the next few weeks. I listened to her, without the context or a picture hint, sound out “lab” as “lad,” and “lap” before she guessed “lab.” She realized that maybe her new reading program wasn’t really “baby English.”

Over the weeks that we have spent using the program, I have learned many things are helping me to help my daughter be a better reader and speller.  I am learning that she often falls into a pattern of guessing from context and pictures. I have learned that cherry-picks letters and guesses the word from the letters she sees instead of sounding the words out. I have learned that she didn’t understand how to sound out words that had more than one syllable by breaking words into syllables. All of these errors that my daughter has been making have detailed information and strategy helps in the teacher portion of the reading program. I am excited to have some explanations for her errors and ideas to help me correct them.

We are only on lesson seven of the ninety lessons, so we are not completing this book at a fast pace. However, I can see several things that she has already learned. First, she has learned that in a simple short vowel word, a vowel comes in the middle. I do not know how many times before we started this program she would spell a simple word like “rug” as “rgu” or “rg.” This is an error that has already been corrected. Second, she has already memorized the idea that words like “pill” and “buzz” have double letters at the end. Enough review has been built in that my daughter has this pattern memorized. The third thing that she has learned is a major one. She has learned that little differences can make a big difference in a word. Before we used this program, she had often attempted to read the word, and when I had offered a correction, she would shrug and say, “Close enough.” Now, she realizes the world of difference between words such as “big” and “bug.”

This is a program that I am very happy with.  If I only had one wish, it might be for some instruction for additional ways to review difficult words and memorize them. However, over all, this is a great program and one I am very excited to get to use with my daughter. It is definitely an excellent choice for working with a struggling reader.

-Product review by Rebecca Ray, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2016