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An Amazing Circus of Phonograms - Act 2 Review by Lisa Tanner

Mary Jo Nyssen

There are only 44 phonemes in the English language, but there are hundreds of ways to spell those sounds. With so many phonograms available, no wonder some kids have trouble learning to read and spell! An Amazing Circus of Phonograms: Act 2 by Mary Jo Nyssen helps your child gain familiarity with 22 of the phonograms of English. This colorful picture book sells for $13.99.

The text of the book is color coded. Phonograms used in only one sound are purple. Phonograms with multiple sounds are written in different colors. For instance, the phonogram ed makes three different sounds. In An Amazing Circus of Phonograms: Act 2, the first sound of ed is in green, the second in red, and the third in blue. Each page of this book is dedicated to a single phonogram sound, so there are three pages focusing on the ed phonogram.

On each page, you’ll find an explanation of how the phonogram sounds, a colorful illustration using words with the phonogram, and text containing multiple words using the phonogram. The entire text comes together to explain a variety of performances at the circus, so there is some continuity throughout, though some of the acts flow better than others.

I used this book with my second grader, who needed a bit more practice decoding words. I appreciated the explanation of each phonograph, and how the same letters can make different sounds. I was hoping he’d be able to read it to me, but many of the words used were far beyond his reading level. There are many uncommon words listed for each phonograph. In the ei section, you’ll find words such as beige, inconceivable, and Deidrich. A child who doesn’t typically struggle at reading would have trouble with many of these words.

Since my son couldn’t read the book, I used it as a read aloud. We read the page(s) for one phonograph each day and discussed the words. I had him draw a picture of his own to extend the lesson. We also used a highlighter and a newspaper, as I had my son highlight the phonographs he just learned about. He needed this extra hands-on learning to help him remember what we read.

There is definitely a need for more instruction on the multiple ways you can spell the sounds of English. This book presents many examples for each phonogram. This will not be the only book you need to teach your child these phonograms. But, it’s a resource you can use as your child learns new words. Just pull it out and reread the section on the phonogram you’re working on. If your child is struggling with letter combinations that make different sounds even though they’re spelled the same, I’d recommend this as a resource to include in your teaching toolkit.

-Product review by Lisa Tanner, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2017