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The Reading Lesson Materials Review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright


"Can your child read these words? -- fish, friend, horse, drink -- If not, it's time for the Reading Lesson." Thus says the website ( for Mountcastle's The Reading Lesson materials. Dr. Michael Levin and his wife, Charan Langton, M.S., wrote the Reading Lesson after an unfruitful search for good reading materials for their own children. The program was reviewed and assisted by a who's who of educational and learning specialist leaders. The premise is based on solid research recommending using phonics as a springboard for breaking the code of our language, but then transitioning common words into sight recognition as quickly as possible to improve fluency. The program starts with a Reading Lesson Workbook that uses 20 progressive lessons to gradually introduce new letters and increase mastery of previously learned words. There is a Reading Lesson CD-ROM that adds more practice with games and other exercises, closely mirroring the workbook. The Storybook CD-ROM has 40 short stories for children to practice progressively more difficult stories with interactive graphics. The Writing Lesson CD-ROM provides easily printable worksheets to practice handwriting as a supplement to learning to read. There is also a Sounds of Letters video that uses simple graphics to reinforce the sounds of each letter in the alphabet. The set (workbook, three CD-ROMs, and the video) sell for $99 on the Mountcastle website, or they are sold separately through most major bookstores.

While I was impressed with the educational premise used for this product, I was somewhat disappointed with the rather bland presentation. The product is designed for the 20 or so percent of children who struggle with learning to read, but I think the educational foundation would work well for most children, especially early in the learning process. I like the idea of teaching phonics, but also working toward site reading (whole word method) for common words as this improves comprehension and fluency in reading, while still providing the skills to break down unfamiliar words. The program is very simple to use and should require little preparation on the parent's part. The repetition of the 300 or so most common words and the use of several different mediums to present the same information were very appealing. The program could be used for several children by copying the needed workbook pages, making the program more economical. On the downside, I thought the stories were rather uninteresting and the programs overly simplistic for the purpose. Some simple changes would have made it much more appealing. For example, there is no music on the video, and only very simple animations on the programs. As a psychologist, I am concerned that many of the stories have a negative theme, i.e. the mom is mad at the child and there is no resolution. The program focuses on decoding language, but does not really address comprehension of what is being read. However, during a brief tour of the products, both my eight-year-old son, Josiah, who is an excellent reader, and my three-year-old son, Benjamin, who is not ready for reading yet, were entertained by the stories and graphics. This series would likely be a good product for children who are struggling with reading and need some success very quickly, or to begin introducing reading to younger kids. It would probably not work well for older kids or children who prefer stimulation with graphics and movement to keep their attention. In summary, The Reading Lesson is a straightforward, educationally sound program without wthe bells and whistles!

-- Product Review by: Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine