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These books teach reading using the whole language method, also known as sight reading, or look - say. Some of you may be familiar with the old version of look say, Peter and Jane. Whether reading should be taught by phonics or by whole language remains a hotly contested issue. If you are in the phonics only camp, these books will not appeal to you, in fact you will hate them. If you are a supporter of the whole language method you will love them. If on the other hand, you are an ordinary parent like myself, you might see them as neither horrible nor miraculous, but simply a useful tool in helping a child develop reading competence.
More and more experts are leaning towards a mixed approach in reading instruction. Phonics and whole language do not have to be opposite ends of the extreme, but can be blended together to help children take advantage of the best that both philosophies have to offer.
Further more, there is a reason that which ever reading method not used by the schools will have staunch supporters who claim it works miracles. the reason being, some children will learn better by one method and some by another. If you have a child who struggles unsuccessfully for years to break the code in school and suddenly learns to read with another method it does seem miraculous.
While I do favour phonics as a whole, many words must be learned by memory. English is not a perfect phonetic language by a long shot. Also the look say method gives a child confidence as it is easy to master. These books use the repetition of familiar words and contextual clues to teach reading. I personally would not use these sets alone, but as a supplement to good phonics programme, but for whole language advocates these books could be used as the basis for a reading programme.
The set includes:
10 small paper books. Each book is illustrated with bold bright colours and does contain a decent story at least. The stories are very simple using plenty of repetition, and the words ca easily be guessed by the illustrations. For instance, in "Pop" there is a picture of a monkey with a bright red balloon. The text reads "Monkey sees a red balloon" The only change on the next pages will be the colour of the balloon, so a child can easily guess the text, until monkey sees a pin - then the balloons are "All gone!" Most of the books will follow this very simple pattern with the exception of Goodnight Dinah. This last story shows each step Dinah takes to get ready for bed , and does not have as much repetition, but is still one sentence per page and the text is easily guessed by the illustration. For instance one picture shows her brushing her teeth. the text is simply "Dinah brushes her teeth".
A parents guide: a simple booklet explaining how to use the set.
A reward chart and stickers.
A blank book: I really liked this idea, it is a book of blank pages so the child can make his or her own book.
I would recommend these books if:
Your child is learning to read using the whole language approach at school.
You wish to teach the child to read at home using whole language, and the child is ready and willing to read.
Your child is struggling with a phonics only approach.
You are using a phonics based set but the child gets frustrated at not being able to read enough yet. This set then is lovely to develop confidence.
I would NOT recommend this set if:
You are a strong proponent of phonics only.
Your child has not yet reached reading readiness.
Children reach reading readiness at different ages. When a child is ready to learn to read they will:
Recognise some words, such as their own name
Know the sounds of the alphabet.
Be able to recognise and repeat patterns
Understand that speech can be translated into print and back again into speech
Hold books and look at them, right side up and turning the pages.
Enjoys listening to stories and can discuss what is happening in the story.
Most importantly - the child wants to read.
I mention this because you can teach a child to read using whole language without reading readiness. You could teach a two year old to read using books like this and flashcards, and it has been done frequently ( See Dormann, teach your Baby to Read). the problems being that this makes reading a structured chore, rather than fun and is often associated with alter reading difficulties.
Overall, I like these books. They have lovely pictures, are fun to read and gave my son added confidence. My son liked them because they were easy, but "Pop" was his favourite because it was funny as well.