“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: W. Murray, Jill Corby / Hardcover / 48 Pages / Book is published 1993-05-01 by Ladybird Books Ltd „
Ladybird's Read with me programme follows the whole language or "look say " approach to reading instruction. More specifically, this is meant to be a key word reading scheme, in that a very specific set of words are used. Under this scheme a child learns 300 of the most commonly used words in the English language from memory - plus a few extras. There are quite a few extras in this particular set though, 500 in fact bringing the total of words to be memorised to 800.
'Let's Play' is the first book in this series. It uses 15 words from the core word list as well as 3 names, Tom, Kate and Sam. This book is incredibly easy for a child to read. The names of the children are displayed under a picture of each child. Every sentence is clearly written in bold black on a white background, a great deal of repetition is used, and the pictures help the child guess at the text to some extent. I remember very similar books when I was young, but ours were about Peter and Jane. I belive this is an updated version of the old Peter and Jane books, with more modern illustrations. There really is not much of a plot or story to this book, although the books do get better as you progress. The illustrations do show the dog getting into mischief and liven things up a bit. This uses simple sentences like "Here is Sam" and " Sam is a Dog". If you are considering this book as bed time story - skip it. The only reason to buy this book is to develop reading skills.
If you have read some of my previous reviews, you may know that I am a firm believer in phonics. Unlike most educators who tend to fall squarely into one camp or the other though, I had no problem borrowing from the whole language approach when it suited us. I have to admit though, that I bought this book for all the wrong reasons. I felt terribly pressured for my son to start reading at age 4, as this is when they start P1 in Northern Ireland. Most of the local children here start reading sight words in nursery, at age 3. I felt the need to make sure my son was keeping up with those who attended regular school.
I realised at age 4, that my son was simply not ready for the phonics programmes I had bought, and I knew he was picking up some reading just from following the text as I read his favourite books. I reasoned that I could teach him to read very quickly with these, and I remain convinced I could have done so. We moved through the first three books in one day, my son dutifully reading out each word - but I knew it just wasn't right. He wasn't enjoying it and he was trying too hard. I had to make, what was for me, one of the most difficult decisions of my life. You see - I love books. I really and truly love reading. Books were my lifeline in a sometimes difficult childhood. They became my safe place - my escape - but they also showed me there was more to life then what I lived at that time. As I grew older, they became my advisor, any time I needed to learn a new skill - I picked up a book. I learned to care for and train my pets, how to cook, what to expect in childbirth, all about parenting and infant care, even how to rebuild an engine once - all from books. I love books so much, I decided to stop teaching him to read at that point. I packed up all the reading primers and phonics books, put them on a high shelf and went back to just reading good quality children's books. I was terrified letting my son fall behind, but I was more terrified of him growing up, able to memorise some words on a card, but not being able to read a book - or if he was capable of reading a book, having no desire to ever pick one up.
Six months later, my son really started reading more and more words on his own as we read our stories. I brought the phonics sets back out with much more success, but even then it takes quite a bit of work to really be able to read anything. I also set these books out , but didn't really push them. This time my son was ready and he was able to pour through these with ease. These books helped him develop the confidence that he could read. They helped him pick up on the most common words, which are pretty much the same with most reading programmes, and helped him move from sounding words out to reading smoothly and fluently. They are not brilliant stories, but he enjoyed the accomplishment of reading them on his own.
I am very glad I waited on these though, until my son was truly ready read. He may have fallen behind his peers, but I believe he has more than made up for that now. He is now reading young adult books at age 6, so I do think we made the right choice. I have read reviews of these books, and others like these, where children learn to read as young as 3. I do feel this can do more harm than good. If your child is attending an ordinary school, there is really no reason to push them to read ahead of their peers. I think it would be better to teach them to love books and let reading come naturally. If you home educate, as I do, I know it is so difficult to feel that you are letting your child fall behind, but as home educators we do have the ability to choose what is best for our own child. We are not tied to average ages. Your child can learn earlier or later, whatever best suits them.
I am happy enough to recommend these books to other home education families. I personally believe phonics is the best way to teach reading, but I think there are a lot of advantages to combining the methods. And if you choose the whole language approach alone, I feel that a child who spends hours listening to stories at home, as most home schooled children do, will have a better chance of grasping this method. Most children who are brought up in a house full of books and view reading as a fun and worthwhile activity will eventually learn to read - no matter what method is used. However a small percentage will really struggle, again no matter what method you start with. As a home educator you have the freedom to choose based solely on what works. If you are using a whole language approach, this book, and the other books in this set are a helpful resource. If your child is struggling with phonics and needs a confidence booster, this just might be the ticket. At prices from £1.25 per book, there is really no harm in trying a few. I paid £3.75 for a set of 11.
If your child is learning at school and experiencing minor difficulties, then I would discuss the matter with the child's teacher. A child who just needs that little bit of extra practice would probably do best with a similar approach to the school, so if your child's school is using whole language, these would be grand for extra practice. If the child is struggling desperately though, and just not getting it at school, I would use a programme diametrically opposed to whatever the school is using. This is because some children learn best by one method, others by another method. If what ever the school is using is not working - try something else. So if your child's school is using a complete phonics approach, and your child can not grasp the idea, then try these. I have seen both whole language and phonics work miracles - it's just a matter of what works for each individual child.
The real advantage to these books is children can see progress very quickly. It can give them a sense of achievement, and confidence that they can learn to read. Another advantage is that once a child has mastered these books they can easily move on to the 'Dr Seuss Beginner Books', ' I can Read'and the early stages in many other beginning reader books. The vast majority of these series use the same set of 300 words. I do believe this is the very quickest way to teach reading, and will require the least effort on the part of the parent or teacher. Because the child can make progress very quickly, it may really help a child who has fallen behind. I would note that once my son had read through this series, he found moving into Dr Seuss books and such very easy.
One disadvantage is that a child must still learn phonics as a means to tackle unfamiliar words. There are simply too many words in the English language to memorise them all. Whatever method a child starts with, they must progress to the point that they read most words on sight, and can decode new and unfamiliar words using phonics, context, and where possible visible cues. I personally would not recommend this book, or series, as a complete reading programme. I am very happy to recommend it as yet one more tool in wide variety of resources to help a child learn to read.
I would really only recommend this book if you home educating, or there is s specific problem with your child learning to read at school. The old "if it ain't broke don't fix it applies". If the school's programme is working - let the teachers do their job. For the average child, I think good story books would be a far better investment, both in terms of time and money. No matter what the latest fad in reading instruction may be, there is one fact that no educator will argue: Children whose parents read to them frequently do make better readers themselves. The single most important thing a parent can do to encourage literacy is share really good stories with their children.
I have given this 5 stars. This book does exactly what it is meant to do, in that it provides a basic primer for those wishing to use the 'Look Say' method and a key word scheme. Beyond that, I liked the book. My enjoyed it, it help him build confidence in his reading ability and gave him a feeling of pride. I do feel that Oxford Reading Tree offers a similar programme, and is certainly more fun. Given the choice of only one, I would certainly take ORT, hands down. But while both are whole language, Oxford seems to take that from a much wider perspective. Oxford has created books that can double as bedtime stories. These can not. I wouldn't really consider Oxford a key word programme and it will take much longer with Oxford to be ready to make the jump into other series. These are old fashioned reading primers, and there are very few books of this sort available any more. While they have their faults, they have strong points as well. The tide has turned and this method of reading instruction has fallen from favour. In some cases, that's a good thing. But with so many children who are just not learning to read, I believe we need to keep every weapon against illiteracy we have, and this does still have it's place.