Wednesday, April 10, 2013

REVIEW: ABeCeDarian Reading Program

My little man is 3rd in line in our homeschool to learn to read, and I haven't been sure how to approach it with him. He knows all his letter sounds, but when we've tried word building, he hasn't been interested. It's been hard to tell if he's just messing with me (reading "CAT" as "FROG") or if he really doesn't understand how to read the letters in sequence. I'm pretty sure he just doesn't want to take the time to read them. He's so silly.

I was excited to try the ABeCeDarian Reading Program from ABeCeDarian Company! The ABeCeDarian program has four levels:
  • Level A - students reading at kindergarten through mid-1st grade level
  • Level B - students reading at mid-1st grade through 2nd grade level
  • Level C - students reading at 3rd and 4th grade level
  • Level D - students reading at 5th and 6th grade level
  • There is also Level A (Short Version) for older students (8 and up) who are non-readers or just beginning to read.
The pictures say 2006, but the program has been updated in 2013.
They have a handy placement test to see where your child needs to begin. The company has recently issued a combined-volume book containing levels A1, A2 and B1 for homeschoolers and tutors, which includes all student pages as well as the teacher's manuals. For our review, though, we received individual teacher and student books for levels A1, A2, and B1, as well as the Set of 10 Storybooks and the ABeCeDarian Aesop booklet. The teacher's books and student books are nicely coil-bound, so they lay flat on the table (less important for the teacher's manual, but definitely helpful for the student when they need to write). The pages in the student book are simple and uncluttered. The storybooks and Aesop booklet are half-sheet sized books with paper covers. The pictures are black and white, but cheerful. I like them MUCH better than some of the readers I've used in the past.

The Teacher's Manual includes excellent information, explaining the philosophy of the program as well as how to use it. It explains what a child needs to be able to decode well, as well as why some children have a hard time learning to decode. The lessons are scripted, so I knew exactly what to say for each step. I wasn't sure I would like that, but it worked well and seemed natural. I don't think Isaac noticed I was reading instead of just talking with him. There is also a section on teaching handwriting, and the directions for forming letters are little sayings like "Curl back like a rainbow. Swing around." for the letter "c". Isaac had been rather resistant to handwriting, but he liked the sayings and would repeat them as he wrote. It seemed less like me telling him what to do, I think. I did write the letters using a highlighter for him most of the time in the beginning, but now he's more comfortable writing them on his own.

There is also excellent instruction on how to correct errors. For example, if Isaac were to read /o/ as /a/, I would simply say, "This is /o/. You say /o/." It's a non-confrontational approach, and since Isaac and I both lead toward the confrontational side, it helped keep the lessons focused on what we were learning rather than Isaac feeling as though I was telling him he was doing things wrong.

Since he's just beginning to read, we used Level A1. This level begins with single consonants and short vowels in simple CVC words,. Letters are referred to by sound rather than by name. Once he's mastered those, he will learn the two-letter combinations sh, ch, th, and ck. He will also learn the sight words the, as, is, of, to, and I in this level.

The first activity was Word Puzzles. This was so much fun! ABeCeDarian has free letter tiles you can download, print and cut out, but my printer is acting strangely, so we used some we already had. I told him we needed to spell a word, but the letters were all mixed up, and it was his job to put them in the correct order. He loved doing that. He was my little detective, solving the word mystery. We practiced writing individual letters while saying the sounds, and writing words while reading them. I would say a letter sound and he'd point to the letter; I would point to a letter and he would say the sound; I dictated sounds and he wrote them.

Once we'd built all the words and practiced writing them, we did "Tap-and-Say." Isaac tapped each letter on the page, saying the sound as he did so, then ran his finger under the entire word as he read it. Then, I would read the words in "Turtle Talk," sounding them out slowly, and his job was to translate them into "People Talk," reading them normally. I loved this and found it to be marvelously effective. He loved it, too, because I sounded silly reading in "Turtle Talk" and he got to correct me with "People Talk." There are also free word cards you can download and print for extra practice (see this page for their supplemental materials).

I've read a lot about phonics and reading programs, and one thing I wondered about was combining handwriting with phonics. I've read that reading instruction and handwriting are really separate skills, requiring handwriting could hinder a child in learning to read as quickly as they might. However, that was not the case with ABeCeDarian. The handwriting portion worked very well for Isaac, and was an integral part of the multi-sensory approach in the program. I used highlighter to outline the letters for him much of the time, because he's a boy and just not writing easily yet. There is a section in the teacher's manual with little sayings for teaching how to write the letters, and Isaac really liked those.

I have been impressed with this program. Isaac enjoys it, which says a LOT. He's so proud of himself when he reads! I love that it's multi-sensory; the varied activities keep him from getting bored. Having handwriting included not only helps the learning process; it's a nice way to sneak handwriting practice in, as well, without having to call it handwriting practice. If you have a child who is resistant to handwriting, you know what I mean! I appreciate that the student pages are simple with large print; we've looked at a couple of the phonics primers that are out there, and the pages were just too busy.

ABeCeDarian Reading Program Books:

(This is the combined volume with levels A1, A2 and B1. You would still need the storybooks and Aesop booklet.)

Isaac and I have really enjoyed using this program together, and I intend to continue using it with him. If you're looking for a reading program for a beginner, or a remedial student, check it out! 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

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