As much as I hate to admit it, the sad but true fact is that my little ones aren’t babies anymore. In fact, it’s time to begin to teach them how to read and write. So, when I received the opportunity to review First Start Reading from Memoria Press, I knew it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down.
I received the teacher guide and one complete set of student books A-D. You’ll notice that I’m using this product with both my five year old and my three year old. That’s because I bought an additional set of student workbooks so that I’d be able to work through this with both of them. (In addition, this was my first order from Memoria Press, and I can attest that they ship quickly and are easy to order from.)
The Layout of the Program
First Start Reading is written on a Kindergarten level and intended to be your child’s first introduction to phonics beyond learning his ABCs. Each letter is introduced individually, with:
- Pictures of objects that start with the letter
- Practice saying the sounds
- Ear training for finding the letters at the beginning and ends of words
- Practice with letter formation (emphasizing correct pencil grip)
- The opportunity to draw pictures beginning with the sound being learned
After the first couple of lessons, your child is ready to learn his first word. This first word is “am”. A couple of lessons later, your child learns the word “Sam.” By the end of book A, your child is introduced to ten letters, one digraph (th), thirty-six words, and the final “st” sound in words. All of these words are very common words such as “man,” “and,” and “fast.” Books B and C continue with the letters and words introduced in book A, and the alphabet is completely introduced by the end of Book C. Book D has a special focus of adding long vowels, diagraphs and common blends into learning to read. By the end of the program, your child has taken his first steps into reading.
If you’re nervous about teaching your child to read, there’s no need to be nervous using this program. The teacher manual has a copy of each page of the student book along with a suggested script. All you have to do as a teacher is to familiarize yourself with the script for the day, along with the teaching tips in the front (and the posters in the appendix) before beginning to teach each day.
How We Used This Curriculum
Because my learners are pretty young, we used this curriculum about 3 times a week, and the other two days we did additional practice on either the letter sounds or writing letters. The children get a lot of repetition and practice throughout the program, which is great for young learners. I would not feel a need to supplement at all if it were not for the fact that my youngest learner doesn’t even turn four until tomorrow, so she’s still getting some of her letter recognition down.
When we would go through the lessons, I would follow these steps for the letter learning lessons:
- Discuss the pictures and the new letter sound we were learning
- Have the children practice making the sounds
- Allow the children to color their pictures as I go through the ear training exercises in the book
- Use the dry erase board to show the children how to form the uppercase letters and have them practice
- Go through and pick out a favorite uppercase letter and star it
- Use the dry erase board to demonstrate lowercase letter formation and have them practice.
- Go through and star a favorite lowercase letter
- Allow the children to draw their own picture based on the sounds that they were learning
All this never took more than 15 minutes (maybe 20 if they got really involved with their drawing or coloring), making this a quick and easy learning and letter practice activity.
Lessons where you learn new words are only slightly different. In these lessons we:
- Practice blending letters together using dry-erase board
- Practice reading the words on the page
- Practice reading sentences
- Trace words and sentences
- Color picture or illustrate sentence
Sometimes we break the lessons into two parts if there’s more than one new word introduced in a lesson of new words. By the time you get to the end of the book, there’s sentences to read as stories and then to illustrate as well as assessments, but we haven’t actually done that yet, We’re taking it slow and are only about halfway through the first book.
I love the layout of the book. It’s not busy. It’s simple and the practice has an easily learned pattern. Sometimes, Monkey will ask me why we have to do ear training or something like that “every day,” but for the most part the children are excited about learning their letters and their new words.
The incremental basis and slow steps that the phonics program is helping me to catch difficulties early and head them off before they become patterns. It’s also easy to use as I can just open my teacher’s manual to the right page and go.
I also love that we don’t need any fancy supplies. The teacher’s manual, student books, pencils and crayons are all we need to implement the program. I love that I don’t have to do prep work, and I can still feel like my children are getting a good solid introduction to reading and phonics, and they love it.
They’re proud of their writing, coloring and reading abilities. I’m happy that they’re truly learning and growing as readers. This has been a great reading program for us and one that we’ll be continuing to use to help the children take their first start into reading.