Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Reading Program That Works - Teaching Reading With Bob Books

Teaching reading is a passion of mine (although my focus has shifted significantly).  I have researched it A LOT (I toted academic books on teaching reading home 8 months pregnant with my first child from my college library - yes 102 degree heat didn't deter me!).  I actually looked down on the series of Bob Books because they just seemed too simple.  I was wooed into the Spalding based Spell to Write and Read stuff.  However, I could never get a 5 yo to spend 45 minutes on reading and writing.  I am so glad I didn't force it TOO much with my oldest.  I learned a TON about phonics and reading through that program.  I also realized that its latest incarnation "The Logic of English" is spot on.  The way they teach reading is a logic skill and 5 yos aren't known for their great logical abilities. SO . . .

I recommend the adult reads some Spalding materials - Logic of English or otherwise - to understand the inner workings of English. Then use Bob Books and Teaching Reading With Bob Books as your daily curriculum with your beginning reader.

One pet peeve is people who discuss all the programs that "didn't work" basically because they tried to introduce reading to their 3 year old!  My current story is at the opposite end of the spectrum.  I realize that it is time for my second child to "get" reading, so any program would have started working.  However, we tried other things and he was getting it, but once I saw how accomplished he felt after reading one small BOB Book - I got the genius of it. Making progress through a gigantic reading book just doesn't have the same feeling as looking at all these little books and proclaiming "I read ALL of these!" DUH!!

I also appreciated Ruth Beechick's driving analogy in the The Three R's.  The new driver cares nothing about the scenery because they are rightly focused on the road. This is pretty much how new readers are - focused on decoding and wanting to be successful.  Bob Books aren't known for thrilling stories - but that isn't the point of them.  I have been SHOCKED at the number of "easy readers" that use words with complicated spelling structures and call themselves "easy".  Biscuit - although cute and cuddly - is not an easily decodable word.  It's not easy!  However, Bob Books truly are.

Two factors that forced my hand on this matter.  One, Artios Academies is using them so I guess I should submit on this point if we are going to partner with them.  However, I might still be resisting if I didn't have Brandy Vencel's Teaching Reading With Bob Books.  She marries phonics (the reason I love Spalding stuff) with Bob Books in sequence.  She is the bridge between these two programs. There are no 45 minute lessons here - just simple reading and review 10 to 15 minutes a day.  I CAN DO THIS!

Her system is SIMPLE (she calls it gimmick-free) but effective.  The best part is that you can see the WHOLE THING, FOR FREE online to see if it fits you and your child.  If you like what you see and don't want to hunt around for everything you can buy a bundle (a good deal) that matches each set of readers.  (Full disclosure- she sent me the first bundle and I bought the second because I liked it so much - we are still working towards the third).

She has taught her own 4 children to read and tutored many others. The core of her system is the reading binder you create.  Basically it tracks the sounds the student is learning and provides ample repetition until they master all of the phonics.  It helps you go at the child's pace - not the curricula's pace - which I love!

How is it different from Spalding based methods:

- It doesn't front load phonics learning like Spalding does - learning all 75 sounds in 12 weeks

- It doesn't teach "all of the sounds" of a letter at the same time for example: a - a, ay, ah or ow - ow, oh.  However, it also doesn't use "the second" sound without introducing it.  It is very methodical.
(Of course, if you prefer teaching all the sounds at once go for it - you will use the first sound most of the time.  Suffice it to say that Bob books and, as an extension, Vencel use a popular phonics method that starts with short vowel sounds and CVC words.  If I sound like I am speaking a foreign language - don't worry about it.)

- There is no writing attached to this reading.  If you have a deep desire I guess you could do copy work or write the new words from the book or write the phonograms that you are learning, etc.  I think my son likes it because he can just read and it isn't attached with all that other stuff.

(We do use a Spalding based "spelling" program - it is really a reading program but he feels so much more successful with Bob Books and Vencel's work that we use it for reading and just using Spalding methods for spelling. It is probably too much but oh well.)

Vencel's program essentially outlines the phonics "scope and sequence" of the Bob Books.  I like seeing the big picture and she provides it. She also offers clear daily instructions for teaching the material.  This is especially helpful if this is your first time.  She adds comments on frequent difficulties and how to overcome them. Her flashcard organization is brilliant and even I can keep up with it in my flighty ways.   She is writing to mom's, so this is not a classroom curricula that you have to adapt for your child at home. It is a reading tutoring program meant to help moms and kids feel and be successful at their own pace.

Honestly, my son was ready to take off reading and he knows most of his sounds so we haven't needed much of the repetition - YET.  I think he will soon.  With Bob Books he feels successful and with Vencel's materials I am confident I am offering him a full fledged phonics based reading program.

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