A couple of months ago, I started the “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” book with Doodle. I used the same book with Carman & Sudoku when they were young. This being the third time, I’m very familiar with the book and am more relaxed and having more fun with it than I did the first couple of times. Doodle is catching on quickly, and it is fun to see his slow but steady progress.

Despite the book’s title, the lessons are not all easy. I try to limit each session to 15 minutes and only go beyond that if Doodle wants to. With Carman & Sudoku, I believe it took a little over a year to complete the book.

This book teaches phonics and uses a different syntax (rather than spelling rules) to help kids learn about silent letters and long and short vowel sounds. (The spelling rules are introduced later.) The syntax can be a turn off to some people at first (eat is spelled with a tiny “a” to show that it is silent), but I know many parents who have used this book to teach their children to read after first trying expensive, high tech reading programs with no success. As one mother of 5 said, “Some kids can learn with Hooked on Phonics, others with computer programs, a few by just following along while their parents read. But practically anyone can learn with the ‘Teach Your Child to Read’ book.”

The book slowly introduces sounds, having the child form simple words and even read “stories” – while knowing only a few sounds – right from the start. The first story and picture show up after just 12 lessons. (“See me eat.”)

I really like the way the book puts the sounds to work (in the form of a story) right away. The “story” Doodle read today for lesson 39 was, “a little fish sat on a fat fish. the little fish said, ‘wow.’ the little fish did not feel sad. the little fish said, ‘that fat fish is mom.’ ” He was introduced to quotation marks today, but capital letters have not yet been incorporated, and 1/3 of the alphabet is yet to be covered as well.

Each story has an accompanying drawing that the child gets to see after reading the story two times. I ask questions (some scripted, some not), and we talk about the silly drawings.

The most trying part of teaching with this book – with all of my kids – has been helping them focus on the task at hand. “Hey! this letter is the same as that one over there!” “C – as in, kih, kih, clown! kih, kih, come! kih, kih, cat.! Hey! I saw the neighbor’s cat in the backyard earlier! Remember the cats we saw at the farm last week!?”… I just try to not get impatient and draw him back to our task at hand.

Carman has his own tricks with dealing with Doodle’s rabbit trails. I had a busy morning last week and asked Carman to do Doodle’s reading lesson with him. He later told me that it went extrmemly smoothly and quickly because he had warned Doodle that if he started talking (instead of reading), Carman would have him start again at the beginning. !! That took care of that.

So far, my 3 kids have gone through the book at different speeds. Carman would remember the letter sounds well but sometimes couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Sudoku quickly learned to identify common words, but struggled with sounding out words, even though the book is grounded in phonics. So far, Doodle seems to be a mix of the two, which is making the process easier than I remembered it being for the other two. It has been interesting to see how, even with using the same teaching method, their learning styles have been different.

The author, Siegfried Engelmann, feels that most 4 year olds would be ready for this book. If a child has been read to and has seen his parents read, I think that is probably true. I’ve been helping out in Doodle’s Sunday School class for 4 year olds, and I think 75% of the kids are probably ready for this book.

Oh. One tip if you consider using this book with a 4 or 5 year old. The book has writing exercises at the end of each lesson. (We don’t always to those.) In my experience, writing on paper with a pencil is frustrating for children that age. I’ve had better luck with the kids writing on a dry erase board with big markers. There are no confining lines, and they can make big letters. That being said, I must admit that my 2 older children, while being excellent readers, don’t have very neat pennmanship…