Long before Aaron started kindergarten, I decided to teach him how to read. I know there are many parents and educators who tout the benefits of waiting until children are a little older, but honestly, I couldn't help myself. I was so excited for the world of reading to be unlocked to him, and I wanted to be the one to do it. He was showing signs of readiness, so I got the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and we began.
It was so much fun. And I determined then that if it was possible, I wanted to have that same experience with all of my kids.
When Aaron was through all 100 lessons and reading very well on his own, I began with Maxwell. We used the same book, and it worked equally well (although there's no question that Aaron and Max are different learners, and so we had to vary and change it up a little).
Once we finished, Bradley thought it was his turn (of course he did--not much gets past that kid). I had every intention of holding off a bit with him since he has a September birthday and won't begin kindergarten until he's nearly six (in two and a half years). I didn't think there was any rush.
But I couldn't convince him that waiting would be a good idea. I'm pretty sure he would have taught himself if he couldn't have convinced me to get on board and help him. Teaching him is completely different from teaching the other two. Aaron and Max liked reading lessons and generally didn't complain too much (although there were some days . . . ), but Bradley lives for reading lessons. Every morning, he wakes up and asks me to read with him. If I don't have time, he reminds me over and over again. And if that fails, then he literally follows me around the house or outside with the book saying, "Mom, listen to this: ssssaaaa, sannnn, sand! Does this word say 'sand'?" He is relentless.
Speaking of the book, I decided to try a different method this time. I loved Teach Your Child, but frankly, I was getting a little bored with it. And so I checked out Phonics Pathways. We are in the two-consonant endings section, and so far it's been great, although it's very different from Teach Your Child. (And yes, even though this is my third time, I still feel like I need and want a "method." It's just how my brain works.)
I thought it might be fun to do a little comparison between these two methods. Hopefully, you'll find it helpful if you're trying to determine which one would be a better choice for your child.
(If you're unfamiliar with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, you might want to read these previous posts as a reference: The Boy Can Read, The Power of Rereading, and Taking Turns.)
Introducing Letters, Sounds, Words
Phonics Pathways: It's very instinctive. Their approach to reading is simple and methodical: you start with the vowels, then move on to the consonants, followed by two-letter blends, three-letter blends, etc. It's set up and structured exactly the way I would do it if I were going to write my own method.
Teach Your Child: It's much more abstract: they introduce a letter, do some reading, introduce another letter, do some more reading. I never could quite figure out their reasons for introducing certain letters when, but hey, it worked.
Which one I like better: I can't decide. I think Phonics Pathways makes more sense to my brain, but I kind of like the way the words slowly building on each other with Teach Your Child.
Phonics Pathways: It felt like we were reading a lot faster with this method than with Teach Your Child. Even though they introduce all the letters first, we flew through all of them in a few days, and then we were reading lots and lots of words. However, it looks like this fast pace is going to continue, and I have a feeling we're not going to be able to keep up without some serious supplementing (Bradley has already informed me that if it gets too hard, he will just wait to do any more until he turns four).
Teach Your Child: They do a lot of prep work (such as rhyming, blending sounds, saying words fast and slow, etc.) before they introduce any words. And even once they start reading words, they basically only have four sounds to work with, so that doesn't offer very many combinations in the beginning. However, because this method uses an altered orthography, they're actually able to read bigger, more complex words a lot faster than in Phonics Pathways. For example, they learn the long "e" sound before the short "e" sound, so they're able to read words like "meet" or "read" or "eat" after only a few lessons, and that's exciting.
Which one I like better: I have to admit, I miss the rhyming and slow-fast words from Teach Your Child. I thought both of those things were really helpful and offered long term benefits. I've added it in a little bit anyway, but it's definitely not the focus like it was. But on the flip side, I really love the sheer volume of words that Bradley has been able to read after just a few weeks of using Phonics Pathways.
Phonics Pathways: It uses quite a few games to review and solidify new skills. These games are nothing special, but because they have fun names, like "Bag the Bugs," Bradley is always thrilled to play them.
Teach Your Child: It relies on stories (each of which is accompanied by one picture) for entertainment.
Which one I like better: I thought I would like Phonics Pathways better, but I've found that even though the games are easy to prepare, reading the stories in Teach Your Child takes absolutely no preparation, which is even better. Plus, I think the stories are entertaining (see below) and more practical in the long run.
Phonics Pathways: Ugh. I'm so not impressed with this aspect of the method. They put words together that make no sense, and the sentences are the very definition of contrived.
Teach Your Child: I know not everyone feels this way, but I love the stories in this method. Most of them are funny, and they use the words in a creative way to tell an interesting story. Around Lesson 70, they start to get a little long (especially since even the long stories only get one picture), but I really think these stories help amazingly with comprehension.
Which one I like better: Teach Your Child, no question. However, I'm not really worried about Phonics Pathways' horrible stories (if you can even call them stories) because we'll just supplement with our own.
Presentation on the Page
Phonics Pathways: They cram a lot on each page: tons of single words as well as two-word combinations and sentences. They use a fairly small font right from the beginning and put the lines close together. Any white space they have is filled up with pictures of a cartoon book worm who has speech bubbles of motivational thoughts above his head. (Not my favorite part, to be sure.)
Teach Your Child: It uses a very large font in the beginning and gradually decreases the size as the child learns more and gains confidence. It also uses an altered orthography and little symbols under the words to help the child know how he should sound them out. There's a lot of small print on the page as well, which is the script for the teacher. The material is broken down into clearly defined lessons, and each one follows a familiar format.
Which one I like better: If you'd asked me before we actually started Phonics Pathways, I think I would have said Teach Your Child. That's because to me, it makes sense to start large and get smaller. However, Bradley hasn't had any trouble with the small, regularly written font, so now I'm wondering if all those weeks with large print and altered orthography are a waste of time with Teach Your Child. That said, I do feel like Phonics Pathways crams way too much on the page. It looks really daunting (for teacher and student).
So you can see, there were things I liked and didn't like about Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and there are things I like and don't like about Phonics Pathways. Right now, it's working for us because Bradley enjoys it, and I'm grateful for the variety it provides. I'll definitely do a follow-up report in a few months after we've made our way farther into it.
If you've helped your child learn to read, I would love to hear about your experience. Did you use a method? Which one? What worked or didn't work about it?