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Early Learning Pathways

Learning to Read Is Child's Play
Second phase of the absorbent mind (preschool)

We regard Learning to Read is Child’s Play by authors Maunz, Matthews and Klein as one of the best books available on early reading. It transfers to parents and teachers, alike, a very simple but exact understanding of how preschool age children learn to read.

Discovery of the learning sequence and the body of instruction that followed was developed from the authors’ professional observations and interactions with children in the classroom, resulting in thousands of children becoming successful early readers. Every child can learn to read by following the simple steps. Failure is unknown!

Learning to Read is Child’s Play is based on 30 years of Montessori classroom experience and backed up by numerous, recent scientific studies—verifying everything that Montessori teachers Maunz, Matthews, and Klein, learned about teaching reading to toddler through preschool age children.

As a result wonderful reading materials were developed for use in the home or classroom. The materials are fun and learning to read is presented as a step-by-step series of children’s games. Parents can order the book from Amazon and make the materials. The games are structured so that children will always succeed. The book contains instructions for making and playing the games.

Preschool children learning to read
Learning to Read is Child's Play is all about preschool children learning to read. Reading specialist Randall Klein discovered that not all children could hear the sounds that make up words. He made this discovery while working with children on rhyming words. He thought rhyming would be easy for the children, and then he discovered that any number of his preschool students could not rhyme! This began the quest for ways to develop phonemic awareness.

Phonemic awareness is the awareness of the sounds that make up words and the ability to hear and distinguish sounds. Phonemes are the sounds of speech. A phoneme could be called a “sound bite” in the computer world.

Dr. Maria Montessori points out that infants need their parents to speak slowly and distinctly to them in order to gain phonemic awareness. A baby is very intent on watching a parent’s mouth and lips whenever the parent speaks to him. Speaking to the baby slowly and with precision of speech, taking care to articulate each phoneme properly is the first step to the child’s development of phonemic awareness. (Perhaps the children who could not rhyme in Randall’s class were not spoken to when they were babies in the manner prescribed by Dr. Montessori.)

Phonemic awareness games soon became the order of the day in the authors’ classrooms and the children love them. For example, the teacher points to a table and models the game by saying, “This is a /t/ table. Can you say /t/ table?” The child replies, “/t/ table”.

As the child gains skill and confidence in segmenting the first letter of the name of objects and picture cards in the classroom, the child can ask the teacher to repeat after her the name of the object or card the child points to. The child will have segmented the first sound independently rather than repeating after the teacher.

The game can be varied by asking the child to perform certain actions such as ringing the /b/ bell, or putting the /p/ pencil in the box, or jumping with the /f/ frog in a circle. As the child learns to segment the first phoneme in the name of an object she can play the game with her teacher and ask the teacher to repeat after her and perform the action she commands. (For example, the child may now say, “This is a /f/ frog. Can you say /f/ frog? Good! Now take the /f/ frog and jump into the hoop (pointing to the hoop on the floor) and say /f/ frog.)

The games and commands can be as simple or complex as the child is capable but the child is never challenged beyond his or her capacity. If a child makes an error it is part of the learning process and the child is not corrected by saying, “No, that’s wrong!” (For example, if the command is to put the /b/ bird on the dog, and the child puts the bird on the cat the teacher may say, “Oh you found the cat! Here is the dog. Can you put the /b/ bird on the dog next?”

Action games are wonderful because children learn exceedingly well when they are moving and the different actions keep the games alive. Phonemic awareness games go on for months with hundreds of objects and pictures until the child is able to segment the first sound in the naming of things in her environment. At that point the child has gained the phonemic awareness to go on to the next level of reading development.

The letters are not introduced as phonograms until the child has developed phonemic awareness. When the child is able to segment the first sound in the naming of things she is ready to learn letters with their phonemes. Each letter is taught with its most common phoneme (a sound the letter makes). Only one sound per letter is given. For example the letter “c” is given as /k/, not /s/ or /k, s/. Short vowels are taught rather than long vowels, which all come later.

Words are not given until the child has learned every letter with its sound and has had much practice. The skill needed to blend letter-sounds is the first skill that is learned upon the introduction of words, and blending games are introduced with 2 and 3-letter words.

A cardinal principle is that children must not be rushed through any of these games or steps. The child must be allowed the freedom to play any game for as long as she desires. If a child is having difficulty with a new skill the remedy is to backtrack to the previous game and review. Each skill builds upon the last and works up to the next. Each step is practiced until the child is 'sure footed' before advancing.

Books are not given to the child for the purpose of independent reading until the child has mastered several more steps. For example, the child masters decoding single words before going on to simple phrases. Then many simple phrases are decoded before moving on to longer phrases and, at last, on to simple sentences. Mastering the decoding of simple sentences precedes working with decodable readers. Many decodable readers are read before launching into reading books with text.

Learning to Read is Child’s Play is a handbook on early reading you will not want to be without. A thorough understanding of the learning process and the proper sequence of lessons, or steps, in learning to read are provided for the child’s ultimate reading success. The learning materials are essential and the book gives instructions for making them




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