THE HOME READING PROGRAM
Starting from infancy
Some educators speak against early learning, but early learning, including early reading, is perfectly natural. Nature has provided the child with the capacity to speak and read simultaneously –as the language center in the brain encompasses both reading and speech. In other words, a child is perfectly capable of learning to read while it is learning to speak.
Video of 14-month-old baby reading
Experts don't always agree on what is the best way to teach reading, and some recommend not teaching the alphabet until the child is in school. Some even recommend not teaching phonograms –but when dealing with experts, parents still need to use their common sense and to follow their hearts. Parents have pretty good instincts concerning what is right for their child.
The Alphabet Song
The first step on the path to early reading with the Home Reading Program is for parents to sing the ABC Song to their baby. Singing to the baby and playing good music are powerful instruments for stimulating brain development and the baby's sense of hearing. In addition, singing to the child fosters more intimacy and greater bonding.
The Alphabet Flashcards are double-sided. One side shows the uppercase (capital) letters and the other side shows the lowercase (small) letters. We start with the capital letters because a baby has an easier time focusing on the capital letters, as they are larger. Before presenting Alphabet Flashcards let the baby know whether you will be presenting uppercase or lowercase letters. After quickly showing the uppercase letters and then the lowercase letters, two or three times each, show them together by turning the flashcards around and showing the child both sides of the flashcards during the same session. As you name a letter say whether it is uppercase or lowercase.
Alphabet Flashcards are for learning the names of the letters of the alphabet and are not to be confused with Alphabet Phonograms, which depict the sounds that letters make, which sounds are called phonemes.
DOWNLOAD ALPHABET FLASHCARDS
One last word on the alphabet
The child who knows his ABCs will possess the essential tool for spelling and will be able to master alphabetical order –which empowers the child to look up words in a dictionary, use library catalogues, perform tasks that require alphabetizing and that include filing, and more.
Even though infants don't do any of that, when the times comes it will be a breeze, if they learn the alphabet early on.
Though a baby may not be able to do any of these things physically, it is still able to do them mentally. Playing alphabetical order games with a baby is good mental exercise for the child.
Babies learn so quickly that there is no excuse for skipping the alphabet! Why put the child through having to learn the alphabet when he is much older, and not as adaptable or so quick to learn? Besides, knowing the names of the letters is the first order of things! Facts should be learned in a logical sequence – and name goes before function. Besides, learning the alphabet is a good preliminary exercise to learning the phonograms and their phonemes (letter sounds).
Phonograms are learned In many Montessori preschools without learning the alphabet. If it were up to me, I would improve this situation by including the Alphabet Song in the repertoire of songs the children sing in the classroom, and by providing them with opportunity to recite the alphabet while pointing to the letters on a large alphabet chart. (Using a pointer would be fun.) Children love songs, rhymes, and repetition!
Nevertheless, even though phonograms can be learned without first learning the alphabet, and Montessori intuitively chose to do so with preschool age children, it makes no sense, at all, to skip or postpone the alphabet with infants and toddlers.
What are phonograms?
Phonograms are symbols that consist of the letters of the alphabet, including certain specific combinations of two or more letters. The letters of the alphabet and their combinations represent the sounds of speech, which are called phonemes. Being able to differentiate the sounds of speech is a major milestone for a baby. This ability is called phonemic awareness. The Alphabet Song lays a solid foundation for a child's gaining of phonemic awareness.
In addition, singing the ABC Song and reciting the alphabet stimulates the child's curiosity and interest in the Alphabet Flashcards, which cards partially uncover the mystery of the alphabet –since the child is wondering what ABC etc. is all about, having had the ABC Song frequently sung to him
Alphabet Phonograms With Words
Continue singing the ABC Song, and the child will eventually learn it by heart. Because most of the sounds the letters represent are contained within the very names of the letters, the child who is familiar with the alphabet will have a solid foundation for learning letter sounds (phonemes), which can then be taught with the Alphabet Phonograms With Words Flashcards. (As an aside, I never had flashcards or studied phonograms –but I did know the alphabet and ABC Song by heart. That is the only reason I was able to sound out words, unaided by phonics.)
With knowledge of phonograms, or phonemic awareness, words can then be decoded. Teaching phonograms is key to understanding how to decode words, which is pivotal to reading and is a vital part of the Home Reading Program.
Show the alphabet phonograms two or three times without the accompanying words. After the phonograms have first been presented and the child is somewhat familiar with them, show the phonograms again with the words.
The child has now placed his feet firmly on the path to literacy, as phonograms plus words are what leads to early reading. The child's finding that he is able to decode the words that you give him uncovers the rest of the mystery, which, because of the child's natural curiosity, he is eager to pursue. Once he gets the idea of what phonogram letters and words are all about, there will be no stopping him. He will gladly take in as much as you can give him.
Human beings love mysteries, so why not create a mystery for the child to grapple with by singing the ABC Song and then following up with the Alphabet Flashcards –culminating in the child's learning phonograms and reading words?
PHONOGRAMS WITH WORDS
After presenting the Alphabet Flashcards a few times, the program quickly moves on to alphabetic phonograms, which are the beginning phonograms depicting the phonemes that the alphabetic characters represent.
The alphabet phonograms are the beginning phonograms. In addition, you can download Intermediate Phonograms with Words and Advanced Phonograms with Words. The Home Reading Program moves on quickly so as to maintain the child's interest. It is not necessary to belabor phonograms.
With each phonogram flashcard there is a word for each phoneme, which is shown on the back of the flashcard. With the Home Reading Program, phonemes are taken one-at-a- time. This makes it much easier for parents to work with the program. There is no need to remember strings of phonemes accompanying phonograms having multiple sounds –such as "ough", which has six phonemes.
In addition, the phonogram being shown stands out in the word, and words are selected so that the child will have an easier time of decoding them when the word is first presented.
(Editor's note: I hope to be able to offer in the future a more advanced reading program that moves on to phrases, sentences and creating books.)
Download All The Flashcards
Flashcards are double-sided, showing uppercase and lowercase letters. Flashcards teach vowels and consonants, also.
Magenta Phonograms with Words
All of the alphabetic phonograms, from "a" to "z", are presented, at least, once before showing the accompanying word flashcards. The phonograms are colored magenta and the phonogram being learned stands out in the word, as the other letters of the word are shown in black.
Words are selected so that the child will have an easier time of decoding them when the word is first presented.
BEGINNING PHONOGRAMS WITH WORDS
These are the Alphabetic Phonogram Flashcards. Some alphabetic characters (letters of the alphabet) have more than one phoneme (letter sound). Flashcards are double-sided and each phoneme has its own phonogram flashcard. Phonograms are presented with words containing the phoneme being learned, which word is shown on the other side of the flashcard –totaling 42 flashcards, with one flashcard for each phoneme.
INTERMEDIATE PHONOGRAMS WITH WORDS
Intermediate phonograms contain two or more alphabetic characters that combined have one sound only. Flashcards are double-sided with the phonogram on one side and the word accompanying the phonogram on the other side.
ADVANCED PHONOGRAMS WITH WORDS
Advanced phonograms combine two or more alphabetic characters, which combined contain two or more phonemes. Each phoneme, or sound the phonogram represents, has its own flashcard showing the phonogram and a word containing the phoneme on the other side of the flashcard.
Black Phonograms with Words
For those without a color printer the phonograms are colored black and stand out. The rest of the letters comprising the words are colored gray. Instructions for using the black phonograms are the same as the instructions shown above.
BEGINNING PHONOGRAMS WITH WORDS - BLACK
INTERMEDIATE PHONOGRAMS WITH WORDS - BLACK
ADVANCED PHONOGRAMS WITH WORDS - BLACK
All-Black Word Flashcards
The words are the same as the words in the Phonograms with Words Flashcards, but there are no standout phonograms. All of the letters are uniformly colored black. Soon after the child is given a phonogram and shown the accompanying word containing the standout phonogram, he should be given the same word, again, shown with all black letters.
With the standout phonograms the focus is mainly upon the primary phonogram and phoneme being learned in the word, whereas, with the black lettered words the main emphasis is placed upon decoding the entire word. Each phonogram and phoneme found in the word is treated equally, with no particular emphasis placed on any one phonogram or phoneme.
BEGINNING WORD CARDS
INTERMEDIATE WORD CARDS
ADAVANCED WORD CARDS
I recommend reading the following articles:
TEACH YOUR BABY TO READ
READING PREPARATION IN INFANCY
MAKE LEARNING TO READ PLAY
If you are looking to purchase a phonics program, you should be able to find just what you are looking for by going to this PAGE. (There are many programs to choose from.)