Memoria Press Review by Tamara: First Start Reading

I had the chance to review First Start Reading from Memoria Press, which sells for $42.95.  Although this program is designed for an older child, we used this with my 3 ½ year old daughter. She is able to sing her ABC’s, cut with scissors, and draw well with a pencil, so we decided she was ready for a gentle introduction to phonics.

This program is wonderful! It could easily be stretched over two years (pre-K-K or K-1).  It begins with simple phonemes like /m/ and /s/ and concludes with consonant blends and “magic e” words. By the time a student finished book D, she will be reading 4-5 sentence paragraphs.

The program features a large teacher’s guide, which gives simple scripts and questions to guide the student in his lesson. Four student books (A-D) accompany the TG. The lessons generally span two pages and are easily accomplished in 20-30 minutes or less. They usually include a new rule or phoneme, some handwriting practice, a few lines of reading, and a space for the student to draw. There was enough variety that Leah had no problems staying focused on the lesson until its completion. As the student progresses to the last two workbooks, fun stories are included. My kindergarten son read several of these later stories to me and declared them to be “very cool.” I was appreciative of the natural syntax in the stories, as some readers we have used feature very strange and stilted verbiage.

The teacher is encouraged to read aloud often to the child while completing the program.  Listening to Mom read was our reward for finishing each lesson. Other skills emphasized in the program are proper pencil grip, ear training, punctuation, and capitalization. This program would be an excellent stand-alone language arts curriculum for K-1st.

Be sure to read what our other reviewers had to say about this and other Memoria Press products.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of myself or my family and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sandbox to Socrates blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor was I required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

by Tamara –  Tamara is a proud Kansas City native who was transplanted to Texas thirteen years ago. She has three boys and three girls, and is currently in her seventh year of homeschooling. Several of her children have struggled with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and other learning challenges. She tells them often that God must have something amazing for them in the future, as they are learning perseverance now.

Advertisements

Longer Books to Read Aloud to Younger Children, by Jane-Emily

 

As a new mom, I couldn’t wait to start reading to my baby.  You know how it is; you’re just so excited about everything!  We read picture books together all the time, but by the time she was 3 or so I was just dying to read her longer books too, a chapter at a time.  Of course I was jumping the gun; she was not ready yet!  I had to wait a little while.  As my girls got bigger, though, I read to them quite a lot, and eventually made a list of my favorite read-alouds for ages 3-6 to share with my friends.

Most children will probably not be ready to listen to chapter stories until age 3.5 – 4.  It might be longer than that.  And, although most parents seem to immediately think of Winnie-the-Pooh, I found through personal experience that some other books with simpler storylines and larger illustrations should come first.  So, in order from simplest to more complex, here is my list of favorites:

  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett  This is a wonderful book to start with, featuring Elmer Elevator’s adventures with a baby dragon.  There are 3 books.  The first one has an odd habit of calling the protagonist “my father” instead of Elmer, but you can edit as you read if you wish.  My daughter promptly made Elmer Elevator her first imaginary friend, and we took him everywhere for a month or so.
  • 6a00cdf3ac0c23cb8f00cdf7f2f741094f-500piJenny and the Cat Club by Ester Averill Jenny is a shy black cat who longs to join the Cat Club.  She has several books of adventures and they are wonderful. (Don’t miss her friend, Pickles the Fire Cat.  He has his own easy reader.)
  • All About Sam by Lois Lowry  Funny stories about life from a baby-to-preschooler perspective.  There are four Sam books and the first two are the best, but they’re all fun.
  • The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley This sweet and very English book has stories of everyday life in a village.  Milly-Molly-Mandy has many gentle adventures that show how much a little girl can do.
  • Tales from Grimm  Most ‘real’ fairy tales are too intense and complex for little ones, but this selection from the author of Millions of Cats is an excellent first book of fairy tales.
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder The rest of these classics should wait a while, but this first title is perfect for a 4-5 year-old child.
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary My favorite ‘first Beverly Cleary’ book, in which Ralph the mouse meets a boy–and they bond over their mutual love of toy cars.  Ralph is just the right size to ride the motorcycle…follow Ralph through 3 books.
  • Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aiken Arabel is a sweet little girl; Mortimer is her horrible and beloved pet raven.   There are 3 books, and they are so funny.   Mortimer destroys everything in sight, but Arabel can’t live without him.
  • The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon One of my favorite books ever, this is a  collection of fairy tales by one of my favorite authors.  Some are too long for younger children, and some are perfect.  Try “The Lady’s Room” first.
  • Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson Moomintroll and his motley collection of friends have adventures in the forest.  There are several strange and wonderful books in this series.
  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor A warm and classic story about a Jewish family of 5 sisters in 1912 New York on the Lower East Side.  Very popular with girls, probably not so much for boys, but there ARE boys so give it a try.
  • Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers If you’ve never read these before, you’ll discover that Mary is impatient, cross, vain, and always denies everything, but is nevertheless beloved by her often-naughty charges.  Lots of fun.  (If you have a pre-1981 edition, just edit the chapter about the compass adventure as you read.)
  • Nurse Matilda: The Collected Tales by Christianna Brand Speaking of nanny stories, here’s a very funny one.  You might know this book as the inspiration for the film Nanny McPhee.
  • The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne  Of course.  Just not for the first read-aloud. 🙂

By the time your child is old enough to enjoy the last few books on this list, the possibilities will widen out considerably.  There are so many wonderful books out there to read to your child!  I could go on listing titles for a long time, but my aim here is to provide a list of excellent books to ease into reading aloud a chapter at a time.

All of these books will also come in handy later on as your child learns to read independently.  My Father’s Dragon, Jenny and the Cat Club, and the others may be enjoyed for years to come.  Be sure to have your child read aloud a bit to you every so often!

Jane-Emily homeschools two daughters in California.  She is a librarian who loves tojane-emily quilt and embroider, and she’s a Bollywood addict.  Her favorite author is Diana Wynne Jones. She blogs about reading at Howling Frog Books.

In Defense of Twaddle

by Jane-Emilytwaddle

Twaddle is Charlotte Mason’s term for junk literature — books that are unworthy of attention because they are drivel.  Easy series books, comic books — everything that is more brain candy than solid nutrition.  It’s a wonderfully expressive term, too.  I just love calling things twaddle, don’t you?

Living books, on the other hand, are good literature that provide real mental stimulation, an imaginative journey that sticks with the reader.  While I certainly agree that living books are the best kind, I have developed a strong opinion that twaddle has a worthy place in a child’s library and should not be avoided.  So here is my theory — in defense of twaddle.

Any parent of a small child knows that little ones love repetition.  A preschooler will ask for the same book over and over and over again, until the long-suffering mother is ready to set a match to the thing.  Susan Wise Bauer often talks about this love of repetition as a child’s way of figuring out what things in the world stay the same, and what things change.  In a big world where so much is completely unpredictable from a child’s point of view, the fact that Green Eggs and Ham always ends with the fellow eating green eggs and liking them is a happy confirmation that some things don’t change.

As the child grows older, she learns to read.  She is no longer quite so interested in reading the exact same story over and over again, but she still enjoys repetition throughout the grammar stage.   Reading is very hard work that takes a lot of energy at first, and a child learning to read is navigating quite a bit of unknown territory.  Easy series books — stuff like Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones, and the worst of the lot, Rainbow Fairies — provide practice with reading skills and story structure while remaining comfortingly predictable.  You never have to worry that Jack and Annie will get stuck; they always make it home.  Rachel and Kirsty will always be able to help the fairy and defeat the goblins.  Comic books will do the same thing.  There are no nasty surprises, and meanwhile there is enough variety to keep things interesting as the child absorbs vocabulary, develops reading ease and speed, and enjoys reading.  Twaddle provides repetition with variation, and that is the perfect formula for a beginning reader in the grammar stage.

I want to say it louder: twaddle provides repetition with variation.  It’s the next step up from reading the same picture book over and over again.

Meanwhile, it’s your job as the parent to require a little quality challenge as well.  Reading excellent literature aloud to your child stocks his mind with language that is far above what he can actually read.  It teaches him to appreciate a really great story with good writing, and allows him to focus all his energy on listening and comprehending.  At this age and for years to come, your child will comprehend more through listening than he will through reading, so you can read a complex story to a beginning reader very happily.  Reading aloud is an important activity for a long time, longer than we usually realize.   (I have a theory about that too!)

Of course, you can andtwaddle2 should require your child to read quality literature for school time.  This is where you can make sure that she reads living books if she isn’t reading them on her own.  If she is reluctant but it isn’t that it’s too difficult for her, try having her read aloud with you, alternating paragraphs.

I am a great believer in requiring some reading and allowing free choice for more reading.  A child ought to have both, and my preference is for more freedom than not.  I get so discouraged when I see children who have to do so much required reading from a list (for, say, the Accelerated Reader program, which I really dislike) that they never get to choose their own books!   It’s hugely important that a child have some autonomy about what to read, and in my opinion that should include the freedom to read twaddle.  Exerting too much control over a child’s reading choices can so easily crush the joy out of it.

So I say bring on the Rainbow Fairies, insipid and saccharine little nothings that they are.  They’ll be outgrown soon enough, and the child will go on to better things, having practiced the skills that make more difficult reading enjoyable.

Addendum, 10/18/13: Neil Gaiman, intelligent fellow that he is, agrees with me, and incidentally manages to pack in a lot of other things I also agree with.  Please enjoy this wonderful speech he gave at The Reading Agency.

Jane-Emily homeschools two daughters in California.  She is a librarian who loves to quilt and embrjane-emilyoider, and she’s a Bollywood addict.  Her favorite author is Diana Wynne Jones. She blogs about reading at Howling Frog Books.