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07 Feb, Tuesday
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Montreal Families

Learning how to read – one step at a time

When it comes to learning how to read, each child seems to take a different route. Some simply start reading on their own, often surprising parents with the ease in which they string letters into words and then into full sentences. Other children labour hard to figure out the meaning of those mysterious squiggles on the page. But whether a child finds it easy, tough or somewhere in-between, parents are often looking out for books that will help young people master the art of reading. 

One way is to use a step-by-step reading program such as the one created by Usborne Children’s Books, a publishing house based in Britain. These books are sold in Montreal by consultants (often parents who like running a business from home.)

Hilary Jones, a Montreal-based Usborne consultant, says the books provide children with a solid base for reading.

The Very First Reading Series consists of 13 books and is based on the synthetic phonics method of teaching reading. Synthetic phonics introduces children to phonemes or the sounds that letters make on their own and when they are combined, for instance T-H or E-A. The English language has 44 phonemes, which is more than most. It may sound complicated, but thankfully, the series comes with a helpful guide for parents.

This first series is designed to be read in a certain order. At the beginning of each book, there are instructions for parents so they understand how the book works. The first few books are to be read with the parent and the child. The parts read by the child are simple and lean towards alliteration and repetition so that the children can really seize the words and sounds properly.

For Jones, one of the most appealing parts about the books is that parents and children read them together, which is particularly important for emphasizing the value of reading to your child. Eventually, children will be able to read the last few books in the series on their own, although a parent should still be present to encourage their children through any difficult spots.

Each book features puzzles and games related to the story to reinforce learning as well as a set of notes that include a breakdown of what the child is supposed to learn from the book and a series of frequently asked questions and answers for parents. It is rare to see so much detail and thought put into such a series of books. The amount of space dedicated to questions parents may have is commendable as encouragement and guidance from mom and dad have a big impact on a child’s desire to read.

After making their way through the 13 books in the series, children move on to the First Reading series, which has four levels, and then on to the Young Reading series, which has three levels. The books in each of these levels do not necessarily need to be read in any particular order. In fact, each level intentionally has a huge selection of titles (over one hundred) to ensure that there is something to appeal to all tastes. There are imaginative non-fiction titles that touch on sports, inventions, history and biographies, and fiction books that include the re-telling of fables, folk tales, multicultural stories and classics.

The books gradually get more complex and challenging, eventually adding in chapters and full pages of text, which slowly builds the confidence kids need to keep moving further along the wonderful road of reading.

The books range in price between $7.95 and $9.95. Usborne currently has a promotion on an introductory package of the Very First Reading series, which includes the first two books in the series and the parents’ guide for $7.95. For a list of local Usborne book
consultants, visit www.usborne.ca. Hilary Jones can be reached at (514) 697-6102 or at hilaryusborne@yahoo.ca.

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