Books, materials and tips for beginner readers

Parentree-editors 2009-01-05 09:44:31

Early reading helps a child gain confidence and early proficiency in different areas. Kids can also enjoy the pleasure of reading and this can mean more spare time for you. You can encourage early reading by reading aloud to them and other tips and tricks like encouraging them to read signs, product labels, writing notes in their school snack box etc.

There are also many materials – books, phonics programs, and children's software that can work wonders in facilitating reading, and fostering a lifelong love for stories, reading and language in young children. Make sure that you are aware of these materials, research these and decide how best to select and use these books and materials. This is the focus of this article.

First some light on terms used.

  • Levels
    • Level 1 (Reading with help)
      • Easy 3 letter words
      • Few words (2-6) on a page, big pictures,
      • Many pictures might be black and white to make kids focus on words (example Bob Books)
    • Level 2 (Reading with help)
      • Longer and more words
      • Basic vocabulary
      • Short sentences
      • Simple stories
      • Pictures
    • Level 3 (Reading on your own)
      • More complex plots
      • More language play
      • Pictures
    • Subsequent levels involve reading paragraphs, and then chapter books and fewer and even no pictures.
  • What is phonics?
    • Phonics is the system for learning to read in schools these days. Phonics uses sound based learning research or phonetics instead of learning by rote using only alphabets. So, A is said as the sound it makes or “Aa” etc. Later the child relates the sounds to the traditional alphabet (ABC).
The following are Editors picks - from our research and experience. We have focused on reading for beginner readers - levels 1-3 or ages 4-6 years.

Books / reader series

Many of these books are a step-by-step, book-by-book program to gently guide your child through early stages of reading. This well developed, simple and progressive approach assures confidence and interest in your child, right from the early stages of reading. These are all available in most large bookstores in India.
  • Bob Books 
    • 3 levels (colour coded based on levels)
    • Usually available as a boxed set
    • One of the most simple and effective for introducing reading to your child! Warm and funny stories: "Sam sat on mat...".
  • Max books
    • Available as a set or even individually
    • Colour coded based on levels
    • Simple and popular with kids
  • Traditional reader series
    • These are colour coded based on levels and the level system might be different for different readers.
    • Some of the most popular ones are Step Into Reading, I Can Read and Scholastic readers
    • There are others like Ladybird, Hello Reader series of readers.
  • Bubbles books
    • For level 2 readers

Popular phonics programs

  • These are an extensive and progressive set of different tools for facilitating and enhancing the early reading experience - books, workbooks, cassettes, DVDs/videos, and even instructions for parents. Many preschools / schools use these as well. They can be expensive, approximately Rs 5,000 for the program. You could invest in these depending on needs, resources and the school’s handling of phonics and reading.
  • Popular programs available in India (in most big bookstores) are Jolly phonics and Hooked on Phonics.
  • Another program is Challenger (Available from the American school Challenger).

Electronic media: Children's software and websites

In addition to books and readers, there are tons of children's software or CD ROMs that are available in India these days. These can make learning to read an exciting, colourful, interactive and novel experience for children. But remember that there is nothing like sitting down with children and having human interaction for learning. CD ROMs etc. (in small doses), however can be good supplements to the traditional reading experience.
  • Some popular reading CD ROMs are listed here. The most popular is the Reader Rabbit series by The Learning Company. Some other good ones are Mia's Reading Adventure series, Dr. Seuss by Scholastic and there are many featuring popular children's characters like Blue's Clue's, Dora, Clifford, Curious George, Disney etc. Combine these shows with books involving the same character. The little one's favourite characters can hook and grip many a reluctant little reader into the reading experience. Leapfrog also makes Letter factory and Talking Words Factory DVDs that can help children learn letters, phonics and how words are formed.
  • Some popular websites: PBS kids,  Starfall, NickJr, cbeebies (BBC)

Some tips on material selection and using the material

  • Material selection
    • Use a combination of selecting yourself and having your child select. But basically get cues from your child on what interests her and follow that, instead of your agenda.That will make getting them to learn reading much easier.
    • What you select will depend on your resources, needs and the school’s handling of phonics. Some parents vouch for phonics programs and supplement these with a few books. Some rely on the schools handling of phonics and get some books etc. and so on.You will need to check these materials and find what works for you and your child.
    • The readers are expensive, so join a library or exchange with other families.
  • Use your judgment in seeing whether your child is ready and do not go strictly by age. Different children are ready at different times. Discuss with their teacher. If the child is very slow and reluctant, then give it a break and come back soon. You will be surprised at how fast their progress is once they are developmentally ready for reading and interested in reading.
  • Supplement and balance use of materials based on what is used in school and the specific needs.
  • Initially, you might need to sit with them and point fingers at the words to prompt them to read.
  • Frequency is very important. Reading one small book everyday is better than reading many in one go.
  • Little ones have very short attention spans. Start with 5 minutes a day or one book and gradually increase.
  • In the very beginning, they might be reluctant and you could read one page and have them read the other page. Better still, have their friend read one page and your child the other page. Make it a fun game. A little bit of relaxed friendly competition is fine - but refrain from comparing children.
  • In the very first stage, do not point out punctuation. But once you feel that they are reading three letter words with ease, point out punctuations  - full stop and exclamation point to start with.
  • Cuddle with them and read. Reading when children are captive and without distractions can help. For example, when they are sitting in a car.
  • Use rewards - stickers, toffees etc. But do not punish, scold or push them to read. They can get turned off to read.
  • But be firm (and gentle). It is always a delicate balance. As you persist, reading will be part of their daily routine.
  • Be patient and have fun. You will be surprised that when they are ready, how fast they learn and surprise you.
  • Do not stop reading aloud to them as well.

Ask other Parentree parents for information on some materials mentioned here and share your feedback as well.


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