When I started teaching Kai how to read, I taught him all the letter and sounds simply by using the Starfall app (here). I did not intentionally teach phonics. There were no desks, no papers, and no instructions. But what ‘phonics instruction’ looks like to a 2-3 year old is very different from what you might find in the classroom. A lot of it comes from reading books, watching videos, playing games, and in my case, learning from a well-designed app. However, when my 3 year-old has already mastered the letter sounds of a-z, I did not know what I should do next. I mean, should I teach him how to write, or should I focus on reading? Should I teach him how to blend words or should I teach long and short vowel sounds? Lightning struck when a mom recommended this book to me: “Teach your child to read it in 100 Easy Lesson”
Link on Amazon US (here)
Link on Book Depository (here)
If you are reading this blog, chances are that you have already read a few things about this book and you’d like a second opinion. You are probably asking yourself, “Should I buy this book?” “When should I start exactly?” “How should I start?” “How closely should I follow it?” and ultimately, “Will it teach my child to read?” I will address all of these questions, as well as life lessons that I learned about ‘learning’ from working with Kai.
This is also the second part to my previous blog “Teaching my child to read using traditional VS technology-based resource (PART 1) where I described how I used other (digital) resources to support Kai’s reading. Please note that Kai only receives ONE English instructions class a week at school since he attends full Japanese school
“Should I buy this book?”
Yes. This book works for me because it is very structured, and shows me exactly what I have to say, or what to show on which day. This works for me also because, as a teacher, I can use my experience to guide me on which parts to skip. I can also pretty much improvise my lesson at a glance of the book. For most moms/dads, the detailed script could be stressful to follow. However, I do believe that after a few lessons, most should get the flow of how the lessons go, and might not need to follow everything as highlighted to a tee. It is also better to have a script a.k.a. lesson plan, rather than not, because you can always re-word or simplify it in a way that works for you and your child.
This is an example of the script from the first lesson.
I did start supplementing the lessons with Jolly Phonics from around Lesson 70 and onwards when the symbols (initially designed to help pronounce silent letters, long and short vowels), are removed.
The book refers this as altered orthography.
For me, it just made more sense to introduce certain sounds rather than the altered version. For instance, I felt that recognising diphthongs such as au, ie, oo, oy, ew as a chunk would be helpful. That is why I paused at lesson 70, and went back to it after Kai thoroughly learned them through Jolly Phonics as circled below. Here is a link to my post that is related to Jolly Phonics (here)
There is no reason why you should not give this book a try. If you are open-minded, and flexible enough to modify the lessons according to your child’s need and development, this book provides a great guide to begin the journey of understanding phonics instruction.
“When should I start?”
I started when Kai was exactly 3.5 years old. I read that most parents start using this book for children from age 5. Because I started Kai at such an early age, I did stop at around Lesson 50 and repeated the lessons from Lesson 1. Reinforcing was important to retain what he learned previously. I also paused at around Lesson 70 and introduced Jolly Phonics.
As mentioned earlier, I started after Kai had learned all the names of the alphabets as well as his letter-sounds. I imagine it might be challenging to depend solely on ONE resource to teach all the alphabet names and letter-sounds.
“How should I start?”
Take your time to read through the PARENT’S GUIDE which will guide you through the Distar program, which is what this book is based on. The following two sections from the guide were also helpful for me. One is an illustration and the other a pronunciation guide. I also found this blog helpful if you want an overview on teaching letters and letter-sounds (Tips for teaching letters and letter-sounds)
“How closely should I follow the book?”
I did not follow this book closely partly because I started woking on this with Kai when he was only 3.5 years old. So developmentally, I had to make tailored adjustments to suit Kai. Here is a list of the things that I did NOT follow:
- did not spend 20 minutes on each lesson (it was more like 5-10 minutes)
- rarely did the entire lesson in one go.
- did not finish 100 lessons in 100 days. It took me one full year to finish the book!
- did not have Kai write the letters of the alphabet until he turned 4.
- did not introduce rhymes AT ALL using the book.
- made my own reading comprehension questions rather than using the ones set by the books.
Here are the things I DID do:
- followed my finger on the lines and dots as suggested.
- only did one lesson a day at most.
- did not skip any lessons although I skipped certain tasks.
- previewed the lesson before teaching it.
- always always always re-read the entire story to Kai so he can listen and understand it better.
- I reviewed regularly.
- I wrote the target words in a separate notebook so I can carry it with me on the plane, in the car, and on our vacations, etc.
“Will it teach my child to read?”
Here is a video of Kai at 4 and a half years old reading his Lesson 89 passage:
So the answer is … YES!
But did I use this book entirely to teach Kai to read? No. This book provided a good framework for me to get started on phonics instructions beyond teaching letter-sounds. It motivated me to allocate a time of the day to teach reading explicitly (apart from reading books to Kai). It allowed me to explore other multi-sensory techniques to reinforce words the had already learned since the book did not provide any. We started this book in April 2019. We finished this book in June 2020 when Kai was 4.5 years old. This means, it has taken us an entire year to complete!
(I’d like to mention here as well that although some parents might not like how there is only one small illustration to support the story, I personally like it. This is how I knew that Kai can read. He relies on blending the letter-sounds to figure out the words rather than rely on pictures. And most importantly, I use this as an instructional tool so I feel justified that little-to-no illustrations is ok! For all other books that he reads for pleasure, there are plenty of illustrations that go with the stories!)
What important lessons have I learned from this book?
I felt a little emotional as Kai and I are finishing the last 10 lessons of this book. I have been teaching for over 15 years, but never have I taught a child to read right from the start. This book has become part of our routines, quality time, and has accompanied us to numerous family trips around the world. I thought I should take the time to reflect on the important lessons that I learned from my experience:
Lesson 1: Once you set to do something, finish it
There is a Chinese saying that I found to be inspirational while working through this book: 做事要有始有終。When you start something it is important to complete it. Once I have made up my mind to use this book, I stuck with it until the very last page. Even when I felt that the lessons were too difficult for Kai halfway through the book, I used other lessons to supplement the program, and then went back to the book. This is the philosophy that I wanted to show Kai as well. Although we don’t always finish the entire lesson every time, Kai needs to finish the sentence that he promised he’d do. And then, we always always always finish the lesson even at another time. Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, lesson by lesson…although it has taken us one full year, we have worked step-by-step to the end of the program!
Lesson 2: Push yourself just a little bit more
There are times when Kai initiates, “Mama, I want to practice,” yet there are other times when Kai expresses reluctance. There are also times when Kai is so distracted he cannot sound out any words in the sentence (as you can imagine, this requires a lot of concentration). When this happens, I always encourage him to “do a little bit more” just to show that he could finish the entire sentence if he pushed himself a little harder.
Lesson 3: Trust research, but also trust your understanding of your child
Yes, the book suggests spending 20 minutes on each lesson. The book suggests doing things a certain way, and I’m sure there is enough research to back up the methodology that the book uses, BUT ultimately, I know my child the best. So if you feel that some parts of book do not work for your child, do try to figure out a way to make it work!
Lesson 4: Celebrate success, big and small
We make a huge deal every time he finishes his target (sometimes it could just be a few sentences if Kai isn’t in the mood, but it is whatever he has promised to do), or the ENTIRE STORY! We also had a small celebration when he reached Lesson 50 of the book. Every milestone is important, and I wanted to take every opportunity to tell Kai how hard he’s worked, how he didn’t give up, and how proud he should be.
Lesson 5: Process is just as important as the outcome
It has been such a humbling and rewarding experience to be able to work with my child, guiding him step-by-step to learn this very complex skill called READING. Through this process, Kai learned how to persevere, and figure out problems on his own before rushing to get help. He learned to be tolerant of mistakes he makes, and sentences that he doesn’t finish. He learned that by being consistent, patient and motivated, he will one day see success.
To Kai: I’m so happy for you Kai Kai! You are my inspiration to write this blog. I hope one day, you will look back to this day and realize how hard you have worked. Once you learn to read, you can never un-do this skill! I am so extremely proud of you and I love you!
This is the last page of the book. We had a small celebration after!
You may also follow me on Instagram @msclaudia331 for more literacy ideas (My account is private).
I can also be reached by email email@example.com . I’d love to connect!
UPDATE AS OF MAY 2021
I recently finished this “Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons” again with my youngest child a few days before he turned 4 years old! This book continues to be a valuable resource for me, and I hope this post reaches anyone who is struggling to guide their child to read at home!
For literacy-related posts as a follow up to using this book, please click on the links below:
4 thoughts on “A mother’s takeaways from- “Teach your child to read it in 100 Easy Lesson””
WOW, Kai – you can read! What a fantastic, user-friendly, practical resource for all parents of young children. Well done, you have included so many of the key foundational principles of introducing phonics. I am amazed at both of you, and of course super proud of Kai. Keep up the great work, mom and son!
You always looking for how to teaching your kids as well as possible and well, you really do that. Then, you share everything that you think useful.
Thank you so much. You are an amazing mother!