In my opinion, the hardest part of teaching a child to read is finding decent reading material.
No, really. That's it: the hardest part. It's not selecting a curriculum, explaining blends, or motivating a reluctant reader. Uh-uh. It's finding something decent for the child to test their budding skills on.
There are options. Hoo, boy ... are their options. Sadly, they range from the inane to the insane. If I had a dime for every time Jo looked at me, cocked her head and asked why on earth she should care that "Pat can tap a hat" ... I'd be a rich momma. And that's no joke.
My solution to avoiding the entire bland genre of See Dog Run has thus far been to spend a couple of afternoons whipping up a handful of handmade, customized readers. Right about the time each of my children has sat on the cusp of literacy, I have pulled together what professional educators would call, "high-interest, phonetically controlled primers." I target the child's specific bent. (Jo's revolved around pets, Atticus' around a superhero named Rad Chad, and Logan's around Star Wars ... which probably means that I owe George Lucas lots of money.) I kept it simple. I used some free clip art from the internet. Then I printed up a couple of copies, stapled them into booklets and sat down to read them with my offspring. When they finished a book, they got to color the illustrations.
It worked well. But you won't be surprised by this next statement: It was a reasonable bit of work.
What I wanted was a high-quality, classic set of readers that neither confounded my children's ability to reason nor insulted their intelligence. I also preferred that the vocabulary not be so limited as to impede actual comprehension. I found a handful of things that fit the bill over the years, but not enough to form a library.
But, thankfully, I can now look forward to teaching Oli and Manolin with a whole new set of readers: AAS's Beehive Readers. I received a copy of Beehive Reader 1 for review and was instantly struck by how lovely this book is. This is the kind of tome that presents reading as a lovely, cherished thing. The hardcover is a nice touch, and the illustrations are simply enchanting. To tell you just how compelling the actual packaging of the book is, know this: I left the book on the kitchen counter while I made dinner. In that 45 minutes, Jo, Atticus, Logan, and Mr. Blandings all walked by. Each one of them stopped to pick up the book, asked what it was, and thumbed through it. Jo smiled at several of the animal illustrations and declared them, "adorable." Logan sat down with the book and read from it until dinner was ready, despite being able to polish off Boxcar Children books quite well at this point.
The stories themselves are far more interesting than your garden variety primers. There is no drivel-y patting of hats. Instead, children are lured in to the very first story with a soft-focus pencil illustration of a sweet girl named Jill holding a wet frog. Later on, there are camping adventures, grumpy ducks, castles, and puppies falling out of teacups.
This is the kind of silly yet drawing literature that children need to spark a love of reading; Not the dry, foolish absurdities one finds in 95% of what is marketed as first reading material.
As an added bonus, if you're already using the All About Spelling Program, this reader will correspond perfectly with the lessons being taught in level 1. Please don't think that it's only for users of AAS programs, however--even if you're not using AAS, I recommend this primer. This book is available from the AAS website for $19.95, and while I don't think it will completely replace the need for some of Oliver's very own Oli Readers, I am certainly glad to have it in our library for new readers to enjoy!
Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.