Over the years that I've been homeschooling, I've tried several beginning reader programs and seen even more. I think nearly all of the programs I've seen can teach a child to read. The trick, therefore, is finding the program that's the best fit for both the student and the teacher.
ABeCeDarian Company has developed "a research based, explicit, comprehensive, multi-sensory decoding program" that focuses on phonics and reading fluency. The Level A program is intended for very beginning readers up to those reading at a mid-1st grade reading level. The Level B program is for mid-1st grade through 2nd grade readers.
Lauren has been using the Level B1 materials over the past few weeks. We received the Teacher's Manual, the Student Workbook, and the ABeCeDarian Aesop reader.
I've found several ways that ABeCeDarian stands out as different than other learn-to-read programs that I've used.
1. The materials are easy to use. I spent a few days reading the introductory teaching materials so that I understood the author's approach towards reading instruction, especially the parts about correcting a student's errors. The individual lessons are scripted for the teacher.
2. The materials combine both reading and spelling skills. Each lesson includes words to write as well as words to decode. I was particularly pleased to see that ABeCeDarian uses double-line in their student workbook. It made it easy for Lauren to transition between our handwriting program and this workbook.
3. ABeCeDarian teaches the child to identify sounds in the words, not just letters. For instance, one of Lauren's recent lessons covered words that make an /er/ sound. By learning to identify the letter combination ir as making the sound /er/, Lauren can see that "bird" is made of three sounds: b ir d. Learning to see words as a series of sounds, it prevents some common mistakes in rearranging the letters within the words (in this case, brid instead of bird).
4. My favorite part of these reading materials is the Reading Chain in each unit. A reading chain is a series of words with each word differing from the previous one by only one sound. Lauren is forced to pay attention to the details when she's reading these sections; she's not able to just glance at a few of the letters and guess at the word.
What did we think?
I was very impressed with the way the ABeCeDarian focuses both on decoding words phonetically and on developing reading fluency. Before moving from one lesson to the next, the student is expected to read all of the target words and sentences easily. Each lesson also has a corresponding passage in the Aesop reader. The goal for reading the passages is that the student will have to sound out two or fewer words per page.
Lauren did well with this reading program, and I think she's made significant progress in terms of decoding multi-syllable words. She will now attempt unfamiliar words by breaking them down into smaller pieces that she can decode. Her only objection to these materials is that there is a specific approach used for each workbook page, and she much prefers to do things her own way.
The ABeCeDarian materials are suitable for beginner readers. The workbooks are straight forward and not at all babyish which would make them suitable for an older student that's still at the learning to read stage.
For the Level B1 materials, the Teacher's Manual costs $25.50, the Student Workbook costs $10.25, and the Aesop reader costs $2.50. The Level A1 and A2 materials are priced similarly.