SEARCHING FOR GOOD READERS
Over the course of the past year my daughters have been deep in the trenches of learning to read. It has been a learning experience for all of us, but besides me having to grow in patience, the process has been much simpler in many ways than I imagined. Maybe I can write a post on our journey another day, but today I wanted to share what I have found to be the BEST sequential phonetic readers we have used.
In our search for readers, we have tried Abeka readers (K-1st grade, which we do like overall and are still using for practice), Fitzroy readers (these are ok, but not great), Bob books, Ladybug readers, Christian Liberty Press readers, a McGuffy reader and a few others that the library had single copies of. I have also looked into many other options and samples and had not found anything that I really liked. Many "phonetic" readers include too many random sight words, which if not used with a matching reading curriculum creates confusion and frustration for the early reader. Some readers have un-engaging pictures. Some use more of a high frequency word approach where the same sentences and words are used over and over with minor changes. This makes the stories boring and easy for the child to "guess" at words.
LITTLE LEARNERS LOVE LITERACY
Thankfully we stumbled across the Little Learners Love Literacy Pip and Tim series at our local library. These books have been a delight to our homeschool. Both girls have loved reading them, and I have seen their reading skills blossom enormously since we have been working through these readers. The books have interesting and sometimes funny stories, use mainly decodable words and are very sequential and targeted in building on the sounds or phonemes that the child is learning. (I am not affiliated in ANY way with this company. This is purely my honest opinion of a resource we are enjoying).
Purchasing all of the readers would certainly be expensive, but honestly, almost all phonics readers are rather ridiculously priced (in my opinion). Unless you get readers included with your homeschool curriculum, purchasing phonics readers will be a significant cost. Definitely check your local library, but I do feel that if you have the room in your budget these books would be worth the investment. The books themselves seem to be printed on quality paper and seem they would last a long time. I would expect that books from stage 5 on in the series would be read many times over in a home library. Also resale would most likely be pretty easy as used copies are rare to find. The other option available is to download the Little Learners Love Literacy apps that include copies of all of the books in the series and are significantly less expensive that hard copies. If you do have an option though, holding a real book is decidedly superior to a digital form!
REASONS WE FELL IN LOVE
Why we love Pip and Tim:
1. They are actually decodable. No surprises. Heart words (sight words) are listed.
We have been very impressed with how decodable these books are. My girls have been able to read at their level with a high level of success which has really boosted their confidence. The phoneme knowledge needed is clearly listed in the back of the book along with any sight words used. This makes it easy to review sounds and new sight words before reading the book and sets the child up for optimal success.
2. Familiar characters and Interesting Story lines
The stories used in these readers are brilliant. Sometimes I even find myself smiling at the story line. The main characters become familiar friends for the child, while enough new characters are added along the way to keep it interesting. From having to babysit their Nan's toast eating goat to riding in hot air balloons to participating in silly sports day at their school, Pip and Tim stories are filled with interest and curiosity for the children. My daughters really love finding out what Pip and Tim will do next. My oldest will sometimes climb into my bed with a reader first thing in the morning eager to read the next one! I also love that the stories are realistic. Being Australian created readers, they also use Australian phrases and some Australian animals along the way. My Montessori leanings really make me value that my kids can relate the things happening in the stories and that the things that happen are not fantastical but still exciting.
3. Colorful, Simple Engaging Art Pip and Tim readers use cute and colorful but simple and engaging art. I find it is the perfect balance of colorful and bright to captivate the child but simple to prevent the stories from being overstimulating. I have been very impressed if you can't tell :D.
4. Discussion Questions
Every book in the series includes notes for teaching, discussion questions to check reading comprehension, and occasionally an additional activity to do to reinforce fluency or the sounds or words being taught.
5. Free and Paid Resources to go with it*
At the moment with Covid, the company is providing free access to a Google Drive folder of printables including charts, songs, games, and teacher resources. For readers still beginning to learn their letters and sound out cvc words, the downloadable version of Milo's Birthday Surprise Activity Book has been discounted to $1.00. I have found this book useful even for my more advanced readers to reinforce letter formation.
For the more advanced readers in stage 7, Teacher Activity Resource Booklets have been reduced to $25 each. These include some lesson plans, spelling practice, worksheets, games and ideas for the teacher to go along with the readers. We have found these to be helpful and the girls have enjoyed most of what we have done from them. These may not be the best investment if you are wanting to avoid worksheet based activities. They are also a little heavy on writing for my girls, but we have found the specially designed "Let's Spell" spelling sheets work well and give us a way to engage with the concepts they are learning in their reading more fully. The girls seem to enjoy the fact that this practice goes along with the Pip and Tim series.
*Update: Covid sales ended Sept 2020 since originally writing this post.
6. Chitter Chatter Chants
As a part of the Little Learners love literacy program students practice Chitter Chatter Chants, which are essentially flashcards with phrases that use the phonemes taught in the program. I have found these to be surprisingly effective. My girls will practice saying these chants on their own without prompting. We have been using the free youtube videos for practice, and I am considering purchasing the physical cards for the stages we are working through.
7. Clear Scope and Sequence
Little Learners Love Literacy also provides a clear scope and sequence for their program that is available to download or view free on their website. This is really helpful for providing a overview of what your child will and should learn and also provides a great way to know a basic sequence for teaching reading in your homeschool if you aren't using a set curriculum. I find this scope and sequence matches up overall with our Abeka readers and their Letters and Sounds workbooks and can be integrated with Montessori reading levels and hands on activities.
TRY THEM FOR YOURSELF
If you haven't stumbled across these fantastic reading resources before, you should definitely check them out and add the readers and free resources to your homeschool! We are loving reading with Pip and Tim in our home!
Have you tried Pip and Tim readers? Other products from Little Learners Love Literacy? What did you think? What readers have you found most effective for teaching reading? Leave a comment below.