Together, the Memoria Press books First Start Reading and Classical Phonics by Cheryl Lowe make a comprehensive program for teaching reading and writing. I've taught four of our children to read, thus far, and here's what I really like about First Start Reading.
- It integrates reading and writing in a way I haven't seen before. I've used a popular phonics book to teach reading in the past that leaves you on your own for the writing component. First Start Reading includes guided printing practice for every sound and sound blend.
- It's organized into three workbooks that provide progressively more difficult reading and printing assignments. In lesson 5 of Book A, your child is reading "I am Sam." By lesson 31 of Book C, your child is reading a three paragraph story about a queen! (This also makes it easier to adapt for an older child or more experienced reader by just starting them in the next book up.)
- I really like that the workbooks introduce writing the words one sound component at a time. This gives your child an intuitive feel for spelling. For instance, writing the word "rest" begins with one line of the sound "st", then one line of the sound "est" emphasizing "e" connected to "st", then one line of the sound "r" connected to the sound "est", and finally the complete word "rest".
- Dictation exercises provide listening and spelling practice while learning to read. This is something that's been missing for us in the past. Before, I taught my kids to read first and then worried about spelling later. I'm learning that it's SO much easier to teach spelling alongside reading! (And I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY wish I'd started doing dictation exercises with my 8 year old when she was 5 and just learning to read!!!)
- Drawing pictures of objects that begin with the sound being taught provide opportunities for artistic expression, but more importantly (to me, anyway) they help solidify the connection between the written letter and its sound.
- Your child can't fake it by looking at the pictures with First Start Reading because there are no pictures! In fact, in First Start Reading after reading the story, your child will be asked to illustrate the passage, thus demonstrating their level of comprehension. (As a mother of a very smart 5 year old who likes to look at pictures and guess the sentence, I LOVE this!)
- The dictation exercises and drawing component make this a Charlotte Mason-friendly approach to teaching reading and writing.
- Classical Phonics provides all the word lists for sounds and sound blends in one place! What a great reference to have on hand!
When we received First Start Reading and Classical Phonics, my 5 year old son was already reading on a mid-late first grade level, but he lagged behind in his writing. Because of this, I went ahead and had my son start in student workbook A and he blasted through it in a week. He's now making his way through workbook B and has really improved his writing and spelling! All that by way of saying, this program is not limited to kids who are just learning to read.
OK, my son is a bit of a ham. Your five year old might not enjoy First Start Reading as much as mine did, but it really is a confidence-building reading program! In fact, First Start Reading and Classical Phonics are really more than just a reading program. With phonics lessons and guided-writing practice, Spelling/dictation exercises, and reading comprehension assessment, First Start Reading and Classical Phonics constitute a comprehensive Kindergarten/First Grade Language Arts curriculum.
First Start Reading from Memoria Press for $29.95 including the teacher's guide or for $21.00 for just the student workbooks A, B, and C, but not the teacher's guide. Personally, I don't think the teacher's guide is necessary, but it does contain about 250 pages of scripted lessons for those who are looking for that. Classical Phonics: A Child's Guide to Word Mastery is available for $14.95 and would be a great addition to any reading curriculum you're already using.
Don't forget to check out other TOS crew reviews of First Start Reading and Classical Phonics!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Memoria Press's First Start Reading and Classical Phonics in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed above are my own.