Teaching My Baby To Read

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Moving on to Super Why

“Who’s got the power, the power to read?”  Dang that song is catchy!  If you have even seen Super Why then you know what I’m talking about.

Today was Jenna’s last day of watching Rusty and Rosy, for a long time.  She is 20.5 months old now, and has been watching it for almost two months.  I’ll still bring it Rusty and Rosy every once in a while if she asks for it, but we are now moving on.  Ideally, I’d like her to watch Leapfrog’s Letter and Talking Words Factory.  http://www.amazon.com/LeapFrog-Talking-Roy-Allen-Smith/dp/B0000INU6I  But our library’s computer system is being upgraded and I can’t put it on hold yet.  So in the meantime, we are going to start watching Super Why on PBS.  http://pbskids.org/superwhy/

Super Why has improved a lot over the past few years.  The first season it only used upper case letters as I recall.  Now they do a whole bunch with lower case, which is great.  I’m aiming to have Jenna watch Super Why once a day, with myself sitting next to her encouraging her to identify letters.

Hooked On Phonics

Recently, my friend C. suggested looking into the Hooked on Phonics books, as colorful, more interesting alternatives to the Bob Books.  C suggested buying them on ebay, or else buying then one by one on the Hooked On Phonics website.  I can see how this would be a good way to go, because the complete kits are quite expensive.

I had never looked at Hooked on Phonics before,  but I respect C’s opinion so I decided to look at the website.  I do remember hearing that Hooked on Phonics got its big break during the Whole Language movement in the 1990s, when parents across the country were frustrated with reading instruction in their children’s schools and decided to take matters into their own hands.  For more on the Whole Language controversy, please see my post at:


Mainly out of my own curiosity as an educator, I decided to purchase the Pre K kit for Jenna.  The kit says it is for 3-4 year olds, and Jenna is only 19 months, but it covers content we have already been working on; phonemic awareness, letter identification, and letter sounds.  The total price was about $45 and included two workbooks, two sheets of stickers, two packs of flashcards, six books, and two dvds. It arrived in the mail yesterday.

The official instructions say to have your child alternate between pages in the workbook, flash card games, read aloud books, and corresponding segments of the dvd.  It really does spoon-feed parents how to teach… a three year old.  But obviously I wouldn’t have my toddler sit down and do a workbook page every day.  I’m not even sure if she is right or left handed!  We will however, look at a few workbook pages together, read the books, and play some of the flash card games.  I’ll follow Jenna’s lead in these pursuits, and let her interest guide our instruction.

What I’m really excited about however, are the movies.  They are fun, engaging, and appropriately paced for young children.  And let me tell you, I am so sick of watching “Rusty and Rosy’s Letter Sound Songs”!   These Hooked on Phonics movies are going to be a nice change.  I’m still a believer in “Rusty and Rosy”, but I’m going to alternate days with the Hooked on Phonics videos.

All of these materials are still new to me, so I’m not sure if I would recommend them or not.  At first glance, I think they are overpriced but useful.  I think C’s idea of buying the K, 1st and 2nd grade reading books piecemeal off of Ebay is a very good idea.  If they are anything like the Pre K books, they are probably a lot more engaging than Bob Books.  I’m still a big fan of Bob Books though, and they are a lot cheaper and easier to acquire.

ABC time, twenty minutes a day

Jenna is 19 months now, but a few weeks ago, when she was still just a wee young 18 months, we started ABC time on the tv.  For right now, this means watching a very old fashioned video called  Rusty and Rosie’s ABCs and Such.  We happen to have been given these videos from my Mother-in-law, but you can probably check them out from your local library for free.
Yes, yes, I know tv can be evil!   Please don’t blast me about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that children under two shouldn’t watch television.  It’s not like I’m sitting my toddler in from of “Star Wars the Clone Wars” and then going off into the living room to drink a margarita.  It’s not like that.
What I do, is I sit down with Jenna and watch as much of the video as she has the attention span at this point to get through. At first it was just two or three minutes, but we’ve been building up to about twenty.  Each time a new letter or sound comes on, I make a big deal about.  “Oh, that’s the letter S!  Sssssssssss.”  Sometimes Bruce sits with us, and plays along.
When we first started three weeks ago, Jenna  could recognize and say “O”, said “Bruce” for “B” and “mama” for “M and W”.  Today, she can recognize, say or point out the capital letters: “A, B, C, D, F, M, O, P, Q, S, U, X and Z.”  Pretty sweet!  The only other things we have been doing are reading lots of picture books (about 30-45 minutes a day, but not all at one time), and also reading some basic ABC books.
At this point, I’m going to move Jenna on to video two, “Letter Sound Songs”.  Even though she’s not demonstrating that she knows the whol alphabet, it’s time to move on.  I don’t want her to get bored, and so we’re moving on to lower case letters.
I looked in Bruce’s baby book and I had written that Bruce could say his ABCs by 18 months.  I think he also could identify them too, if I’m remembering right.  It really did just take a couple of weeks with that video.  Of course, every child is different, so it’s okay that Jenna is learning at her own pace.