READING ENHANCEMENT
PILOT PROJECT

The International Education Institute (IEI) is overseeing a Reading Enhancement Pilot Project, using a curriculum that every participating teacher says is the best they have ever seen.

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The first year of the Reading Enhancement Pilot Project involved 16 classes: 4 preschool and 12 kindergarten classes – 4 classes were privately operated and 12 of them public. In our Pilot Project Teacher Survey, every teacher -- 100% -- responded that the curriculum being tested is as good as or better than the best reading curriculum they have ever used in the past.

The second year was just as successful as the first. An ESL kindergarten class even demonstrated that it could overcome its language barriers and outperform mainstream children on a district's test in just one year on this curriculum. During this third year we have expanded the pilot project to over 2,000 children and look forward to reporting results this summer.

SURVEY OF 1ST YEAR PILOT STUDY TEACHERS

The teachers evaluated the curriculum from several perspectives, rating the curriculum with the following scoring values:

1 = Much worse than best curriculum previously used.

2 = A little worse than best curriculum previously used.

3 = About the same as best curriculum previously used.

4 = A little better than best curriculum previously used.

5 = Much better than best curriculum previously used.

Note that a score of "3" is a very good score. It means AS GOOD AS THE BEST THEY HAVE EVER USED IN THE PAST. So an average score of 4.4 on all eight of these questions about decoding, blending, vocabulary, etc., is EXTRAORDINARY.

QUESTIONS WITH AVERAGE RESPONSE:

RATING OF THE PILOT CURRICULUM                                         AVERAGE
COMPARED TO BEST CURRICULUM USED IN THE PAST         SCORE

1) In how long it takes with the Pilot curriculum for children
to learn the letter names.                                                                                         4.2

2) In how long it takes with the Pilot curriculum for children
to learn the letter sounds.                                                                                       4.6

3) In how long it takes to get children blending words.                                  4.0

4) How long it takes to get children reading complete sentences.              4.1

5) How well it helps children build reading vocabulary.                                 4.4

6) In terms of reading age, level your average reader achieved.                  4.8

7) In terms of reading age, level your better readers achieved.                    4.9

8) In terms of reading age, level your worst readers achieved.                    4.2

AVERAGE RESPONSE TO ALL QUESTIONS:                              4.4

 

PILOT TEACHER INTERVIEWS

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REVIEW OF FIRST-YEAR RESULTS
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Open-ended questions were also included in the final survey, and interviews were conducted during the year to get a better sense of what teachers liked or disliked about the Pilot curriculum. Here is a review of what the teachers had to say.

ENTIAT (WASH.) ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Kindergarten teacher Kim Remsberg of the Entiat (Wash.) Elementary School has 33 students, split between two half-day classes.

"It’s going great," says Ms. Remsberg. "They are leaps and bounds above where they were last year. I couldn’t be more pleased."

She says some of her students knew no letters or sounds when they arrived at class, but with this program knew all letters and sounds by the end of the first quarter. By mid-January, she said most of her students were "emergent readers" able to "sound out many words" and do "a lot of blending."

"I’m just really pleased. This program gives them a ton of skills. They don’t have the problem they’ve had in the past with blends. It’s really been amazing this year," she said.

INITIATIVE LEARNING CENTER IN NAMPA, IDAHO

The Initiative Learning Center in Nampa, Idaho, has 24 three-year-old preschoolers; 32 four-year-old preschoolers; and 27 kindergartners involved in the pilot project. The 4- and 5-year-olds are using primarily the Frontline Phonics program, while the 3-year-olds are using primarily the Reading Master curriculum.

Nancy McDonald, director of the private preschool, says the program has been very successful, and parents are very happy. "In fact, my other teacher is not participating this year, and her parents are complaining, so she’s decided to do it next year." Mrs. McDonald highly recommends Frontline Phonics.

Kindergarten teacher Teresa Wilkins says. "I love the program. The kids really get into it. At first I thought, ‘The boys aren’t going to get into this.’ But they really do enjoy it."

Most of her 27 students nearly completed the first set of three "prebooks" and 10 readers by mid-year. Individually, some of the students caught fire and zoomed ahead – some completing all 43 books available.

"I never had so many kindergartners reading so soon, so that’s exciting," said Ms. Wilkins.

Preschool teacher Diana Bradshaw is perhaps even more impressed with the Frontline Phonics program, although her expectations for her 4-year-olds were not as high since they meet with her only twice a week for 2½ hours a session.

"It’s the best curriculum I’ve used," she says. "It’s going wonderfully. The kids are doing fantastic."

Many of the students were reading already by mid-year, and most were expected to complete the first set of 13 books and prebooks.

SELKIRK (WASH.) ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Trish Fairbairn, kindergarten teacher at Selkirk (Wash.) Elementary School, is very pleased with what she sees in her classroom.

"The children are further along than they have ever been." In January she noted, "There is only one kid in the whole class who is not reading. But usually by this time the kids are just barely starting….

"I like it really well," she says. "What I like best is that it gets them through so quickly. When I first saw that they had two letters a week, I didn’t think they could do it," she says, but early success with prebooks gets the children excited that they can read, and away they go.

Ms. Fairbairn allocated more time to the curriculum during the second semester. But even during the first semester she arranged to have someone read with the children one-on-one every day. She had four third-graders on Tuesdays and Thursdays read with the children. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she had an aide to help, so she could read with the children herself. In the second semester she and her aide increased their individual reading time to 45 minutes a day, Monday through Friday, and are able to provide 5-10 minutes of one-on-one time a day to each child.

"The whole group will be further along than ever before," she says. "I think there are a few kids that will finish all four sets of books. … They are learning more, and the books are fantastic.…

"The children enjoy the books more than the ones I've used previously. Thanks for introducing them to us!" says Ms. Fairbairn.

She is now also using Reading Master more than previously. Her class watches about 20 minutes of the Reading Master videotapes daily after lunch, and the children are allowed to take the related books home to read with their parents.

Curriculum Director Nancy Lotze wrote: "We have been extremely pleased with the progress our students have made with these materials and hope to incorporate Frontline Phonics with our grades 1-3 Title 1/Special Education population to see if we achieve the same success."

KELSO, WASH., SCHOOL DISTRICT

Kari Arlint, kindergarten teacher at Rose Valley Elementary School in Kelso, Wash., was hindered by illness much of the year, finally having to miss a couple months of class for surgery. During that time the Pilot curriculum was not used as much as was planned.

In December, before she took her leave of absence, she already felt that "even the slow kids are 5-6 months ahead of where they would have been."

"This is just what I’ve been looking for," she said. She feels that 7-8 of her 30 half-time students were already reading past first-grade level, while slow students without much support at home were still progressing faster than before.

The music is one of the most important elements of the Frontline Phonics curriculum, she says. "The more they listen to the music, the more they like it. I was afraid they would get tired of it."

Ms. Arlint is using sixth-graders to help read with her students. She is also sending photocopies of lessons home for children to review with their parents. About 2/3 of the children are getting stickers for getting parents to sign off on the assignment.

The curriculum and the early reading success encourage parental involvement, Ms. Arlint says. "Most parents are now involved – even those who obviously haven’t been as involved with their children as they should have been in the past."

Ms. Arlint has developed puppets to go along with the curriculum so children can each, in turn, stand up with their puppet letter as the class reviews the alphabet or sings the curriculum’s Alphabet Song.

She also glued magnetic strips on the back of the letter figurines the children "earn" as they pass off each letter so the children can stick them on their refrigerators at home.

BOISTFORT (WASH.) ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

When we visited Boistfort (Wash.) Elementary School in December, we found the teachers were pleased with the pilot project, but were implementing it differently than most schools. They used the supplemental Reading Master curriculum much more than the other schools, but were behind in their use of Frontline Phonics.

Educators there were very excited about the Reading Master curriculum, although they were struggling to find a good way to provide ongoing assessment of the children’s reading progress achieved with that program.

The Reading Master system expects children to absorb reading vocabulary over a period of time using the curriculum – not necessarily letter by letter or word by word in an organized fashion. Also it offers no regular teacher’s manual with lesson plans to use in teacher-led instruction. Consequently, most teachers have been uncomfortable with its approach.

Boistfort educators, however, decided to send 5-6 preschoolers and kindergartners at a time to the library, where Nancy Reber oversees their use of Reading Master’s computerized curriculum. The expansion of vocabulary and the intellectual excitement caused by the program has the educators pleased though still puzzled about how to fully utilize the program and assess the results.

They see the curriculum as much more than a reading program, however. The curriculum includes lessons on such topics as clouds, zoo animals, birds, astronomy, horses and cats – and in all of these subjects, it refuses to speak down to the children. The books include much information that most adults do not know.

"They are definitely learning a lot," says Mrs. Reber. Older students are "in awe" of what the younger students are learning through the program. For example, some overheard the younger children talking about different breeds of horses and how horses are measured in "hands." The younger children were trying to figure out how tall a Shetland pony is, using the hands method.

Most children use the computerized system about 15 minutes a day, although some use it a second time during an after-school program. The children are very animated by the program. The educators are considering whether more than 15 minutes should be provided. They do not want the children to get bored by it. But so far there is no sign that would happen with a little additional time on the curriculum.

Mrs. Vandemeer, the special education teacher, has also found the curriculum to be very well received by her students. She has finally found a curriculum that seems to reach a fifth-grade autistic child who was not responding well to anything else. She feels Reading Master will be very valuable in helping her students with "holes" in their education.

To help with assessment, she has developed a list of vocabulary words used in each book. She also has correlated the books a little better so non-fiction books and related fiction books in the curriculum support each other better in the development of reading vocabulary.

Kindergarten teacher Kathy Gjelten of Boistfort School said feels the Frontline Phonics program needs more practice and review, so she was using other material from her files to supplement. Frontline Phonics has added another set of books to correlate exactly with the initial Blue Readers. The new Orange Readers will help provide the additional practice Ms. Gjelten felt was missing.

She did not have much support from volunteers or others in order to provide the needed one-on-one reading with the children, she said. I recommended to Principal Rich Apperson that they consider having older children read with the younger children. Studies in the past have found that older students struggling with reading greatly improved their own skills when given the chance to tutor younger children.

"I found the songs especially helpful," says Ms. Gjelten. "The children seem to really like them. The children also enjoyed the Reading Master computer CDs. They never got tired of using them."

Mrs. Reber, who worked with the children on the computers and provided various assessments, said she not only saw a lot of improvement in the assessments, but "an increase in their excitement about learning, their increase in self-esteem and computer skills, listening skills, concentration, reasoning skills and adaptability. I believe the Reading Master program, along with the Frontline Phonics, has helped these students become successful."

WESTGATE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, KENNEWICK

Debbie Clayton has a full-day ESL kindergarten class at Westgate Elementary School in Kennewick, Wash. Despite their English deficiencies, she said more than half of her students were already through the prebooks and halfway through the first set of 10 readers by mid-December. The book at that time already had 61 words in it.

Most of the children – including those who came to school without knowing more than a couple of letters – knew all the letters and sounds by Nov. 5 – "much quicker than ever before," she said.

One of the students who made the most progress came to class without knowing any English whatsoever. He seemed to have no problem learning to understand the language at the same pace that he learned to read his new language.

"This program helped my ESL students a great deal. Most of them learned the letters and sounds much quicker than in previous years. They also began to blend letters into words much sooner," says Mrs. Clayton.

"The kids love the ABC songs, and we performed the Alphabet Song at our kindergarten program this year."

Mrs. Clayton spends 20-25 minutes each afternoon in group instruction of Frontline Phonics, particularly emphasizing the musical portions of the curriculum. She then has four para-educators come in for 1 hour a day to work with the children ½ hour on reading and ½ hour on math. In the morning she uses the Open Court curriculum with the children, which is a curriculum she has used for several years.

Bonnie Moorhouse has 49 students in two half-time classes at Westgate Elementary School in Kennewick, Wash. She, as Debbie Clayton, is using both Frontline Phonics and Open Court, and she feels the two work well together.

"Open Court can be kind of boring by itself," she says. "I like how fast Frontline Phonics goes along, and I love the music." She also likes the motivation provided when children earn little figurines for learning the name and sound of a letter.

Most of her students were nearing the end of the first set of Frontline Phonics readers in January. "I’ve seen some growth with students that were really behind. But suddenly they understand, and I think, ‘Wow! You’re really getting it.’"

Mrs. Moorhouse says the biggest problem in using Frontline Phonics and Open Court is confusion when she is not teaching the same letter with each curriculum.

WILSON CREEK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Debbie Dammel has 12 students in her kindergarten class at Wilson Creek Elementary School. She said the children love the music and benefit so much from it that she copied the music to send home with her students. Debbie also used the Reading Master videos, running them as children arrive to the classroom.

During the last quarter the school decided to see how well their preschool children could do with Frontline Phonics. The younger children were able to make so much progress that the school decided next year to begin using the curriculum the first quarter of preschool rather than wait. They may have to finish some of the curriculum in kindergarten as they then pick up a new curriculum.

"We feel this will give the incoming kindergarten students a very strong start (before) their kindergarten year and expect all to be reading by the end of the year," Ms Dammel said.

She feels her children learned faster than with previously used curricula. But also said Frontline Phonics needs to develop more worksheets. She was borrowing compatible worksheets from other curricula or developing new worksheets herself.

CURRICULUM BACKGROUND

Frontline Phonics, developed at the Learning Dynamics preschool in Orem, Utah, uses a simple phonics approach to reading that young children are able to comprehend and put to immediate use.

The set of books that comes with the curriculum is created to provide children with almost immediate reading success. Most kindergartners could be expected to begin reading their first simple book within their first month of school. The learning is enhanced by the lyrics of sing-along music provided on CD. The curriculum's own "Alphabet Song" teaches each letter of the alphabet along with its sound(s). The preschool has also created a separate song for each letter, as well as songs to remember certain rules, such as what to do when two vowels come together.

 At our request, the preschool had tested a sampling of students with the San Diego Reading Test, a quick word recognition test. The average student was rated at beginning second grade in reading. Kennewick School District's Artis Sparks felt the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) test would more accurately represent a student's true reading proficiency, however. Also we decided we should administer the Kennewick District's own kindergarten test, which teachers administer at the beginning and end of the kindergarten year -- and sometimes in between.

So, on June 7 National Reading Foundation Managing Director Ken Harvey, consultant Chieko Okazaki and four other volunteers conducted Kennewick's kindergarten and DRA first-grade tests on the Learning Dynamics preschoolers.

The 19 students tested were randomly selected from the center's approximately 115 6-hour-per-week preschoolers. The preschool also has about that many 4-hour-a-week preschoolers, but we specifically requested the 6-hour group, since that would more closely approximate our 14-hour-a-week kindergartens.

In the Kennewick School District's own kindergarten test -- which includes letter recognition, letter sounds, beginning word sounds, and rhyming -- the preschool graduates outperformed Kennewick's outgoing kindergartners, as shown below. Total number of points possible on the test is 98.

 

SCHOOL                            ENTERING SCORE                  FINAL SCORE

Canyon View                                  40.13                                      89.64

Edison                                             27.01                                      82.43

Vista                                                36.91                                      96.47

Westgate                                        28.21                                      93.86

KENN. SCHOOL AVERAGE     33.07                                      90.60

LEARNING DYNAMICS             n/a                                           95.42

 

The only individual school that outperformed Learning Dynamics -- of the four whose statistics were provided by the district -- was Vista Elementary, a national award-winning school. And it is important again to note that

Meanwhile, we also administered the Developmental Reading Assessment test, used on Kennewick first-graders but not on kindergartners.

There are 11 books in the first-grade DRA test, each representing a gradual increase in reading ability from first month through the ninth month. The Learning Dynamics preschoolers could read -- with 90% proficiency -- through Book 6 (actually 6.21) on the average, slightly above the halfway point in the tested first-grade reading skills. It should be noted that evaluators stopped the test at 90-95% proficiency. In determining "Instructional Reading Level" -- the level at which students should be currently instructed -- testers would only have sought 75% proficiency.

There are difficulties in making comparisons between Kennewick's kindergartners and Learning Dynamics' preschoolers. On one hand, Learning Dynamics is a private preschool. Parents who are willing to pay for such schooling are more supportive, and probably have been from their child's birth.

On the other hand, Kennewick's students are a year older and have a year more maturity and in-home or preschool training. Also, Kennewick's kindergarten is half-day for most students and full-day for ESL students. The Learning Dynamics students only attend class two hours a day, three days a week -- six hours total per week. And the preschool officials say the reading curriculum is only used for 15 minutes a day during those three days per week -- 45 minutes total per week. In addition, each child has 10 minutes of individual reading time per week, and their parents are encouraged to read with their children every day -- as are Kennewick's.

Finally, Kennewick's students were much more familiar with the testing procedure. Indeed, since the success of Kennewick kindergarten classes are measured with this test, teachers undoubtedly teach to the test. KSD kindergartners frequently take the kindergarten test (exact same test at the time this comparison was made) several times during the year, so their final test score will be artificially high due to familiarity. Many of the Learning Dynamics students stumbled over simple things that a teacher preparing them for the Kennewick test would have easily taken care of. For example, many of the preschool students had never been taught the word or concept of "rhyme." It is not part of the Frontline curriculum. Consequently, the hardest section of the Kennewick test for the preschoolers was the rhyming portion. Ironically, even though they could, on average, read beyond mid-first-grade level and phonetically sound out unknown words, many of the LD preschoolers had forgotten the names of some of the letters. Letter names are not all that important in the actual process of reading, and to them the letter names, apparently, was "old news."

Students who typically take the DRA are at least in first grade -- far more mature and more experienced in taking such tests than Learning Dynamics' preschoolers were.

Verda Rogers Johnson, teacher-administrator of the Christian Co-Op Nursery and Rainbow Days Pre-K, says she has experienced similar success. Her preschool began using Frontline Phonics in August of 2001, and she says all the children were reading by December. "We love the songs and the characters for each letter! As a teacher, it is the joy and interest the children take in learning that I feel makes this program such a success. They can hardly wait for me to introduce the next letter! The books are wonderful, offering a variety of skill levels, and the lesson plans are well designed."

 The Frontline Phonics curriculum starts by teaching one vowel and five consonants, one letter at a time. Then there is a book for the children to read that uses only those six sounds. After a review and some time to absorb, the curriculum goes on to another vowel and then another five consonants. Additional books allow the children to experience gradually increased reading success from Month 1.

In a kindergarten setting, we would recommend that a 20-minute lesson be taught every day -- and twice a day for ESL students attending a full-day kindergarten. Even at just 20 minutes a day, that would be 100 minutes per five-day week -- more than double the time used at the Learning Dynamics preschool.

Once the children begin reading, it would be important to have aides and volunteers available to provide one-on-one time. For each child to have 20 minutes a week of one-on-one reading time, you will need aides and volunteers to provide approximately two manhours of assistance daily. With its limited 6-hour-a-week preschool schedule, Learning Dynamics only provides 10 minutes a week of one-on-one time, but we recommend more one-on-one in our half-time and full-time kindergartens. A local Reading Foundation or PTA could help recruit volunteers.

The instructional music is very important in this curriculum. We also recommend the music be played during art and/or rest periods. It's bright, fun music, and children will absorb the lyrics (and, thus, the instruction) more quickly as they hear the music repeated. They can even be introduced to the music relating to new phonic sounds before those sounds are taught in class. If you had 1/2 hour of art time, for example, you might first play in the background the curriculum's "Alphabet Song." That would take 5 minutes or less. Then turn on the specific music for the "letter of the day" to play repeatedly for 5-10 minutes. And, finally, for the next 15 minutes, have the CD player play the entire CD, starting at whatever point you think appropriate. While doing art, the children would subconsciously be learning how to read.

 

READING MASTER CURRICULUM

At some of the schools participating in our Early Reading Pilot Project, we supplemented the Frontline Phonics curriculum with one developed in New Zealand that merges Montessori phonics, Doman whole word recognition, and accelerated multi-sensory learning techniques.

Frontline Phonics was created by teachers originally for exclusive use in a classroom. It was then adapted for in-home use. Reading Master was created primarily for in-home use by busy parents who want some high-tech assistance to teach their preschoolers. Thus, it can be used effectively as a supplemental curriculum and as student "homework."

The Reading Master curriculum comes as a package with a book version, videotaped version and computerized version to deliver the same basic curriculum through a variety of media and senses. The curriculum is being used effectively in numerous classrooms, but the company founder considers the individualized approaches, implementing video and interactive CD-ROM, the most effective. By providing these three different formats, the three major learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic – are addressed. The curriculum emphasizes the accelerated learning strategies developed by U.S. educator Glenn Doman to teach 70 minimal sound units (phonograms) and 450 most-used English words.

Reading Master has assisted more than 36,000 children in Australasia and as far as Luxemburg, Sweden, South Africa, China and the United States. At first its approach and results were controversial. Now it is generally viewed as educational best practice in that part of the world and has been the subject of several studies, special mention on TVNZ’s Assignment program and a Ph.D thesis. The company claims it has never received even a single reported case of a child failing to learn how to read using its curriculum.

Because of the distance, we have not been able to send independent evaluators, but we list below the comments of some of the school and preschool administrators who have used the curriculum.

Wrote Mary Ellen Maunz of Montessori International: “The Reading Master System is a unique blend of effective methods, produced in an outstanding format. The quality of information and lovely illustrations make these books a must. In our 25 years of developing programs and combining the best of the best, we discovered that Doman flashcards with Spalding phonics makes a great combination. Reading Master made the same discovery.”

Dr. Cynthia Thrush, Ph.D Education (Cognitive Science), made a similar observation:  "I've spent 30 years of my life with children in schools, and in all those years I have never seen a program that successfully combined phonics, whole brain learning plus accelerated learning techniques and music and color as the Reading Master does.”

Co-developer Grant Ford recounts the success experienced by Principal David Foster and the Hunua Primary School in Auckland.

"David had a group of children ranging in ages from 7 to 9 years of age that were in the 4th percentile for reading in their respective age groups. … These children had been through at least six months of the State Reading Recovery program and had even had one-on-one tutoring for four months after that. Yet despite the resources thrown at the problem, they were still averaging the 4th percentile for reading for their age.

“These children were allowed access to the Reading Master books and 30 minutes per day unsupervised on the Reading Master CD-Rom. After just under 4 months, these children averaged the 86th percentile in reading for their age.”

Because of the multi-sensory, individualized approach, Reading Master purports to have been used successfully with dyslexic, autistic, adult, and ESL students. Foster, the Hunua School principal, wrote: “A child who had been causing major concern caught up two years worth of reading progress in under six months. Your work has produced a valuable resource that compliments and reinforces the vital elements of any successful school reading program.”

While our Early Reading Pilot Project emphasized the Frontline curriculum, those classrooms that also used the Reading Master gave it glowing reports.

 

USING THE TWO CURRICULA IN COMBO

American Glen Doman and the New Zealand creators of Reading Master have both shown successfully that babies can learn to read whole words and build reading vocabularies by the time they are 3 or 4 that includes essentially all of the most frequently used words in the English language.

There has been research conducted that claims early reading instruction can turn children off from reading and do more harm than good. The problem is using that research to defame all early reading programs. That is like saying that because some medical doctors carelessly kill their patients that we should not seek medical treatment. Indeed, studies suggest that 100,000-200,000 people die each year in U.S. hospitals from infections or treatments they would not have been exposed to if they had just stayed home. On its face, that's pretty good evidence that we should never seek medical treatment -- until we consider the consequences if everyone decided to stay home.

Just because the early reading techniques used in the negative studies yield questionable results does not logically lead to the conclusion that no early reading program could be beneficial. Indeed, both Doman and the Fords urge parents NOT to force their children to learn how to read. Children should naturally want to spend time with their parents or a good preschool teacher. Learning to read should be the result of quality time, fun activities, games, etc., in which case children will never feel forced and never learn to resent or hate reading. To the contrary, they will learn to love it. Doman and Fords both claim that out of literally hundreds of thousands of parents who have now used their techniques to teach young children to read, neither has fielded even a single complaint.

We began using the Doman technique on our 2-year-old daughter while our second daughter was less than 1. We used word strips to teach the older daughter the parts of her body and the common items found in the kitchen. It was a fun game to her, as we added one new word each day. Then one day as we were reviewing the parts of the body we noticed that our younger daughter, who could not yet talk, was touching the corresponding part of her body as we were holding up each word. As we showed the word "elbow," she would touch her elbow; and as we showed the word "head," she would touch her head, and so forth. We moved shortly thereafter and confronted a series of problems that caused us to stop teaching our two young daughters to read. However, as they went on to become avid readers; respectively, salutatorian and valedictorian of their high school; and "A" level college students, I believed that early exposure to reading was a beneficial part of their early learning.

According to Washington State Superintendent of Public Schools Terry Bergeson, about 55 percent of all children enter kindergarten unprepared to learn how to read. And the National Children's Reading Foundation has shown that children's success or failure in kindergarten is then predictive of how they will do in school the rest of their lives. Experts conclude that "lap time" reading is a key to a mother preparing her child to read. So what does the child learn while his mother reads to him? He learns that printed words have meaning -- the same as spoken words. He learns that reading is enjoyable and a skill to be valued. He begins to get the idea that words are made up of letters, and that those letters also have an important part in the reading process. And if the mother is doing her job well, he begins to learn the names and sounds of those letters.

So, what do you do to make up for lap time? Do you have to replace those estimated 1,000 hours of lap time provided by a "teaching" mother with an equal number of lap time hours in school for students whose mothers provided no such exposure to reading?

That's not practical, but a lot of lost time can be made up by the use of Reading Master and Doman curricula and techniques. In just a few months, 3- and 4-year-olds can learn the nature of words and letters, along with the joy and value of reading. Reading Master "teases" the young children with phonics by exposing them to a series words with common phonemes. It highlights the letters that make that sound -- including "gh" and "ph" with the "f" sound. The children aren't coerced into learning anything, but through repeated exposure to the multimedia-based curriculum that comes with books, with videotapes or DVDs, and with interactive computer-based books with several different levels of difficulty, children build an astounding vocabulary and an intuitive understanding of phonics. Reading Master also recommends "playing" the word game we used with our children. After just a few months being exposed to the Reading Master/Doman techniques and curriculum, I believe essentially all pre-kindergartners can be prepared to enjoy the more formalized but still fun Frontline approach to phonetic reading.