As bilingual parents, our educational strategy had always been to let the Majority Language (ML) school lead the way, and we would build on it with our minority languages (ml). Since our 3 languages are similar and share the same alphabet, we were relying on a transfer of skills.
However, 2 year ago, we applied to an English Wednesday school programme for our eldest daughter. There are few spots available so the school required children to sit an entry test for which children aged 4 were tested for knowledge of phonics. Since French schooling promotes writing before reading (the opposite to the UK education system), I had to prepare her myself and hence purchased the first level of the “Read Write Inc.: My Reading and Writing Kit: Early sounds and blending kit”.
Read Write Inc: What is it?
From what I have seen in La Escuela de Spanglish – a Facebook group of Spanish parents rearing their children in English, this does not seem to be a well-known method of bilingual parents. Yet it is the one recommended by the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, and I found it incredibly effective.
I purchased the kit instead of just the flashcards, and I think that was an even better option.
The first set of Read Write Inc contains:
- A set of colour-coded flashcards of all the simple sounds
- A parent’s handbook that is very well thought-out and explained.
- A frise per group of sounds
- A wipe-clean sheet with all the letters traced and pen
- A handwriting book.
How does it work?
The flashcards are colour-coded so as to form groups of sounds that are to be learnt in a specific order so as to begin with the easiest and most common ones, and moving upwards in difficulty.
Each flashcard has a letter on one side, and a mnemonic picture on the flip side with a catchy phrase to remember the sound. To this day, these catchy phrases help us when my daughter stumbles on a sound in her reading.
The child can practice the sound and write it using the wipe-clean sheet. My daughter actually loved this! The writing handbook contains exercises to put the sounds in context.
The frises are a little extra which can be handy to put up in the child’s bedroom as a visual reminder of the letters and their sounds. With hindsight, I regret not having put them up in a permanent way in my daughter’s room so she may have memorised the sounds better. But I guess I was new at teaching and did not know how my daughter “works”. For my little one, I will know better when she comes of reading age.
Why did we like it?
I loved the packaged format and very thought out system. The parent’s help guide was reassuring, guiding me through the process.
It is very catchy education-wise. My daughter did seem to enjoy using it. She loved the mnemonic phrases used to trigger her memory. It is a nice balance between educational and playful, between listening, sounding and writing.
I would definitely recommend it as I owe my daughter’s reading to it. I had just shown her through the level 1 kit (“Read Write Inc.: My Reading and Writing Kit: Early sounds and blending”), but once her nursery school teacher showed her how to blend sounds in French, my daughter instinctively transferred her newly acquired blending skills to English. And with her knowledge of these first sounds, she began reading on her own without us even realising.
Read Write Inc has 3 levels:
- Level 1 – “Read Write Inc.: My Reading and Writing Kit: Early sounds and blending kit”
- Level 2 – Read Write Inc.: My Reading and Writing Kit: More sounds and blending
Level 3 – Read Write Inc.: My Reading and Writing Kit: Becoming a reader
I felt that by learning to read on her own, my daughter had already outgone level 2. Hence I moved directly to level 3. This last set contains 2 sets of flashcards: one set of digraphs and trigraphs (2 or 3-letter sounds) and another with lists of words from which the child had to identify the sounds from the first set. Here again, there is a handwriting book and parents’ handbook. Finally, it comes with 6 early reader books. However, personally I found them a bit technical in their parent-orientated introduction, and my daughter does not seem to have hooked to the books either (I think she preferred her livelier Read with Biff, Chip and Kipper Collection).
If you are looking into teaching your child to read in English, I would recommend this useful resource. There is another, older, method called the Jolly Phonics though I would not be able to give any opinion on it as I have never used it. 🙂
– If you happen to speak Spanish, I would recommend viewing a video by Spanglish Easy on how to use Read Write Inc. Raquel is Spanish but is a primary school teacher in the UK, where she uses this method to teach reading to her pupils and her own children.
What resources did you use to teach your child to read in English? Feel free to share your experience in the Comment section.