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Teaching Your Preschooler To Read – Part 2

So I’m hoping that you were able to try the picture flashcards in Part 1 and you’re convinced that your child is ready to begin this journey we call reading.
Let me tell you about a series of books that I absolutely recommend for teaching a child to read.  Many of you might have already heard of it as it’s not new.  In fact, it’s the series of books my mom taught me to read with when I was young, and now I’ve been using them to teach my daughter with.  It’s called the “Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme”.  My family likes to call them the “Peter and Jane” books.
Key Words Reading Scheme was developed with the following in mind
The English language has 400,000 words, 240,000 are main words but most people only use 20,000 words.  Of those 20,000 words only a small few make up the majority of the words we use on a regular basis.  In fact, these 12 words make up 1/4 of all those we read and write:
  • a and he I in is of that the to was it
The above words and these following 20 words make up about 1/3:
  • all as are at be but for had have him his not on one said so they we with you
And there are 100 words that form 1/2 – all of the above, and the following words:
  • about an back been before big by call came can come could did do down first from get go has her here if into just like little look made make more me much must my no new now off old only or our other out over right see she some their them then there this two up want well went were what when where which will who your
I won’t mention the rest here, but 300 words are about 3/4 of the total number of words found in juvenile reading.
So the idea behind the books is to teach the child to read the key words of the English language first.  Having said that, the total number of words your child will learn reading this set is close to 2000.
How the books work
Initially, the children are taught to recognize the words by sight.  The first book (1a) for example teaches 16 new words.  On average, in the first book, each word is repeated 10 times.  In the #2 books, all the words from the #1 books are included as well as 27 new words.  The #3 books contain all the vocabulary learned to date as well as 36 new words.  Each book continues the same way, repeating words already learned and teaching new ones.
There are 3 types of books for each #.  For example, there is 1a, 1b, and 1c:
All the “a” books, introduce new words.  Some pages will have one new word (sometimes two), some pages will not have any.  “A” books, use all the words of that book and previous words learned.
The “b” books use the same words learned in the “a” books, but with a different story.   I find we spend a lot more time in the “a” books, as the words are new.  My daughter flies through the “b” books, as she has already learned the words from the “a” book, and it’s just like reading a book for fun.
Progressively in the series, phonetics is taught.  The “c” books focus’ on writing and phonics.  In addition to the “c” books, I find there are many times when the opportunity presents itself to teach our child some phonics.  The first example I can think of, is when some words are used in the plural sense.  It just makes sense for me to tell my daughter the sound s makes, and then ask her what the word is with an s sound at the end.  Or another example, there are often words used that rhyme – the words “all” and “ball” for instance, or “cake” and “make”.  A third example, some words are made up of several small words, like “into”, which gives me a chance to show my daughter how we can divide a word into smaller sections to figure out a word.  In addition, they start realizing on their own very naturally as they are reading, the similarities between letters.  So they definitely do learn phonics, just not as the initial step.
My personal tips on teaching your child to read with “Peter and Jane” books
Of course every child is different, and every child learns to read at a different pace, etc.  In case anyone can benefit from my trial and error, I will share some tips I learned and am learning while teaching my daughter to read.  As I initially wrote, my mom taught me to read using these books.  I was a proficient reader by the age of 3.  I remember my mom would give me a raisin each time I read a page.  (side point, today I’m not a big fan of raisins :P).
But learning to read and teaching someone are two different things as I discovered.  It sounds obvious but I didn’t anticipate things like teaching her we read from left to right.  And I had to find a rhythm that worked for us.  At first while I was trying to show her a word, she would be all over the page looking and talking about the pictures and flipping pages to see what happens next.
So I learned through trial and error, how to take control and get her to focus while giving her choices.  I first would go over all the new words that we had learned so far in the book.  I found that really helped as the act of flipping a page to read each word kept her focused and really helped with learning the words.
Then, I would tell her what page we were on and ask her what she sees in the picture, what does she think the story will be about?  That would give her time to focus on the picture so she wasn’t trying to glance at it constantly while reading.
Then I would let her choose, does she want to hold my finger as I point from word to word, or does she want me to hold her finger.  So picture out of the way, a choice for her, now on to reading.
She loved to read but I would have to sometimes in a kind way, keep her focused.  Tried different things.  For example, we would sit at a bottom stair, and every sentence she read she got to move up one stair.  This became more like a game to her, and she loved moving up each stair.  When she reached the top, she would get a treat.  She loves getting that treat.
I always kept our reading time to what she could handle. Her attention span continues to grow tho.  Initially, we were working on getting through each sentence, but before we knew it, we were doing paragraphs at a time, and then a whole page.
I make sure to always keep reading a positive fun thing, never a chore.  She’s currently 3 years and 8 months and she’s on book 5b.  We do 2 pages a day, one a review, and one new one.  We try to read daily and sometimes we might even read twice in a day, but it only takes a few minutes at a time.
You can see all the books below.
Side note, when my mom bought these books back in 1982, they were $2.50 – $3 each (price tag is still on some of them).  Minimum wage back then was $3.50 to give you an idea of cost.  My mom told me she went to the store every week to buy one book for me as that’s all she could afford.  When I had my own daughter and wanted to buy the remaining books my mom did not previously buy, we were very pleasantly surprised that the prices had not risen more over time.  They are only on average about $4.75, sometimes $4.50 or less, sometimes $5.  But given inflation over the last 32 years, they are shockingly inexpensive.
And there’s one 6 book bundle you can see in the images below that is only between $13-$18 depending on which country you’re in.  The only place I’ve found it in Canada & the USA is on Amazon, unless you buy directly from the UK.  Amazon seems like the cheaper option.  Each of the images below will take you to that specific book on the amazon website.  It took me a while to link to all the books so if some links don’t work, I will try to fix them as I see them.


If you’ve used the “Peter and Jane” books before, leave a comment and let everyone know your opinion of them.