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The Reading Lesson
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The Bottom Line
This sensible early reading system introduces young children to letter sounds and to simple words, sight words, and basic stories to read. Parents will appreciate the set’s refreshingly straightforward approach and uncluttered format.
Ages: 3 to 7 years  Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Brand: Mountcastle Company
Review Sections: Product Overview  Dollar Value
image Product Overview

The Reading Lesson Book:

This 444-page book walks parents and children through a carefully sequenced learn-to-read program. Very easy to use and self-explanatory, the program starts simple and progresses in a one-step-at-a-time manner. Though not as engaging as some more colorful systems, it is straightforward and practical with little nonsense or distraction from the task at hand.

This is not a book that goes to great lengths discussing how to teach children to read. Instead, it gets right down to business. Its pages feature plenty of letters, words, and stories presented in large boldface print, as well as enough white space to convey a sense of manageability to young children. Black-and-white pictures accompany the little stories, which gradually become longer and more complex as the lessons–and children’s reading skills–advance. Some exercise pages are also incorporated into the book.

All 20 lessons are laid out similarly. Each begins with a short introduction for parents that provides a concise explanation of the upcoming lesson. A few simple symbols are explained here as well. For example, lines under each letter of a word suggest to parents that they should help kids sound out the word phonetically. When the bars are dropped, kids should be trying to learn the word by sight.

When a new letter sound is introduced, a picture of an object or animal accompanies it. For example, a fish is associated with F, and a nest is introduced with the letter N. This way, children make an association that helps them to remember unfamiliar letter sounds. Kids become familiar with letters through a series of simple exercises. For example, some exercises require children to find all occurrences of the featured letter on the page. New words are introduced, phrases incorporating these words are brought into the mix, and finally a little story with a simple illustration is presented. In lesson 3, for example, one story is as basic as "Dad got a dog./Get the egg, dog./The dog got the egg." The lesson continues with more exercises as well as sentences and stories to read. Each lesson wraps up with a list of key words to review. New word families are introduced later in the program. In lesson 9, for example, ar is explored, and then in lesson 10, er, ir, and ur are introduced as a group.

Some symbols are used in this program to help children remember more difficult letter sounds. For example, a hat on the letter e indicates that it has the long vowel sound, and a ball on top of the letter a prompts children to read the letter with the same sound as in the word ball.

It is clear that the authors have taken much care in the presentation of the book’s lessons. They have added a number of lessons that tackle specific areas that commonly require extra attention. Lesson 5, for example, devotes many pages to teaching children to distinguish between the letters b and d–a common problem for early readers. It presents interesting ways to reinforce the difference between these similar letters. And, to help children remember, a dot is placed inside the letter b; it is dropped later in the program when children have had enough practice and can easily distinguish between the two letters. Another section is devoted to adding the letter s to the ends of words. Lessons that help children to understand how the letter e at the end of a word changes a vowel’s sound to its long sound–for example, pin to pine, and hid to hide–are helpful as well.

The Reading Lesson CD-ROM:

The book’s 20 lessons are presented on this CD-ROM in a pleasingly simple multimedia format. An animated "giggle bunny" hosts this straightforward and effective program. Lesson 1 introduces the letters c, o, s, a, and t along with an associated animal or object for each. Children can then explore each letter’s sound with simple clicks of the mouse, after which the letter cleverly writes itself out–a short but effective introduction to its unique shape. Other little touches include lowercase letters that transform into their uppercase counterparts and plenty of audio reinforcement. Next, children explore simple words, like cat and sat, and an onscreen finger points to each sound as the word sounds itself out. Further reinforcement of words occurs in the Word Theater, after which children can play simple games. They might be required to answer the question "Where is cat?" by choosing between cat and tac, or cat and cot. The final exercise involves further work with newly introduced words, but this time children practice typing the words on their computer keyboard.

The Reading Lesson runs from the hard disc and requires 100 MB of hard drive space.

The program’s simplicity is one of its biggest strengths. Children who are easily distracted by the sometimes excessive animations and reward systems found in many early reading "edutainment" CD-ROMs should fare much better with this straightforward disc. Parents will appreciate the program’s logical and gradual presentation and should find both the book and the CD-ROM especially easy to use.

The Reading Lesson book can be purchased separately or with the companion CD, also called The Reading Lesson. Other companion CDs are available–The Storybook (featuring onscreen versions of the book’s stories) and The Writing Lesson.

Dollar Value
The book alone sells for $27.95 US, and the book and CD-ROM set costs $49.95 US.

Released: 2000
Reviewed: June 2001