on January 2, 2003
At first glance, this book reminded me of - "A Home Start in Reading" by Ruth Beechick (a wonderful little pamphlet for homeschoolers/parents). I would still recommend the pamphlet, but Reading Reflex has much more information that might be needed to teach a beginning reader.
Although Phonografix has a reputation for being very effective in remediating reading, it is very easy, effective, and fun to use for beginning reading as well. The skill of reading is broken down into more basic components -- blending, segmenting, auditory processing, and code knowledge. There is a test at the beginning to help pinpoint problem areas so that no time is spent on areas the student understands. A beginning reader would just begin without the test and cover all the lessons.
There are some other aspects of reading that the book covers that I have not seen so thoroughly and effectively explained in any of the other reading methods I've encountered. The English language is based on a phonetic code, but some letters/letter combinations can represent multiple sounds and some sounds can be represented in multiple ways. The authors include information about how to effectively explain these ideas and lesson plans for how these ideas work in practice. For example, the word 'out' might be pronounced 'oat' or 'owt'. The only way to know which is to have the word read to you or to figure it out from the context of a sentence. Part of reading is simply remembering which pronunciation to use on particular words. There are often patterns to these pronunciations and noticing these patterns is included in the lessons.
If all this information isn't enough, the authors include "error corrections" in each lesson. The authors emphasize that mistakes are where real learning happens.
One minor point I disagree with is the emphasis on writing. Some children really dislike writing or simply don't have the skill to write to the extent suggested by the authors. Fortunately, writing isn't necessary to learning to read through this method. It was easy to adapt the activities so that writing wasn't necessary. Another area I disagreed with was the assumption that a tutor/teacher should control the learning. The activities can be easily adapted into fun games that children can choose to play and learn from. It is the information about reading that is useful and makes this book great, not the format. Another tip -- instead of cutting out all those puzzles, just make up a set of letters (multiples of the ones that are used twice or more in words). Additionally, the authors have a website with more great information.
Overall, this book is a great resource for any person interested in helping others - children and adults - learn to read.
on January 27, 2003
As an early reader myself, I just assumed my daugher would be just as quick to catch on to reading. When she was 3 we began our phonics instructions with the alphabet. When she was 4, we continued, but we couldn't seem to get past letter recognition. At 5, we tried reading simple books, but it was hit and miss at best. 6, some progress, but we couldn't get past basic consonant-vowel-consonant words. By 7 I was extemely concerned, to say the least.
Someone told me about Reading Reflex and I bought a copy. It seemed that anything this simple and inexpensive couldn't work. And yet, within days of beginning work on seemingly simple games, we saw improvement. Within a month, she was reading away and on grade level. I can't explain what is different about it than other reading approaches, but I know it works.
on September 20, 2001
I used this method on both our kids, at the time they were 2nd grade / 1st grade. I agree much with what reviewer from Houston has said so I won't repeat those observations here. In general I think the theory is solid, beats what is currently accepted as "phonics", however the lesson plans need alot of work. At least at the time, I was able to contact the authors through their message board but I felt they were quite defensive. I don't think they were ready to hear that their lesson plans weren't as foolproof as advertised because I was making mistakes. It turns out the amazing results advertised in the book are clincal results and not necessarily repeatable by laypersons. Also, they were not receptive to the possiblity that there are some kids who are just not going to get it (my son was like that, my daughter seemed to do OK with it). My son was getting very confused and mixed up by the number of sound pictures he had to remember. This was probably due to not spending enough time on each sound picture before going to the next. However, the book leads you to believe it has everything you need-- something I found wasn't true because it seems you need more material to practice each sound picture. Something you should be prepared for is that the author as well as the people the author has trained in this method are quite fanatical about it (due to the overwhelming success they have experienced) and they don't seem to be receptive to the idea that some kids aren't going to get it. There seems to be a belief that this is the silver bullet that's going to make every kid read. As an engineer, I am well familiar with the idea that nothing produces 100% successful results. Unfortunately, the authors' resistance to this idea that their "baby" isn't perfect means that it's going to take alot of time before we see improvements, if ever. Still, I have to recommend this method because I believe in the theory and also believe most people will achieve satisfactory results.
on March 16, 2002
I am a special education teacher that had struggled to find a method to teach children how to decode; especially those children who were left behind by the "whole language" or "literature based" approach to reading. When it came right down to it, my students had never been taught how to decode the letter-sound code, which is what the English language is based upon.
I came upon Reading Reflex after reading the book "Why Our Children Can't Read, and What We Can Do About it" by Dianne McGuiness, who is Geoffrey McGuiness' mother. That book convinced me that I needed to find away to teach children how to read, based upon (1) how children learn, and (2) teach them English the way English needs to be taught.
Reading Reflex, along with a magnetic letter board which has the 37 common word families was a blessing. In one example, I had a 5th grade student that no one ever bothered to teach to read because he was a behavior problem. At the end of a week of drills using Reading Reflex, he was reading the simple stories in the book, which was a powerful motivator to persevere with me, and now he is reading Dr. Suess books.
Research has shown that explicit, one on one phonics instruction; letter-to-sound correspondence instructions, works. If you are a teacher, or a parent of a student that has yet to "get it," try Reading Reflex. You will not be disappointed.
on May 25, 2001
I am using this book to teach my children to read. We have had great success with my son so far, and I am just beginning with my daughter.
So why does it frustrate me?
The first part of the book, which explains the theory, makes a lot of sense to me. The pre-test is fine, and the first chapter was fun for my son to do. It was well-written and pretty easy to follow. I did NOT enjoy making copies of my pages, cutting up the small squares and trying to keep up with them. But I still was not frustrated.
It is in the section, Teaching the Advanced Code, that I think things really begin to break down. I think their theory still works. But the layout of this section, which is supposed to tell me how to teach the theory, is terrible. The authors have you flipping back and forth to find instructions on one page, word lists to use with those instructions on another page (much further away). And the sequence of the lessons is difficult to discern. (In a book that is telling you how to teach, it should be very clear what to do and when to do it.) This may be because of the typestyle and type size of the instructions. How can I explain this better?
For example, you are given instructions for a particular type of lesson-- generic lesson if you will. Following this are the word lists that you use for that lesson. But, you do not proceed in this order. You do the generic lesson with the first word list, then flip back to the second generic lesson, then perhaps to the word list following the first generic lesson, or perhaps a second set of lists following the generic lesson. Even this makes it sound more organized than it is, because it is not consistent from sound to sound. How do you know where to go next? In smaller, italized type outside the word list, are those instructions. So when you finish generic lesson one, using the proper word list, you look at the bottom of the word list to see where to go next. Do they include a page number to make it easier? No.
Others have talked about the stories and there is no argument there, either! They are not endearing, well-written, or even clear. Sometimes their ONLY value is the words that are used. And the drawings are no better.
In my copy of the book, two sounds are left off of the consonant chart: 'w' and 'th.' I noticed this as I tried to pin down everything we were going to be working on. I ordered the audio tape from ReadAmerica and compared the chart with the audio key.
Finally, I am annoyed that the authors did not include any type of recordkeeping help. With well over one hundred lessons (maybe it is closer to two hundred -- I'm not finished yet) to do with each child (and in the early stage especially, the repetition of lessons for mastery), to not include any recordkeeping help is a major flaw. In fact, I suspect that those who use this method -- especially the advanced code section -- do not try to follow what the books says. In other words, I don't think the authors tested the advanced code section of the book to see how well it worked, in terms of layout and clarity for the instructor. It almost appears that they ran out of time or steam halfway through the book. I have spent a fair amount of time creating my own recordkeeping chart that also lays out the sequence of lessons. This should have been done by the authors.
I am also intrigued by the spat between them and Dianne McGuinness. The authors go to great length to disassociate their method from her method, especially on their website. And it has been noted that the authors do "go on" a bit about how great this new system is. Ah well, marketing!
Given all that I have said, it is important to note that I still recommend this book to others. It is that strong in some ways. I can only hope that the authors will consider a revision for an even better product.
on November 22, 1999
I bought this book largely on the strength of the glowing reviews it received at Amazon, so I'd like to add my comments so other potential purchasers don't get the wrong impression about the book. There is nothing new here, except the lingo developed by the authors to make you think they have developed a revolutionary approach to teaching reading. All they've done is take the old phonics --which I recognize is "new" to a lot of people who are only familiar with the "look-say" method of teaching reading -- and given it new vocabulary, e.g. "phono-graphix" (read "phonetic"), "sound picture" (read "phoneme"), "auditory processing" (read "reading" or "sounding out") and my personal favorite, "mapping", which simply means "writing".
Besides the unnecessary and confusing renaming of standard phonics terms, the book includes some very unfortunate errors which got me to wondering exactly what the "decades" of research behind this book actually meant. One of the most glaring problems lies in the word list for the "sound picture <th>", which includes "thug, "with", "bath" and "math" interspersed with "the", "then", and "that". Is it possible that the authors don't recognized that the <th> in "bath" is pronounced differently than the <th> in "the"? There was no explanation to the parent/teacher nor to the student as to the differences in these phonemes, nor when one or the other is used. As my six year-old began to read this word list with all the same <th> sound, I found myself backpedalling in my instructions, saying, "Oops! Sometimes <th> is pronounced this way and sometimes it is pronounced another way!" I felt his confused eyes upon me as he tried to figure out how to guess which way it should be pronounced for each word on the list.
In the same vein, there was no explanation as to when a final "s" should be pronounced "ss" ("yes") and when it should have the "z" sound ("as"). In a list of so-called "made-up" words (some of which were made-up --"glot", "bot"-- and some of which were not --"sot", "got") appeared the word "tis", which my child proceeded happily to pronounce "tiss", and frankly, I didn't know if I should correct him or not! Obviously, if the word is a "made-up" word, there is no way to tell how to pronounce it. On the other hand, if you read the word as a "real" word (which it is: "'tis the season to be jolly") then the correct pronunciation becomes clear. In the end, I corrected him.
I found the games difficult to use: cutting out all those little letters, of which there were often two or three times more than you needed, got old, and they kept sliding out of the envelopes in storage. Plus, you couldn't always tell one letter from another: "n" upsidedown looks like "u", "d" upsidedown becomes "p", etc.
Finally, the strictly phonetic stories are so very stupid as to be nonsensical, and actually hindered my child from being able to read them. The pictures (also very stupid) were necessary in making any sense at all out of the stories, and once you start to teach a child to depend on the illustrations to figure out the meaning of the words, you are on the road to producing a bad reader.
Believe it or not, I am not saying you should not buy this book. I am glad that it has helped some parents,teachers and students. And who knows, it might be just the thing for you. But the Explode the Code series by Educator's Publishing Service is probably better, as are any number of phonics-based programs, and I would recommend Why Johnny Can't Read by Flesch as the most useful, understandable review of phonics, with progressive word lists which will get most students reading quickly. This is the old standby I used to teach my first child to read, and I think I made a mistake in ever trying the "new" approach.
on December 13, 2002
I am primary elementary school teacher and have been using this in my classroom for years. The test at the beginning of the book is very helpful to finding out what the specific problem is (blending, segmenting, auditory processing, etc.) The book's introduction changed the way I thought about reading (i.e. using letter names instead of sounds can confuse slower learners--"my name is Kathy, but you can call me Elizabeth") I would definitely use this method to teach my own children someday.
on August 28, 2003
Despite some five-star reviews, I do not think this book is good for reading.
While this book does have a method which could help children to read, the philosophy for it is flawed. There is much misinformation. The book talks about the "failure" of Phonics and Whole Language in teaching schoolchildren how to read. That is just plain wrong.
Phonics ONLY instruction produced children who could read but not understand what they read. But phonics must be a part of effective instruction in reading. Part, not all.
Whole Language instruction did produce excellent when it was used properly; with all of the components used according to the model. But many times a "whole language" program did not fully follow the model and so children could not read well.
Whole Language died a political death but an effective systems, a "Comprehensive Literacy Program," does work. If your school system uses it you'd be better asking your child's teacher for things to do at home to help your child rather than buying this book.
on November 6, 2001
I am in the process of using this method with my child who is in the first grade. We have completed the first three chapters and my child is making real progress--the improvement is amazing. The methods layed out in this book and the reasons behind them make sense to me. I strongly reccommend reading through at least chapters 1 through 3 before starting any of the lessons. I also went to the readamerica.net website and bought the lessons that go with the book so that I didn't have to cut them out of my book. I also bought a wipe-off board and dry erase markers which makes the word mapping a snap. I think it's a good idea to buy some stickers to reward your child's efforts. At first, I was a little confused about the order of the lessons, but I hadn't read through them completely. That is why it is so important to read before you do. It is also helpful to highlight and bookmark important points about the "how to" information. I write these points on notes to refer to while teaching the lesson. But, after awhile, you get the hang of it and it is very easy to do the lessons. My child looks forward to doing the lessons with me. It doesn't feel like "work" and my child is gaining self-confidence while learning how to read! I agree with some of the other comments about the stories being dull, but they are intended to reinforce the lessons that have been learned. The lessons enable your child to read the books they enjoy, and that is what is important to me. I am a single parent with a full-time job and do not find this to be difficult to do or too time consuming. I am very pleased so far and feel that this method works.
on December 14, 1999
I have several small problems with the program myself, however it's the best thing I've seen so far and I'll keep using it. I recommend it highly as an inexpensive, effective, and quick program. I found found it extremely successful with my own children and my tutoring clients. The results I've seen are much like what Carmen and Geoff report. I like their spelling program too, BTW.
I must agree with Tony that have never met more unimaginative and uninteresting stories in my life. Not all, just a few. However...the stories in the Parent Support books are actually interesting, mildly imaginative and very much what the children relate to. Maybe in further editions of Reading Reflex, they'll change their stories. We can hope. At the same time, practice in the sounds is what is important and it is assumed that you are reading other "real" books too.
There are a few other things about the program I don't appreciate. I don't like the way they break up the words like all, tall and wall (since they've already stated that a plain a can say 'a' as in father and two l's can say that sound. (hmm... hard to explain in type) and the 'th' thing (it makes two separate sounds) bothered me too. I just taught them as 2 separate sounds with the same sound picture. Similar things have already been taught, so it isn't a big jump.
I do especially like the way they print the very beginner stories with the sounds that are more than one letter bolded and squashed together (coded text). It sure helps beginners read more quickly and gives them practice in reading more than one letter at a time, and encouragement to continue. I didn't find the chapter on multi-syllable as clear as maybe it could be. It took me a while to understand it enough to explain it to the kids, but I agree that it is something totally skipped in other programs
Overall, I think Reading Reflex is an excellent program and I just make the changes I want when I'm doing it. I don't think there's a perfect program out there, but this one has an excellent approach, fantastic diagnostics and a few less 'bugs' than any I've seen.
I hope Carmen and Geoff would be open to hearing some constructive critisism from those who truly appreciate their work and I hope in a few years they would put out a new-improved book (Ultra-Reading Reflex!) with a few of these issues addressed.