Smart Read Easy by Margaret Henderson Smith

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Smart Read Easy by Margaret Henderson Smith

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Buy Smart Read Easy by Margaret Henderson Smith at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Emerging Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A gentle and stress-free introduction to reading. Children build their own reading book and they're going to find this fun.
Buy? Yes Borrow? No
Pages: 626 Date: May 2013
Publisher: arima publishing
ISBN: 978-1845495756

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Reading has always been one of my great pleasures and it's one which has been passed down in my family. It's the key to so much: without an easy grasp of the skill employment opportunities are limited, there's always going to be social embarrassment lurking around the corner and there's the loss of so much fun and enjoyment. It's well over half a century since I learned to read and in that time I've seen numerous schemes for teaching children to read come and go, some discredited, some no longer fashionable. It's always struck me though that no one system will work for all children; reading will click for some using one method, some another and occasionally what's needed is a combination just to slot all the bits of the jigsaw into place.

That's where Margaret Henderson Smith's Smart Read Easy comes in. I'm not going to blind you with the science - I'm going to tell you how it works and you can judge for yourself. Smith (a qualified teacher who has used this system extensively) explains the theory and reasoning but stresses that learning to read should be fun. Informality and lack of a punishing schedule work best and the activity book can be used once there's reading readiness, which occurs generally between the ages of 2½ and 3. If the child is interested, they're ready, Henderson says.

The method, we are told, encourages a basic understanding of phonics at the same time as using whole word recognition. There are recommendations for aids which you can use to go along with the activity book, such as wall friezes and fridge magnets and other games which help to develop a feel for letters. Smart Read Easy is not a magic bullet - there's the need for an atmosphere which supports literacy, but plenty of ideas to nurture it. There's space for the child to create their own reading book and for the adult to record progress or make notes.

We begin with a story and it's about Sam, who is four years old. Although he'd like to be good, he forgets - frequently - but this does mean that there's plenty of opportunity for repetition in the story, which includes line drawings. Then we have hints for discussion between adult and child and pages with suggestions for drawings. It's a fun story - I've yet to meet a child who doesn't enjoy stories of other children being naughty - and it also introduces the idea of the alphabet and making words - the idea of learning to read. Then we move on to My Alphabet Book which introduces all the letters, upper and lower case and provides pictures. Sam has these in a frieze on his bedroom wall and they're great on flash cards too.

There are clear instructions about what you will need in addition to the book - even such thoughtful points as a solid support for the left hand working page. This is a big book and it would be difficult for a child to use without a support. I know it's taken me a long time to get there, but we're ready to go and your child is going to make 'My Reading Book', but don't worry - there's plenty of support for the adult too! You'll be guided through each session, with suggestions as to what should be included and gradually the child will work up to the forty five key words for reading advised by the National Literacy Strategy. There's practice in recognising new words, with the memory being strengthened by the drawing of pictures and building a story. It's all fun and the child is going to get a real sense of achievement, particularly as the words get that bit longer and the stories more complex. I loved the steady pace and gentle introduction of new words.

It's a nicely structured way in to reading. I'd suggest that all adults involved with the child's progression into literacy should go right through the book independently of the child so that they have a clear view of the structure - getting ahead of the plan is perhaps not the worst thing that could happen but the system is designed so that the pressure on the child is minimised - and that's something which shouldn't be put in jeopardy. It's also by far the easiest way of understanding how and why it works.

I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

To supplement this you might find Ant and Bee by Angela Banner useful - it's something else which has been tried and tested.

Buy Smart Read Easy by Margaret Henderson Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Smart Read Easy by Margaret Henderson Smith at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Smart Read Easy by Margaret Henderson Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Smart Read Easy by Margaret Henderson Smith at Amazon.com.

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