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DS's school don't have phonic reading books. Shall I buy him some?

(49 Posts)
thegrudge Mon 29-Nov-10 18:17:27

DS is in reception, he is almost 5. He went to the nursery attached to the school and has spent over a year learning 'letters and sounds'. I think they do Jolly Phonics. He knows most of the sounds although not things like igh, ow etc.

All his reading books that he has brought home since starting reception are ORT Biff and Chip ones with what I think are termed 'look and learn' words with maybe one or two phonetic words in the whole book. He finds it both confusing and frustrating that he sounds out the letters but the word sounds quite different. They are words like oh, all, come and he just doesn't get it but when he comes to a phonetic word such as it, dog, dad he does well and is plesed with himself.

Should I keep going with just the ORTs? They do have a lot of words in that he needs to learn. Or should I get him some different books and if so can anyone recommend some?

JustDoMyLippyThenWeWillGo Mon 29-Nov-10 18:20:44

Biff and Chip are the stuff of nightmares. Juat buy him some books that he might actually enjoy.

thegrudge Mon 29-Nov-10 18:27:35

The dullness doesn't help. We have hundereds of books but not many that he would be able to read much of due to to many sight words.

I was am quite relaxed about it as I don't think he will struggle long term but they had a different teacher today and they would normally have had their books changed and he wasn't allowed to change his as he needed more practise hmm. He was a bit upset about it and he has already read it 5 times and obviously doesn't want to read it again but thinks he has to or he will never get another one. His usual teacher is lovely.

thegrudge Mon 29-Nov-10 18:28:34

We have some Dr seuss but he isn't keen

DilysPrice Mon 29-Nov-10 18:39:31

You could pick up a set of Usborne Phonics Readers - 12 for a tenner from The Book People - my DS really enjoyed them and they can't do any harm.
You can always reinforce phonics teaching when you're reading bedtime stories, or just doing everyday sign/label reading, just pick the phonically decodable words and point them out here and there.

mrsgboring Mon 29-Nov-10 19:20:13

IIRC Usborne Phonics Readers are not 100% phonic in the words they use - they are full of rhymes and very enjoyable but when my DS was at the very early stage of reading, I didn't find them that helpful because not every word is decodable - or if they are decodable they require quite a sophisticated phonic knowledge to be able to get them all.

We also used Jelly and Bean from his nursery school. They only use decodable words, with a structured buildup so your DS should be able to read every single word in every single book, making a logical progression.

InkyStamp Mon 29-Nov-10 19:32:58

To be fair, all and come ARE phonic words, though. /a/ and /ll/ and /c/, /o-e/ and /m/. If you explain about the 'magic e' this will help. My DS is on the same books and reminding him of the 'magic e' helps him decode most words in the ORT series atm. (but he is only on red!!) The other words would be high frequency words that he needs to learn anyway. He, She, the, They etc. Ds has read over 30 on the evel before (blue?) and now most of these words come quite easily.

We do synthetic phonics at home with the Usborne set of 12 mentioned above. Usually we would read these to him but in the last week or so he has picked them up and started reading them to us instead.

I guess what I am saying is, do what feels right for you and your DS. There is no harm doing a mix, like we did, and it has seemed to work well. Or you can stick with the ORT stuff school sends, or go to the library, or buy the Usborne ones. If he is bored, change it round, boredom or discouragement from books would be a tragedy!

The greatest thing is that you are reading to him, he is practising reading to you and in time, he will get there! Once they realise that books open up a whole new world there is no stopping them!

Good Luck!

spudballoo Mon 29-Nov-10 20:36:52

We had a similar issue. My son, 5.2, wanted to learn to read in the summer. I wasn't keen to teach him as I really didn't want him to be confused by a different system at school, and I felt quite unequipped to teach him. I really wanted to leave it to the professionals.

He was quite insistent however. The school told me that they teach reading using synthetic phonics and so that's how we approached it. By the time he started school he could decode any 3 letter word very easily and was well on the way to knowing all the two letter digraphs, and decoding much longer words.

Only when he started school did I find out the reading scheme is ORT which is a look and say approach. I was so disappointed as no one told me this! I can see the merit in combining synthetic phonics with look and say (more so down the line). But, initially, it was so frustrating for an enthusiastic and reasonably skilled early reader to be thrown loads of 'tricky' words.

He also quickly worked out he could guess words from the picture, or make good use of the repetition of 'key' words throughout the story. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, but it did make him really lazy about actually tackling 'reading' rather than guessing or repetition.

I read a lot of old threads on here and have bought the Dandelion books, which is 'proper' synthetic phonic reading scheme. You can't guess much from the pictures, and each book practises a specific phoneme/diagraph and builds on previous books.

My son adores them, absolutley adores them. The illustrations really engage him (they are photos with cartoon illustrations on top, sounds hideous but they are quite lovely).

We do his ORT book from school, which takes about a minute (whole other story) and then we read from the Dandelion readers. We've started doing some of the Ladybird 'read it yourself' too, and another Ladybird scheme...Phonic Heros? It's good to mix it up.

I'm less anti 'look and say' than I was. I do think there is a place for it, even for a child that's mostly done decodable synthetic phonic reading. For example, my son reads the word 'couldn't' immediately on sight with no hesitation. He's got that from ORT, nowhere else.

Oooof long post. I think the answer is that the 'right' approach is somewhere in the middle of all the different approaches, and that what is right for one child will be entirely wrong for another.

I hate Biff and Chip. My son thinks they are funny. As long as he's happy reading them I'm ok with that. But I'm absolutely sure it's reading the Dandelion stuff that is pushing on his reading ability (which is excellent), and we're now enjoying rounding things out with the Ladybird books. He is so proud to read a whole story to his younger brother. I think there's a lot to be said for encouraging slightly 'easier' reads for confidence and for reading with expression.

Sorry, I went on a bit! In short, yes I would get some synthetic phonic books.

spudballoo Mon 29-Nov-10 20:37:23

Can someone PLEASE explain the magic 'e' to me?!

thegrudge Mon 29-Nov-10 20:42:38

He only knows 'a' like in cat so he pronounces all like Al (short for Alan). He understands the magic e if I remind him but pronounces come as comb iyswim but he is ok with like. He is getting frustrated because he is following the rules but getting it wrong. He gets a new book once a week and we read it about 5 times. He is upset to be stuck with the same book for another week and he really didn't want to read it tonight so we didn't. There are just so many words that aren't decodable that I'm worried he will start to feel that reading is impossible hard or that he is stupid or something. I am going to have a look at the Jelly and Bean ones and the usbournes. I think it would give him a boost if he managed to read a page rather than sounding out the letters and getting the word wrong.

The mistakes he is making are fairly small and I'm not worried that he won't ever learn to read, more that he will think of reading as unpleasent.

Panzee Mon 29-Nov-10 20:46:43

It's more complicated to explain than to just do. But here's my view:

Vowel digraph = two letters making one vowel sound, e.g. ee, igh, oh, ah etc.

Sometimes the vowel digraph is a split digraph with one consonant in the middle, e.g. ile, but not ille. The digraph rule still applies, i.e. "When two vowels go a walking, the first one does the talking and says its name". So "smile" says the letter name I and not its normal sound the short i.
Sometimes I say the e is one of those people who always need to be at the back of the line (every class I have taught has had these people!), but the rule doesn't change just because they've gone to the end.

To be honest they tend to get it (eventually) by doing rather than having all this explained!

InkyStamp Mon 29-Nov-10 20:50:39

Panzee. That is a good explanation. I only use the two vowels go walking when they are together but your way also makes sense!

thegrudge Mon 29-Nov-10 20:52:29

Looks like Jelly and Bean and Dandelion readers are out of print. The ladybird ones are available though.

Adair Mon 29-Nov-10 20:59:46

Oh I love our strange language and all the complicated patterns and rules. Have tried to explain to dd that some words/letters are 'cheeky' ones and don't follow the same rules...

Magic 'e' is not that complicated! long and short vowels so
A can sound like 'a' and 'ahhh'
I can sound like 'i' and 'aiiii'
if there is an 'e' on the end then it 'magicks' the vowel into a long one. so it's not 'smil' but 'smile' (as Panzee said, it's easier to do!). Of course, just like many 'rules' - not always true - hence come is not 'c-oh-m.

Dd has a 'ph' in her name and finds that tricky. She is getting it more since I labelled h as a bit of a naughty letter (cos he changes the sound wink).

Maybe try and see if your son can enjoy spotting the 'naughty' words (the ones they have to learn) or finding out what other rules they are using (other languages??). Am a linguist, so totally LOVING sharing this bit with dd grin.

Adair Mon 29-Nov-10 21:01:45

(Ha, not sure I should admit being a linguist, reading my mess of a post. A tired linguist I suppose... smile)

GothAnneGeddes Mon 29-Nov-10 21:37:05

There's lots of songs in youtube about magic/silent e. It can be a good teaching tool.

qualitystreetrosescelebrations Mon 29-Nov-10 23:03:36

I would recommend reading chest for reading scheme books rather than buying your own.

ThursdayNext Mon 29-Nov-10 23:54:13

Had similar problems and bought some Jelly and Bean books, they were well worth the money for us.
Not out of print, can buy them directly here:

stickylittlefingers Tue 30-Nov-10 00:03:24

I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss - dd1 started with jolly phonics with me, then moved to ORT at school. She did have a bit of trouble with the words that wouldn't follow the "rules" for a bit, but then just went with it and now is a really good little reader. TBH it's good that there are lots of approaches so everyone can find what clicks for them.

The stories do get a bit better as you go on, but the magic key is such a cheap plot device...hmm

stickylittlefingers Tue 30-Nov-10 00:04:59

we did buy a load of peter and janes from a jumble sale too. Worth it just to remember How Life Was - remember when children were put two to a seat in the front of the car with no seat belt? Elf'n'safety isn't all bad...

Malaleuca Tue 30-Nov-10 00:08:12

...and also BRI from

There is a lovely video on you-tube of a 4 year old learning to read with his mum and BRI.

maizieD Tue 30-Nov-10 11:31:50

I nearly had a fit when some one said that Jelly and Bean were out of print! They have been so useful, at KS3! I'm relieved to find that they are still going strong (if not stronger).

There are lots of books and I think they are excellent value for money. Even my KS3 children seem to like them.

You could also look out for Read Write Inc books and Jolly Phonics readers which are fairly widely available. There's OUP's new 'Floppy's Phonics'

Don't let him start guessing; it's a bad habit which some children find very difficult to break. It is initially much easier than sounding out and blending, so children naturally go for the easy option...

Thromdimbulator Tue 30-Nov-10 12:01:42

The Book People have a really good deal on the ORT Floppy's Phonics at the moment.

I bought a set of BRI and think they're great for beginner readers. Was a bit doubtful at first because of the apparent simplicity - they look quite basic - but they are cheap and do the job. Money seems to have been spent on working out the educational aspect of them rather than glossy paper and colour illustrations. However, my 4 year old is not in the least bothered - I let him colour in a few himself.

notanewmember Tue 30-Nov-10 12:02:16

Mentioned this in a different thread. This is the stage that my dc benefited from proper phonics books, and I bought/got some from the library. It especially helped dc1. Also good for dc3 who can read a whole book by herself....
Even just a couple of these books are useful IMHO, just to make them realise what they are supposed to do (blending the sounds or whatever the official term is)

Franup Tue 30-Nov-10 12:02:21

Oops, I am on my second dc who is learning to read. They have a range of books, some ORT, some other schemes. I had no idea ORT were just 'look and see'! We read them and decode the decodable words and just treat the other words as words that aren't easily governed by the rules of phonics and just need to be learnt. She is using the first letter of these words and the context to work these out or with nouns, looking at the picture as well for clues.

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