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Should I abandon the school's reading scheme?

(43 Posts)
MerryMarigold Fri 15-Jul-11 21:30:41

Any Ruth Miskin fans out there? Please explain why...

I'm pretty livid with Ms Miskin and her RWI programme. My ds1 has been in Reception for 3 terms and has not had a single reading book because he finds blending a bit more difficult than some of his peers. He does, however, get to bring home 'ditties' which are a black and white A4 sheet of paper with the sounds, words and 'ditties' on. The last said this:

I sit on a bench
in the sun on the sand
a hat on my head

I think this is pretty advanced actually but the poor kid hasn't got 'far enough' to even get the most basic book which he can read all by himself shock, just these boring, uninspiring sentences. No pages to turn, no pictures, no sense of achievment having finished a book. No wonder he now 'hates reading' and feels like he 'can't do it'.

Anyway, so I am going to start teaching him myself over the summer using Chip and Biff books. And I am bagging synthetic 'bleed-the-joy-out-of-reading' phonics, which I have been so keen not to disrupt by doing my own thing. I really feel that I have let ds1 down badly because I was so keen to only support the teaching (ie. bang on with the ditties at home).

Am I wrong to do this? Have the school 'done' RWI wrong? Does it have any redeeming features?

penelopethefrog Fri 15-Jul-11 21:35:02

I'd trust the teachers on this.

However, if you're wanting him to read books over the summer, try the Phonics Bug books - you can get them from Reading Chest, and Floppy's phonics, and the Collins Big Cat phonics.

If he can do the above then he could do pink band books from those schemes, and some of the red.

I would steer clear of Biff and Chip at the early levels as they're bound to be confusing if he's doing phonics in class, and if he gets into the habit of memorising whole words before he understands the sounds, it may make things harder in the long run.

MerryMarigold Fri 15-Jul-11 21:37:56

penelope, but he's a bright kid. If he could memorise the sounds, don't you think he would have? Maybe he's going to be a kid who does memorise words whole (he is a lot more visual) and get his confidence going that way. Sorry, not trying to be obstreperous (sp?), but do want his confidence and enthusiasm for reading to be re-ignited. Do you think it's right he should have been in school a year without a reading book?

yellowkiwi Fri 15-Jul-11 21:45:00

Maybe he will start to be able to blend the sounds when he has a reason to do so . For example a book to read!

I would normally say to trust the teacher, but what your DS is having to do would put me off reading too.

I would buy the books recommended by the other poster and see how he gets on with them and/ or read plenty of books to him. It's not unusual to still be finding blending difficult at the end of Reception.

penelopethefrog Fri 15-Jul-11 22:18:35

I guess if mine had done all of YR without a reading book I'd be a bit miffed.

I recommend these to start off with - some of the stories are a bit contrived but they're very confidence building as they're easy.

Both my kids have liked these too, as the stories are more fun, even though they tend to be a bit harder than the phonics bug ones at the same level.

The advantage of going with these rather than the straight Biff and Chip is that it won't be at odds with what your little one has been learning at school. The phonics schemes go right up to orange level so you won't run out of reading material over the summer smile

MerryMarigold Fri 15-Jul-11 22:19:51

Thanks penelope

PastSellByDate Sun 17-Jul-11 08:17:20

Hi MerryMarigold:

I've posted before about my Y1 DD's problems with reading. In her case, she was sent home with books, but they were not changed frequently and when she was moved down a reading group she was given several of the same books she had previously read all over again, even though she could read them beautifully.

Many advised to stop worrying about what the school provided and start doing your own thing.

Since you're starting at the beginning - you may be interested in The Reading Chest

If you can't/ don't want to go to the expense - look at web sites like The Book Trust to see what they recommend for your child's age group. Also try out the local library. I suspect that if you build in some regular reading time with your DS over the summer and build a routine which can then go into the school year, you'll start to see the improvements.

Share the reading out. Ask your DS to read what he can but let him know that you'll help with the tricky words. At first you may have to make all the sounds of more complex words but gradually you'll see that he'll absorb this kind of thing and you'll do less and less.

Good luck and hang in there!

Panzee Sun 17-Jul-11 08:35:09

I wouldn't make a specific effort to 'teach' him to read. I'd take him to the library and read with and to him. Let him choose books that look appealing to him, and show him books you loved as a child and as an adult. This will help to encourage a pleasure in reading, and you may be able to bypass the terminal boredom of Floppy et al. grin

Don't forget Reception is still quite young. If your son's brain hasn't matured enough (and even at 7 many haven't) then he won't be able to make those letter/sound connections no matter who teaches him or how he's taught.

MerryMarigold Sun 17-Jul-11 12:55:36

Thanks Panzee. It's such a minefield. I certainly was of your opinion about the whole thing and this is what we have done so far. Very little pressure and simply enjoying books together. But 2 things are putting me off this approach now:
- He's not at all confident that HE can read. This is because he hasn't had a book which is simple enough for him to read.
- Part of the lack of confidence is because they have been streamed since January and he is aware of where 'he is', I believe, as he's quite intelligent and he knows most of his class have reading books (they're always talking amongst themselves about 'which one are you on?') and his friends are all in different groups whilst he is in with Jan starters.
It's really upsetting to see his enthusiasm for reading and his confidence in himself squashed in this way. And I'd love to help him a bit...

Thanks for advice everyone. Will make concerted effort to fit this into a routine, otherwise it does fall by the wayside. When do you do it? Holiday time and term time?

wordsmithsforever Sun 17-Jul-11 19:57:05

What about making your own book - sort of scrapbook style? Focus on what your DS is truly interested in - stuff that he really loves. Perhaps it's lego - then you can suggest he draws a pic of the cool figure he put together and you can act as his scribe and write underneath, "LittleMarigold made this cool car from Lego." Over time he can build up a journal and you can encourage him to read it back to you/other family members if he wants to. It doesn't have to be one subject - could be all his passions - chocolate, dogs, whatever excites him. You could also include family photos and get him to comment on the pic and you write it down for him again, sticking the pic in. I did this with my DS and he really enjoyed it.

DownyEmerald Sun 17-Jul-11 20:25:14

I'm not a teacher, I'm just the parent of a Reception child, and I listen to reading in the school.

DD has been on the ORT Biff and Chip, but I did also get given some Ruth Miskin ones by my grandmother. And they are all very nice, but there is barely a story or plot, no beginning, middle and end. To me they have very little to do with, what is to me, the point of reading - to be able to read stories. They seem totally contrived to the point of irrelevance.

Whereas ORT for all its problems with introducing words that they can't read yet IYSWIM does have real stories, and good illustrations and a plot you can talk about.

I think going to the library, reading lots, making his own book are all great ideas - dd has loved making her own books.

Thursdayschild Sun 17-Jul-11 20:45:28

I think all you need to do is do what feels right for you and your son.

My daughter and son love going to the library and finding books that interest them. My daughter is about to finish reception year and has found the books provided by the school easy to read and for this year I have just gone to library to get extra books to read which she has loved. I don't believe we can really teach a child the wrong way but just a different way.

Just make it fun and remember to stop when your child seems bored.

dolfrog Mon 18-Jul-11 06:13:07


Unfortunately Ms Miskin has no understanding of how children actually learn to read. She only has a program to market, and increase her sales and income.

Neurological research has demonstrated that there are at least two parrallell processes working when we perform the task of reading, and Ms Miskins only addresses one of these cognitive processes wit her program.
The technical terms are Lexical and Sublexical processes. The Lexical process is word recognition or whole word processing, and Sublexical is decoding or phonics.
Reading is about decoding and finding meaning from the graphic symbols society chooses to represent the sounds of speech. So it is about using a man made communication system.

We use the Latin Alphabet writing system, which is one of the most complex writing system, and English is the most complex language in the Latin Alphabet writing system. And all writing systems best suite those who designed them rather than being best suited to all who may have to use them.

Alphabets try to use multiple graphic symbols to represent the sound of a word. To effectively use this type of writing system the users have to be able to initially process the different sounds that can make up a word, so that they are able to decode the graphic symbols used to represent these sounds. Unfortunately there are many who are not able to process the gaps between sounds. Not able to process the gaps between the sounds that can make up a word, or even the gaps between words in rapid speech. Which make concept of phonic blending a nonsense.
So the only option open to this group is to match the whole sound of a word top the whole shape or pattern of the graphic symbols used to represent the sound of a word. Unfortunately Ms Miskin and those who promote a phonics only approach to teaching reading does not want to recognise the learning needs of this group. They are also ignoring the human need to develop good guessing and risk taking skills.
The groups who have problems using phonics are those who have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) , a listening disability, those who have attnetion deficits, and those who are Right brain dominant (left handed) and are natural Visual-Spatial leaner (they think in pictures).
So may be you should be asking the school to use an alternative to phonic s to address your DSs real cognitive learning needs, and use more visual and kinaesthetic methods to help him learn to read.

bbboo Mon 18-Jul-11 07:42:51

sounds as if your son is disheartened 9and possibly bored/frustrated) by these ditties. As the previous post has said, your son may use a different method to read. In the past I have used jelly letters (plastic letters filled with squishy stuff) to help some children understand the connection between the letter shape and sound. I get them to hold the letter, get used to its shape. Then draw around the letter, and ask the child to write (if they can) the same letter inside the outline, saying the letter sound as they do it. once he is confident with this, try putting them together to make simple , easily sounded out words. Then help him blend them together - but don't rush this as some children find blending very hard. Ask him to make letters using play dough,clay etc and model blending of the words etc. But don't get too strung up on it - if we lived in mainland Europe he wouldn't even be at school (not very helpful for you in this school system) . My son took a long time to read but now, aged 10, has a reading and comprehension of a teenager. Keep it light/fun - as earlier posts say, make your own dictionary/phonics dictionary/photo albumetc. And don't stress about the writing - that will come too! Sorry if this is a bit rambling ,but hope it helps.

Tarenath Mon 18-Jul-11 07:56:31

I don't blame you for wanting to abandon what the school is doing. I think that would drive me crazy too!
We are home educating so obviously doing things a bit differently but we use Progressive Phonics with my 4 year old. It's a free downloadable phonics based reading system. One of the things I like about it is it doesn't require the child to read all the words in the book, only a couple of familiar words and sounds to start off with while the parent reads the rest of the story. It's been great for confidence building with my son who absolutely refused anything to do with Jolly Phonics or Oxford Reading Tree books.

MerryMarigold Mon 18-Jul-11 13:10:42

Thanks again everyone. Dolfrog, I did look up APD after I'd seen it on an earlier thread where you posted and not sure, but my ds1 may have it. Will definitely take a look at that free downloadable thing. I think my ds would enjoy reading with me.

Haven't had any Ms Miskin fans along yet! And yet it seems like more and more schools are adopting the programme.

gabid Mon 18-Jul-11 13:29:44

My DS refused the school reading books (Rigby Star) from reception to the middle of Y1, when I finally managed to establish a reading routine, but my DS just doesn't like reading.

His reception teacher said he was enjoying the jolly phonics and that he was reading the books in school. They didn't have more than 3 words per page either though. I felt he was falling behind not reading at home so at Easter in Y1 I made him read every day (DS loves Floppy & Co.!) starting with ORT books and now he will read school books too.

Sometimes I feel sad being in this system where they make many children read before they are ready to do so. I didn't want mine to fall too far behind, on the other hand I hate to push a 5yo to read and hope he will find his love for reading at some point.

Just reading lots to him may be a better solution?

maizieD Mon 18-Jul-11 16:23:22

Well, I 'm a huge Miskin fan because, contrary to what dolfrog says, she does understand how children learn to read and has written a programme which works extremely well, so long as it is taught properly.

However, I thought I'd keep quiet for once and just let you all get on with it.

IndigoBell Mon 18-Jul-11 16:35:03

I'm kindof a Miskin fan - despite my personal experience of it.

But my DD never bought home ditties. She was normally sent home with books she couldn't read. This was not good for her....... And was incredibly stressful for me.

In both schools where my DD has been and they've used RWI, they've read the RWI books in class and sent home other books to read at home.

I don't see what the problem is with being sent home text to read instead of books.

What I do like about RWI is the number of children it teaches to read. The results in the schools my kids have been in speak for themselves.

littleducks Mon 18-Jul-11 16:45:25

My dd followed the ruth miskin scheme at preschool, i thought it was great she learnt all the phonic letter sounds and how to write them correctly (around the apple and down the leaf for 'a' etc)

Her reception class uses jolly phonics, she already knew all the sounds obv, but learnt the actions and rhymes (a a a ants on my arm) but I found it lacking in letter formation reminders, she now writes some letters the wrong way, you wouldnt necessarily know though if you didnt see her form them though.

I would steer clear of Biff et al. for now, as there are alot of picture clues in the books and this could cause you more problems if your son is already struggling.

We never used the ditties, but I had some of the starter books at home (Nog in the Fog) and have also used ORT songbirds (Bob Bug, the Zog) which I have found to be good.

What is your sons problem though, does he know all his phonic sounds? is it just the jump to blending the seperate sounds together?

littleducks Mon 18-Jul-11 16:48:22

It might be worth trying reading eggs over the holidays, my kids both love it and it helps with mouse skills too. They do free trials for two weeks

MerryMarigold Mon 18-Jul-11 19:11:57

Thanks littleducks. Will try though we have laptop and no mouse.

maizie. I'm not trying to draw you into an argument here. I do want to know the benefits of RWI, since I have to live with it for several years (at the rate ds1 is going). And I also want to know if it's not being taught properly. In your experience, should a child go a year without a book, however difficult they are finding 'blending'? Do they need to be able to read 'a hat on my head' before they graduate to a book?

One of the potential issues I think with RWI is the streaming where small groups are taught by TA's. Considering the importance of reading/ writing, I am surprised that a TA, who is not a higher level TA in ds1's case, is given the huge responsibility of teaching the fundamentals of learning. But I believe RWI does encourage this approach.

IndigoBell Mon 18-Jul-11 20:11:49

RWI is a fairly structured program, designed to be done by TAs or teachers. The TA will have been on a 2 day course so that she knows how to run it. (And it's not as if teachers know any more about teaching phonics than that.)

And of course she'll only be taking a small group. About 8 children?

The alternative is for a teacher to either take lots of small groups during the day - not leaving time for anything else, or to teach the whole class - so not teach at the right level.......

I don't see any point in trying to read a book if your child can't blend. I don't know why your child can't blend after a year of RWI, or if it's been taught properly.

If your child starts with level 1 books in Sep, they will finish the scheme before the end of Y2 (unless your child has serious literacy difficulties and would struggle with any learn to read scheme.)

And reading by the end of Y2 is what you want......

MerryMarigold Mon 18-Jul-11 20:47:30

Hmmm...reading by the end of Y2. But what if he no longer wants to read anymore?! I don't doubt TA's can teach the programme, but they are probably not qualified to be able to understand why a child is having difficulties. I don't know why he is having difficulities. Maybe if he'd been taught phonics with a teacher then we'd know more!

MerryMarigold Mon 18-Jul-11 20:49:56

Or maybe (as many teacher friends of mine, as well as dolfrog would point out), my ds1 is one of those kids who learns by ways other then 'pure phonics' and teaching him to read some words by sight may just boost his confidence and enthusiasm.

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