My mom taught 6 of her children to read with Teach America to Read and Spell, and I have so far taught 2 with it. It is a simple and straight-forward “vertical” phonics method where you memorize all the sounds of each letter and letter combination (phonogram, like th) at one time. The program includes more phonograms than many other programs, resulting in there being far fewer words that “break the rules” of the system.
The pages can seem intimidating at first if you just start by opening it up and browsing; there is a lot of information on each page! However, the DVD lays it all out and demonstrates a lesson in action. It is not glitzy, colorful, or visually appealing, but it gets the job done and done amazingly well.
The author believes in a more laid-back, slow approach; he recommends starting reading lessons at 6 years old. While both my children who are reading so far began to read when they were 5, this program is primarily for students who are ready to read. It will not likely work to push a young student to read early. The materials and method will give the student the tools needed to sound out phonograms, but then you wait for the ability to blend those sounds to “click.” There is not drill or practice included to urge or cultivate that blending ability. I taught my children the phonograms before they could blend, then once that skill developed, they were both reading with ease and progressed very quickly. The author also includes tips for using this material remedially for older students who are not reading well.
The script and routine laid out is basic, quick, and easy to implement. However, this program works easily as a framework for those who would prefer to wing it. I never really followed the author’s lesson outline, but instead used the charts for phonogram drill, then used Bob books and other early reader books for the blending and reading practice. The books were more enjoyable and motivating to my children than the word lists provided. There is a chart with all the sounds on one page that I reviewed myself so that I knew all the sounds (67 phonograms) and rules (12 phonic rules), then I taught many of them on-the-fly as we encountered words along the way.
This is an excellent program, with clear instructions for rules-oriented people and with straight-forward material for improvising types. I commend it without reservation.