When we teach children how to read through the Charlotte Mason approach, it is not meant to be a quick process. We can take our time (insert sight of relief). But even though we don't want to rush them from nursery rhymes to chapter books, it has to happen at some point. I often recommend the Reading-Literature Books by Free and Treadwell for making the transition to reading longer stories. These books were a part of our learning-to-read curriculum for Miss H, and we had great success with them.
This is my final post in this Charlotte Mason Reading Series. You can go back to the beginning of this series here, and catch all the help I've shared, or save it for later.
What are Reading-Literature Readers?
These readers, which are officially called Reading-Literature, were written in the early 20th century By Harriett Treadwell and Margaret Free. The books start with the Primer, and continue on through volume eight, although the higher volumes are more difficult to find today. Treadwell was a teacher, principle, and activist who believed that children could be taught to appreciate good literature early on, and that teaching to read contained a few essential principles that are easy to grasp.
The primer, meant for young children, contains repetitive folk tales that children might be familiar with. Level one includes rhymes, and level two contains fables and fairy tales.
Why I Like These Readers
Besides the obvious point that they contain real literature and get children appreciating literature, I think these are a great next-step reading material for several reasons.
1. They Repeat Sight Words
No flash cards needed to learn sight words. Sight words don't necessarily follow phonics patterns, but appear often in text, so they're important to know. With the repetitive nature of the primer, sight words are introduced naturally, without needing to "drill and kill" them.
2. The stories increase in difficulty
The first story in the Primer, the Little Red Hen, starts with 30 simple words. Some of those words are repeated throughout the book. The final story has close to fifty words, many of them that haven't been introduced yet in the book. This approach balances new words with familiar words, giving children confidence to keep reading.
3. They keep classic stories alive
I love that new readers get to read real stories, even if they are familiar with them. It gives children a reason for reading, and gives them a feeling of accomplishment that they've read something real. And, it keeps classic, cultural stories alive.
How to Use Treadwell Readers
If you follow Charlotte Mason's "reading by sight" approach, you can use it with these readers, too. Choose a few words that your child doesn't know from the text, and introduce them before reading. I like to take some of the words and write them in a Word Processing doc, to be able to move them around, as Charlotte Mason suggested. (It's nice that we don't have to chop up books anymore, like she did!)
I recommend having your child read two or three pages a day to build endurance while reading.
Check out My Little Robins' reading lessons to use with Treadwell Readers. There are 9 weeks of lessons, with four lessons each week. A color-coded list tells you which words haven't been introduced yet, and each lesson introduces a few of the new words by sight. Two or three phonics lessons each week make sure your child has built a strong reading foundation.
Charlotte Mason recommended that children keep a little journal of the words that they've learned. I like to organize this by phonics skill. This allows me to see if there are phonics skills that we need to review or that we've missed teaching altogether. My Little Robin's Treadwell Reading Lessons have phonics headings for your child to paste into a notebook to keep organized.