ABeCeDarian Company publishes the ABeCeDarian Reading Program which is a curriculum that focuses on “phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency.” ABeCeDarian Levels A and B are designed to be used with kindergarten through 1st grade children at the very beginning stages of reading. It is also designed to be used with 2nd and 3rd grade students who are still in the early stages of reading. The purpose of ABeCeDarian is to provide a means of teaching decoding skills with a “simple, effective, inexpensive and enjoyable reading curriculum.” It is described specifically as being a “research-based, explicit, comprehensive, multi-sensory decoding program developed by Michael Bend, Ph.D.” who is a teacher with 30 years of experience in teaching reading. As a member of The Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the Teacher’s Manual and Student Workbooks for Levels A1, A2 and B.
The A-1 and A-2 student workbooks (for students reading at kindergarten through mid-1st grade level} are each $12.25 and the A-1 and A-2 teacher’s manuals are each $28.50. The set of ten story books are $21.50.
The program begins with Level A-1. Michael Bend, spends quite a bit of time summarizing the required knowledge for students to be able to decode words and to do it well: knowledge, skills, strategies and practice. He goes into a lot of detail explaining why this knowledge is important and how it will be taught using ABeCeDarian. I really appreciated this level of detail, as I am working with a very intelligent, yet struggling, 2nd grade reader who has been working on his reading skills by choice, since he was 3 years old and his big brother sat down for his first kindergarten lessons and he followed suit, though this had not been my plan. No tubs of educational toys for this child, he wanted to do his lessons like his 3 older siblings. He has a high level of concentration and comprehension, but has struggled to learn how to read.
After reading Dr. Bend’s description of the reading process, I was hopeful that his step by step approach to teaching phonemes, digraphs and blends in a systematic approach allowing for quite a bit of practice might be a way of helping my son become more competent as a reader. It was also helpful to understand the concept of segmenting words as a learned skill and the fact that one spelling can represent more than one sound and it is important to teach the skill of “flexing” when the first attempt does not yield a word that makes sense.
My son had just finished up his current reading program, so this option came at the perfect time in order for us to just begin using it 3 to 4 times a week for 15 to 30 minutes a day, as recommended. We were able to move very quickly through Level A-1 with the focus on single letter sounds. I just wanted to make sure he was solid in the basic letter sounds though, before moving forward. I appreciate the approach of using the sound of the letter and not the name of the letter. For some reason, my son had not been able to make the connection between the name of the letter, the sound of the letter, the capitol and lowercase forms of each letter. Mid way through 1st grade, after 3 1/2 years of this intelligent child trying to memorize all forms described above, we were still not getting his brain to connect the dots so that he could read. It was frustrating to him and to me. A friend of mine mentioned teaching him to read with just the sounds. That made a huge improvement, but I was basically doing it on my own. So ABeCeDarian, which is very self explanatory and scripted has been very helpful for this manner of teaching.
Level A-2 began with easy blends and the use of a double letter, as in “hill,” to represent just one sound. There is a focus on blending and segmenting. We followed the lessons starting at A-2 lesson 1 and have made it to lesson 30 in this workbook. I can definitely see an improvement in my son’s reading. The tap and say approach combined with saying the sound out loud before you write the word have been extremely beneficial. I am beginning to see him using “flexing” skills in his reading; self correcting a word when the letter makes a different sound than he first thought. And he did great on a 6 word spelling test.
He loves the Storybooks and goes around the house reading them to everyone. He was just beginning to become frustrated with his difficulty in learning to reading, but now I am seeing a lot more confidence in him. I think the fact that the lessons are short and he knows what to expect has also helped his confidence level increase. It was so sweet to see him reading independently.
One of the mainstays of this program is also the use of multiple types of practice: Word Puzzles, Isolated Letter and Sound Practice, Tap and Say, the Error Game, Say-And-Write, Spelling Practice, Spelling and Reading Chains, reading sentences and Storybooks, writing sentences as well as a list of other games and variations on these games. Practice! Practice! Practice! And it is all laid out and scripted, taking little to no pre-preparation, which made ABeCeDarian so easy to implement! They offer two more levels, C ( for students reading at 3rd and 4th grade level) and D (for students reading at 5th and 6th grade level). I loved this program so much that I am going to continue using it with my younger son and order Level C for my 4th grade son along with the Spelling Patterns Workbook. As they state on their website: “ABeCeDarian achieves efficiency in the following ways:
- It focuses only on essential skills and knowledge
- It provides the right kind and right amount of practice
- It provides precise and productive error correction”
I found these statements to be true and this straight forward manner of reading and spelling instruction is a great fit for our family. It is a bonus that the products are affordable and that I will only have to reorder the Student Workbooks, as I can reuse the Teacher’s Manuals.