Review: The Emergent Reader Series, by Laura Appleton-Smith

The Emergent Reader Series, by Laura Appleton-Smith. Manchester, NH: Flyleaf Publishing. $162 (paperback boxed set).

emergent-readerPractically everyone knows that reading is one of the most vital skills a child can learn, and many systems and products promising to teach the skill have been developed. Many parents, perhaps you among them, are looking to find the very best of these resources.

Unfortunately, among the many resources from which to choose, some are based on the anti-conceptual “whole-word” approach to reading, which (to put it mildly) makes learning extremely difficult and frustrating for a child, rather than relatively easy and enjoyable.

Adding to the difficulty of the search, even some reading programs based on a phonetic approach are poorly conceived and unnecessarily frustrating. Although some teach the child the sound each letter makes then show how those letters fit together to form words, they also include secondary sounds for certain letters before the child has been able to grasp the primary sounds.

For example, one popular series presents pre-readers with four words for each letter of the alphabet, each word beginning with the respective letter, and proceeds to use these words in a short story including pictures. So far, so good. This approach helps the child to learn the shapes and corresponding sounds of letters. However, each time the series introduces a vowel, for example “u,” it introduces both the long vowel and the short vowel sound at the same time—for example, via the words “unicorn” and “umpire.” This does the child a gross disservice.

Other systems and books present the different sounds of letters one at a time, introducing secondary sounds only after the child has grasped the primary sounds, but are poor in other respects. For instance, some fail to address important sounds (e.g., the “ng” in “sings” or the “er” in bigger”); some include unpleasant pictures or uninteresting stories, or both.

Parents looking for a system that includes the good and excludes the bad will be delighted to discover The Emergent Reader Series, written by Laura Appleton-Smith. . . .

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