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by Wendy Harris
No one knows better than home schoolers how enjoyable learning can be when undertaken with friends and family. But can something like learning phonics be enjoyable? The answer is yes—and a friends-and-families approach can prove it.
Even with a room full of colorful educational toys, it wouldn’t take long for many children to say, "I’m bored. There’s nothing to do." However, if you invite some friends over, suddenly that same room becomes a wonderland of adventure. Knowing how easily children can be motivated by friends, BJU Press created memorable characters that turn the learning of phonics into fun. Mr. and Mrs. Short, Miss Long, Bossy R, and others become the child’s friends and lead the way through the adventure of learning phonics. As a young reader hears interesting stories about each character's funny little habits, he unwittingly masters common word family patterns. At the same time, the child’s listening vocabulary is expanded and he practices listening comprehension skills. With that great group of friends, the child accomplishes three big educational objectives at once. Also, with the help of these friends, your child begins tackling phonics through catchy alphabet and phonics songs, listening games, and creative composition. As he learns individual letters, he combines them with other letters to make real words he can read! First, Mr. and Mrs. Short and Uncle Short teach the short vowel word patterns. Then Miss Long and her two friends Miss Silent and Marker e, a dachshund, introduce the long vowel patterns. Next come the r-influenced vowels and Bossy R, and then the emphasis moves on to the special vowels. All along the way the lessons present words to be practiced both individually and in combination with others to form meaningful phrases and sentences.
This approach to teaching phonics also involves families--word families that is! Instead of asking your child to memorize unrelated bits of sounds, the BJU Press phonics and reading program introduces word families with vowel and consonant patterns that a young child can easily identify. In essence, the most challenging part about learning phonics is the role of the vowels. The pronunciation of a word depends upon the position of the vowel within that word, and the vowel sounds produced can be quite varied. For example, think about all the sounds the letter o makes in the following words: no, not, note, noon, nook, noise, now. With BJU Press phonics, a child learns vowel sounds in word patterns. The patterns are signals that indicate which of the vowel’s various sounds needs to be pronounced. A child can learn many words quickly through the use of such patterns. For example, within the same word family as not are the words cot, dot, jot, lot, hot, pot, and tot. The "siblings" of nook include book, hook, look, cook, and took. Talk about extended families! By learning just one of the word patterns, you child can to read hundreds of additional words.
When faced with a building task, how many times has Dad said, "This job would be so much easier if I just had the right tools!"? With the tools of friends and families, the BJU Press phonics program makes the job of learning phonics easy and enjoyable. Using this approach to phonics, your child learns to associate speech sounds with letters by hearing the words during listening activities, by seeing the words as he writes, and by reading the words in interesting stories. When all of this happens, your child can get meaning from printed words. And that means that your child has learned to read!