The Faith and Freedom Primer Adapted for Children with Down Syndrome

Once in a while I come across a pedagogical gem. The Faith and Freedom Primer is one of these. It is actually a combination of 3 smaller books, written in the 1950s to teach children how to sight read high frequency words. I’ve used it with all of my kids to teach them how to read sight words alongside teaching them how to decode phonetically. The book is a gem not just because it teaches children to read sightwords incrementally and systematically, but also because it portrays the Catholic faith and family life in a gentle and beautiful way.

Since Junior had been learning to read sight words with See and Learn Phrases, I decided to adapt the Faith and Freedom Primer according to the recommendations laid out by Natalie Hale, in her book Whole Child Reading. Junior would often pull the original primer off our bookshelf and pretend to read it, so I thought, “Why not adapt it for him and see if he can learn to read it?”

Adapting the book turned out to be a bigger project than I anticipated but well worth the effort. Junior loves reading these books and has kept me up late many a night as I worked to stay ahead of his progress. Here’s a sample from the adapted version:

As I wrote in my last post, we always have a page with text only, followed by a page with a picture and the text repeated. This prevents the child from guessing the text based on the picture, and it gives additional reading practice. In addition, I put double spaces between each word, use a sans serif font, and make the text as large as possible.

Be sure to print on full size paper. Resist the temptation to save ink and paper by printing two pages on one sheet — I did that and it was okay for the first few stories, but then I found the letters and pictures were getting too small. Lots of white space and large letters are part of the adaptation that makes reading the book manageable for our kids.

Before reading the book, your child should learn to read the words by sight using the method of matching, selecting, and naming word cards. See my post on Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome to Read for videos on how to do that.

To make it more interesting for him, I made Junior some picture word cards:

I printed these on cardstock, laminated, and cut them. I had Junior match the word card to it’s matching picture-with-word card. Once he was really good at that, I pulled away the picture-with-word cards and asked him to select the word cards I called out. Then I’d simply flash the word card and he would read the word.

I also made regular word cards for matching, selecting, and naming. You’ll need to print out two copies of these so your child can match them. Here’s a sample:

Using these flashcards and the adapted Faith and Freedom Primer really works! Here’s a video of Junior using the flash cards:

Here’s Junior reading part of the book:

Recently, I caught him reading the original Primer. It’s so exciting to watch his progress.

Anyways, here is the first of the three books. I have broken it up into shorter booklets, so Junior feels accomplished everytime he finishes one.

Thank you to Seton Home Study School for giving me the thumbs up to share this adapted version of the Faith and Freedom primer. Yay! By the way, if any of you are thinking of homeschooling your child with T21, Seton offers Special Education Services.

Stay tuned…I’ll be posting the rest of the adapted books in the Faith and Freedom Primer in the coming months.

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