The Faith and Freedom Primer an excellent tool for teaching children to read high-frequency sight words with fluency. Once a word is introduced, it is used repeatedly throughout the book so you child does not forget it. Junior has learned to read all three parts of the primer, and he is now learning to read the next book in this series without any adaptations!
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?”
In the book, author Natalie Hale gives specific instructions on how to format and make your own books so that your kids can read with greater ease and success. So I began making books. I made personal books, because Junior, like most kids, likes to read about himself and his family. I also made books using words from the See and Learn Phrases kits.
This post is for my five-year-old nephew, Aidan, whose school has been shut down for the third time this year. Aidan has a lot of developmental delays that mimic Down Syndrome, and virtual school is… well… virtual. So my sister asked me to show her how I’m teaching Junior to read. She lives across the border, which is also closed. So, I made her these videos.
Having a child with Down Syndrome is such an adventure. Never did I think that it was possible to teach a three-year-old with T21 to read. All my other children had learned to read when they were about five, so I figured that Junior would probably begin to read around seven or eight.
Thus, I was both surprised and intrigued when I came across some papers by Sue Buckley and colleagues. She had done extensive studies on teaching toddlers and children with T21 how to read. Based on her research, she discovered that not only was it possible to teach many toddlers with T21 how to read sight words, it was also extremely beneficial. Buckley writes:
Reading activities may be the single most important intervention for promoting the speech, language and cognitive development of preschool children with Down Syndrome….. we are quite convinced that it (reading) is the single most effective way to help children overcome the learning difficulties associated with Down Syndrome.
Needless to say, six months ago I began teaching my 3-year-old with T21 to read. The goal was to enable him to say 2-3 word phrases without being prompted. You see, Junior can repeat almost anything I say, but he has difficulty retrieving words from his mind without a verbal or visual cue. When he does say a word unprompted, it’s often unintelligible. But learning to read is making a huge difference. Once he learns to read a word, it’s not long before he starts using it unprompted in speech and with greater clarity. Furthermore, his MLU (mean length of utterance) is increasing, meaning his phrases and sentences are getting longer. I can’t tell you how exciting it is for both of us to see him learn to read and speak.
Today I’m sharing with you, step by step (videos included!), how I’m teaching Junior to read.
Aren’t you glad it’s spring? I definitely am! So I made this springtime bundle for Junior, all about woodland animals. More pre-writing, first letters, counting, pattern-making, and shape matching with some really *cute* artwork.
Happy World Down Syndrome Day! Earlier this winter, I attended a webinar featuring Dr. Brian Skotko, the director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusets General Hospital. He gave a wonderful, highly informative presentation on how to keep our loved ones healthy, boost their cognition, and how we might mitigate the onset and severity of Alzheimer’s Disease. We all know that keeping our kids active is so important to their overall health, but Dr. Skotko’s presentation showed how this is especially crucial for kids with T21.
One of the easiest ways I keep Junior active is by playing music for him. He loves music, and he loves to dance. So we play music and dance several times a day, and he really gets a workout. Bonus: He learns the lyrics and starts singing along, which is great for his speech.
Today, I’m sharing with you his current playlists of songs and dance music.
One of the things I’m working on with Junior is pre-writing skills. Since he is all about penguins and polar bears, I decided to make an arctic-themed bundle for him. And I made him some Valentine’s Day activities as well. Here’s what we’ve been doing to promote pre-writing skills and counting:
Letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. As I wrote in my post about Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome, we want to make sure our children are ready for concepts, especially abstract ones, before requiring our kids to work on them. Colors and shapes, which are attributes and not concrete objects, can be especially difficult for preschoolers with T21 to grasp.
A child’s readiness to learn a concept probably depends on combination of genes and environment, nature and nurture. Exposing a child to pre-academic concepts without requiring him/her to learn them may help a child’s readiness for them. Especially if you offer a variety of activities and toys. Young children love novelty — it’s part of their natural drive to investigate and learn. So the more variety you can offer, the more you will rouse their curiosity and internal motivation to learn.
That’s the challenge though — keeping a variety of interesting activities. Here are some activites I’ve found most helpful for teaching Junior letters, numbers, colors, and shapes.