Teaching Children with Down Syndrome to Read with See and Learn: More Free Resources

As many of you know, I’ve been teaching Junior to read using Down Syndrome Education’s See and Learn series. Teaching Junior to read has been one of the most gratifying experiences in all my years of homeschooling because he is so eager to learn. One of the things that keeps him motivated is getting to read new books. Every time I bring home a big bag of new books from the library it’s like Christmas… he’s that excited. Then Junior sits on the floor and digs into the bag, happily flipping through each of the books and lining them up neatly as he finishes each one.

To keep him motivated and to give him continual review of previously learned words, I make him books using the words he has learned from See and Learn and from the Faith and Freedom Primer.

A few posts ago, I shared some books I made to go with See and Learn Phrases 1 and 2. Here are ten free books to supplement See and Learn Phrases 2 and 3.

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Faith and Freedom Primer B – Adapted for Children with Down Syndrome

Here is part 2 of the Faith and Freedom Primer, which I adapted for children with Down Syndrome. The original book, published by Seton Educational Media, has three parts. This is the second part. You can find the first part here.

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!

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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?”

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Free Resources for Teaching Children with Down Syndrome to Read

Several weeks ago, I read the book Whole Child Reading: A Quick Start Guide to Teaching Students with Down Syndrome and Other Developmental Delays. If you have a child with developmental delays, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a fast, easy read with useful insights into how the brain works and many practical applications. The gist of the book is to go in through the heart by using stories and topics that are highly interesting and motivating to the student and then to teach to the brain by understanding how children with T21 learn best.

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.

Today I’m sharing some of these books:

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Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome to Read – Part 2 (And Why We’re not doing Phonics, Yet)

Last post, I shared some videos showing how Junior is learning to read using See and Learn Phrases by Down Syndrome Education. We demonstrated the first four steps of learning to read using sight words.

Today, I’m sharing videos of the last two steps and discussing why we’re breezing through with sight words instead of slogging through phonics.

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Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome to Read with See and Learn

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.

Buckley, Sue. Reading and Writing for Infants with Down Syndrome (0-5 years)

And,

Children introduced to literacy as a language teaching activity in preschool years reach the highest level of achievement.

Buckely, Sue. Reading and Writing for Individuals with Down Syndrome – An Overview.

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.

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Luna’s Magical Trip to the Moon

Here’s a sweet and delightful picture book for your little ones! My teenage daughter and her friends collaborated on it over the spring and summer.

Luna has always dreamed of going to the moon. One day, the opportunity arises in an unexpected way. At first, Luna is afraid to embark on her adventure, but she realizes that this is a once in a lifetime chance. On a daring quest to save the moon from Ash the fire-breathing dragon, Luna meets amazing friends and grows in self-discovery. With beautiful illustrations, this book will capture the imagination of young readers, while teaching important life lessons on kindness and courage.

Just look at some of these beautiful illustrations by Grace Gunther:

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Just Released: A Novel your Daughters will Love

Anne of Green Gables. Heidi. A Little Princess. These are classics your daughters should read during their childhood. But have you noticed they’re all about orphans? Even the Pevensie children of the Narnia series are often estranged from their family. Where is family life as it should be in the realm of children’s literature? Thank goodness for Little Women!

Here’s another novel in the heart-warming style of the classics, but this time it’s about a young girl and her large fun-loving, rambunctious family: Clara of Strawberry Fields.

Check it out:

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Introducing “Teach Me to Read Duets, Books 1 and 2” — the sequels to “Short Vowel Stories”

For those of you who have used Short Vowel Stories to help teach your children to read, you’ll be glad to know (I hope!) that two more books are now available: Teach Me to Read Duets, Books 1 and 2.

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Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through Literature

Last week, my teenage daughter said to me, “I love talking about books.” I couldn’t agree more. And the popularity of book clubs is evidence that we’re not alone. What a pleasure it is to read a good book and then talk about it!

Thankfully, doing these two simple things is an effective way of developing critical thinking skills — provided you ask and discuss the right questions. So, as I promised in my last post, here is a list of questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy that you can ask your children/teens to help them think critically about the books they are reading.

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