Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Review of Rime to Read

Mosquitoes. Whispered. Flashlights. Mountains. Sailors. Bounced. Disappeared. Squashed.

Would you consider these words at an appropriate level for the emerging reader? I wouldn't. Yet, all of these words came from the pages of popular Level 1/PreK readers from my shelves.

I remember clearly when my oldest first broke the phonics code. Once the mechanics of phonics had clicked, my first instinct was to foster a simple love of reading. I had fond memories of my own cabinet of books when I was a child and I was anxious to build my daughter's personal library with readable books. The first thing I did was run to the local discount store and purchase several of those leveled readers found in the book section. However, once I returned with my stack of Level 1 / PreK books, my excitement quickly waned. Every single book had words that I knew my daughter was not yet ready to read. I soon discovered there is a lack of reading material that fosters confidence and success with early readers. Fortunately, there is a new product that not only fills this need, but also utilizes modern technology to do so.

Rime to Read, authored by Sara Hine and Lynn Klaiman and illustrated by Shari Hookman Berger, is a beginning reading program comprised of 20 online books. Rimes, upon which the program is based, are not to be confused with rhymes, which are simply words that sound alike. Rimes are words that both sound and look alike, eg. at, hat, cat, bat. It is these word families that are the foundation of the Rime to Read program. In addition to the 20 word families introduced in the books, 35 high-frequency words are also presented through repetition.

Rime to Read books are devoted to only the short vowel sounds, with four books per vowel sound. Each book introduces a new word family with simple drawings and repetition of previously introduced rimes. If you've ever reached for a highlighter to help your child see the familiarity between words, you'll appreciate the color coding used in the books. A different color represents each rime or word family throughout the series; sight words are black. Each book has 12-14 pages, which are displayed two-sided. A simple illustration and a list of the rimes used on that page are on the left side. The text on the opposing side is anywhere from one word to three short sentences, depending on which book of this cumulative program is being read. In the upper right-hand corner of each page are the sight, or high-frequency, words introduced on that page.

Overall, I would consider this program supplementary to whatever phonics program you are using. The Rime to Read series of books remind me a lot of Bob Books, which were a life saver in my quest to find books that would bring successful fluent reading to my beginning readers. However, a virtual book adds a few new features not previously available. Each purchase gives you permanent online access to the books in your account. This means that your readers will be able to enjoy the books wherever there is a computer and Internet connection. The books will not become lost, worn out by use of several children, or eaten by the dog. If you prefer a hard copy as well, you can print the books as long as they are for personal use and intended to be used within your own family. Also, a sound feature is available for the reader to click on any colored word to hear it spoken for them.

At first I was hesitant about the concept of virtual books, but I think young readers will enjoy the opportunity to learn on the computer, especially if they have older siblings doing so. The books are simple to use with a large page-turning arrow on the screen. There isn't a lot of clutter on the web pages and focus can be directed to the book itself. Unfortunately, the sound feature is newly added and not yet fully functioning. These glitches are currently in the process of being corrected and it is expected that they will be fully running soon. Once consistently functioning, the sound component will be a nice value-added feature to the virtual experience.

If Rime to Read looks to be a match for your emerging or struggling reader, you can currently purchase the complete set for $44.95 or a vowel set of 4 books for $9.99. I was told by author Lynn Klaiman that other books are in the works for the future. I do think the price is a bit steep if your child is just going to read each book once or twice, but more reasonable if you intend to use this program with multiple children or if the books will be read again and again. Also keep in mind that the effectiveness of a program is worth much more than the physical product. I know many parents that would pay quite a bit to introduce their beginning or struggling reader to the sheer enjoyment of reading.

Seeing a child come to the realization that all those funny shapes called letters can be strung together to form words is enough to make any parent's face beam. When your child experiences the thrill of reading a book on their very own, thereby opening the door to the joy of reading, their face will beam too. Rime to Read just may open that door.

You can read a bit more about the program, the background of the authors and even download the first book in the series for FREE at the Rime to Read website.

Read what other Crew members had to say about this program at the Official TOS Crew Blog.


Michelle said...

Hi, Heidi,
I like your review. I just reviewed this resource yesterday too, but I think your review is more detailed, and this reading program just did not work for my seven year old daughter. Just thought I'd pop onto a few of my crewmates' blogs tonight, as I don't really have enough time right now to start typing my next review. Yours caught my eye and kept me reading. Keep up the good work!
Michelle from the TOS Crew

Heidi said...

Thanks, Michelle!

Both of my kids are well past the beginning reading stage. However, their learning styles are polar opposite. Rime to Read probably would have given both of them confidence, but I think one of my children would have benefited more from the actual instruction than the other.

Either way, I think they would make a nice supplement once a child has the basic sounds down. There is nothing like being able to read a book "all by myself"!

Thanks for your comment!