Four- and five-year-olds are learning to read—and having a lot of fun in the process.
Alphabet Workout, a new online course developed by Stapleton resident Darcie Froehardt and her sister Mary Forhan, provides videos and printed materials to help parents teach their children how to read.
“It’s not an app,” said Froehardt, a teacher and reading consultant. “It’s designed for parents to be actively involved in their kids’ learning to read. We know from research that apps for kids are entertaining but they’re not really learning. Parents’ interaction is critical. We developed Alphabet Workout so parents can be better teachers of their children.”
Alphabet Workout provides 14 video lessons for the computer or tablet; personalized support from Froehardt; and a backpack filled with puppets, books and games to make the video lessons active and engaging for children. Forhan, also a teacher, wrote the books and songs; Froehardt created the illustrations and puppets.
Froehardt said the method teaches children how reading works, starting with the most useful information. “Children were learning uppercase letters first, which isn’t the most useful,” Froehardt said. “Uppercase letters are used for signs but books are mainly lowercase, so we teach lowercase first…Also, most methods teach the letter names before letter sounds, which isn’t useful for sounding words out,” she continued. “Kids need to understand how connecting the sounds makes a word. It’s much more useful than memorizing words. We noticed that children’s reading was falling apart in third grade because they had memorized words to that point but weren’t advancing. It’s critical for kids to understand how words work.”
Froehardt taught full time for 14 years before retiring two years ago. She still instructs and tutors young readers, including second-language students, and trains teachers how to teach phonics, the basis of Alphabet Workout.
Teaching kids to read is rewarding because of the results, she said. “Learning to read increases kids’ confidence—they are proud of their ability. I’m particularly impressed by second-language learners and their parents. The parents want what is best for their children. When I tell them to read every night with their child, they do it. They are so thrilled that their child is learning to read.”
Why should children learn to read at such a young age? Froehardt says, “Because they can.”
“Most children have the capacity. I believe a kindergartner can read to learn, not just learn to read. Those who aren’t ready to put it all together still learn the underlying skills and build a foundation for reading. If they’re pressured it can be too much, but we make it fun.”
Alphabet Workout teaches letter sounds using story, sound and movement. “We hit all the learning modalities,” notes Froehardt. “We want it to be fun for kids, to put the play back into it.”
She said children love the stories that help them remember letters and words. “They love the monkey, the alligator and the snake. The paper snake puppet excites them and they feel empowered.”
She stressed the importance of play: “We expect so much. Let them be kids while they learn.”
Parents can make unintentional mistakes when teaching their kids to read, including reciting the ABCs, Froehardt said. “The ABCs focus on the name of the letter, not the letter sound. The letter sound is more useful.”
She said parents want their children to read faster so they encourage memorizing words: “Memorizing words says our language is unpredictable. But 80 percent of words can be sounded out. Just a few words don’t play fair.”
Froehardt hopes Alphabet Workout makes learning to read easier and more fun for children and parents.
“We’re empowering parents to be the best teachers of their child. We provide the tools to give them confidence to do that.” For more info, see http://alphabetworkout.bossreaders.com.