I've developed the Sound City Reading materials over a period of about twenty-eight years. My goal has been to develop a set of phonics materials that can be used with real children's stories. This is an extraordinarily difficult task, because even the simplest books have words that contain many different phonics patterns. It takes a long time to learn enough patterns to read even the first book. This problem has been addressed by various programs in two different ways. Some systems introduce a lot of sight words early on, and introduce the phonics patterns slowly. This way the stories can be interesting and the sentence patterns sound more like normal speech. The drawback is that many children have huge difficulty remembering sight words. They don't see any logic to why the words say what they say, and get so discouraged they give up. Other systems don't use a lot of sight words, and limit the vocabulary in the stories to just words with the phonetic patterns that have been taught. This gives students more confidence in reading individual words, but tends to create sentences and stories that are stilted. Because they don't sound natural, some students have trouble reading these stories, too. In addition, for either type of system, students crave real stories that have a high level of interest and emotional appeal, something that is hard to create with a very limited vocabulary.
The Sound City Reading program is a phonics first program. Like others, I've struggled to create readable, interesting materials at the beginning of the program when the vocabulary is very limited. As soon as students have mastered enough phonics patterns, they begin reading classic, easy-to-read children's books. My goal is that students read real, satisfying stories as soon as possible. Until then, they should hear many wonderful stories read aloud.
I've been very fortunate to have had exposure to a variety of reading programs and had the chance to try them in the classroom and at home. Most of my ideas have not been my own. When I find something that works well, I begin to use it on a regular basis, and then create materials that will compliment that approach. This section describes my journey and gives credit to the programs and materials that have influenced me. Some of the programs I mention have currently active web sites with a wealth of materials; I've listed these separately in the Links section.
I've tried to put together a set of procedures and materials that will work consistently with a variety of children. This is hard to do because each child is unique. Children don't all learn in the same way. The children that I have worked with have always taught me more than I taught them. Their responses show me what works. I keep refining what I do, because from year to year I always have students who need something a little different.
Background, Philosophy, and Acknowledgements - Page 1