Author: TinyIvy Team

The Best Phonics 2.0 Program for Kindergarten

Why Phonics Programs in Kindergarten Matter

The best phonics program for kindergarten is not what you think, but the answer is critical. Whatever your motivation, the goal is the same: your child needs to learn phonics to become an amazing reader. Maybe they are three years old and just getting started with letters and sounds, or maybe they are six and you want to make sure they don’t fall behind even though “learning” is now virtual for your school

But with so many different phonics programs to choose from, how can you decide what is best phonics program for your kindergarten or pre-k angel/monster? The old go-to of Hooked on Phonics broke ground forty years ago. It was among the first programs that leveraged the early science of reading, teaching the fundamentals that lead to reading in later years. But a lot has changed since then. New digital approaches like Homer and ABC Mouse take the same concepts but rework them into digital experiences which can help entertain your kids while they learn.

There is clear scientific consensus around the importance of phonics instruction in the initial stages of learning to read. Remember, no matter what you choose, you’re more or less on the right track looking at a phonics-based solution. But let’s call all of that “Phonics 1.0”. There is something new on the horizon, and that’s what we wanted to talk about.

What is the Best Phonics Program 2.0?

It turns out, it’s not about how you teach phonics to your kids, but what phonics exactly you are teaching them. All of the existing solutions are based on the same fundamental ideas of how to teach reading, based on deep research into the study of how kids learn to read English. But while many of these programs are fantastic, they miss something critical. In a way, phonics as we have known it is just a bandaid on the real reading challenges we have reading. Think about it, how many of the words in this paragraph could a child just “sound out”? 5? 10? Phonics doesn’t work on its own, which directly leads to fewer than half of kids reading at grade level. The best phonics program for kindergarten needs to be based on the newest science, science that points us all in a different direction.

It is only in the last decade or so that Academics began to explore the universal truths behind literacy, drawing inspiration not only from English, which is a true outlier, but from a world filled with language systems that are written and read differently than our own. The results are extraordinarily important if you want to save thousands of hours teaching your kids to read. In virtually every other country with an alphabet, kids learn to read years and years faster and more accurately than they do in English. That’s important.

“English is truly exceptional. By the end of the 1st year of schooling, hyperlexic [extremely fast and accurate] style reading is the norm in transparent alphabetic orthographies [languages where spelling is very easy and regular]; most children are capable of tackling almost any printed (monosyllabic) word. In English, such proficiency is delayed for several years.” – David Share, Ph.D, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa

How Can We Bridge the Gap?

Ok, but so what if kids can learn Spanish in a year, we want to teach our kids English! Well, it turns out there is a simple way to make reading English as easy as it is to read in Spanish. Add TIPS.

TIPS is like Phonics 2.0, based on the methods used to teach Israeli children to read for two thousand years. The fundamental premise is simple: let’s teach kids every single sound they need to read like a champion. TIPS turns our complex language into something as easy to read as Spanish, where every letter makes one sound. 

There is a reason that kids learn to read Spanish fluently in a single year of study and remember how to do so for decades (and that so many American children fail). Reading in Spanish is easy. The language itself makes all the difference. 

Considering A New Approach to Phonics

So as you think about the best phonics program for your kids, there are really two potential choices. There is of course the old way of doing things: from the ages of 4-6 learn the letters and dozens of exceptions, by 7 or 8 learn hundreds of more exceptions and the complex decoding rules. 

But there is also something new. Something we have been working on these last few years that is just now rolling out across the country. TIPS is Phonics 2.0. It’s a better, simpler approach, which quickly leads to joyful reading for you and your child. Reading just one of our books with your child is enough to see how it works. But don’t take our word for it, just give it a try.

Get Ready to Pod After School

Pod After School is an alternative to expensive Pod School programs, which can be organized by small family groups at virtually no cost. The benefits could be huge, provided that they can be done safely.

A Pod School Experience for All

Are your kids going to pod school? Not many are. In fact, there is grave concern that the pod school and micro-school trend taking off right now is going to dramatically expand the gap between the high and low performing students across the country. Yet with the current Covid-19 case counts at record levels, the threat of cold weather further escalating the situation in the fall, and the recent research published that shows how kids and schools are likely vectors of transmission, it’s more likely than not that if you have kids, your school’s doors are shut. While we all hope things reopen soon, a lot of us said that in NYC back in March.

So families need to act, and many are therefore organizing Pod Schools. Pod Schools are when a group of families comes together to hire a full-time teacher, so their children can continue with their education even while the crisis rages. Although many people can’t afford the top echelon $100k+ Pod School experience, there are a ton of benefits of pod-based learning, which is why we wanted to share the concept of Pod After School. It’s Pod School Light. Pod School for Everyone. And it could really help.

What is Pod After School?

Pods After School is a collection of families that care about their kids, and their safety, and come together to help create a positive learning environment that is a fixed part of the day. It is more than a play date, it’s time dedicated to learning and growing up. This doesn’t replace the virtual programming for your school, but adds to it in key ways that will help ensure your child makes as much progress as possible during this difficult time.

Who Needs a Pod After School?

First, let’s face it: virtual schooling for young kids just doesn’t work. We’ve gotten a lot better, but there is a reason that before the pandemic, schools were not rapidly becoming virtual. The needs of young learners are many: social, emotional, physical and mental, and on virtually every front, virtual schooling falls short. While every child could benefit from Pod After School time, it’s most important for parents of children that are 4 to 6 years old. Here’s why:

What do you do in Pod After School?

Some day in the distant future, Harvard will publish a list of the scientifically proven elements that work the best to make progress when kids are in a pandemic. But as parents, we need to act now. Our view of the research is that your best bet is to focus on just a few key fundamentals. The typical Pod After School should last for 2 hours and occur at least three times a week. Here is how to structure each session:

  • Meeting: Start off with a structured meeting and describe the plan for the afternoon. For some ideas, check out The Kindergarten Smorgasboard.
  • Reading: The most important skill to teach your kids is reading. Hands down. Without this, every other aspect of their education will be harder, both for them and for you. We highly suggest adopting our Home Curriculum as an easy way to have structured lessons related to literacy and reading each day, that can help you make tremendous progress.
  • Art: After some reading practice, it’s time to take a break and do some coloring. Give the kids some paper and materials (try to vary this up if you can, but a pencil and blank paper is really all they need) and draw! Try to draw objects around you or elements of the story you just read.
  • Math: Next, since we’ve warmed up our brains, shift gears to math and numbers. Khan Academy has fantastic resources to teach young kids everything they need to know and a ton more.
  • Open Play: Lastly, time for some open, imaginative play. Each day, a different child should take the lead and decide what to play. The wilder and crazier the better. Your job here is to run with it. To help the kids explore ideas, work together, and have some fun!

The goal is clear: don’t let our kids fall behind. Pod After School is a low-cost alternative to the expensive Pod Schools that can help you give the best possible path forward for your kids.

Who should be the teacher?

If you follow the structure above, Pod After School isn’t really hard to manage. While you could, of course, hire a teacher, here are some no-cost options and advice on how to Pod After School for free:

  • A Good Kid: When kids teach kids, everyone wins. Some of the best private schools in the US rely heavily on the idea that older students should work with and mentor the younger ones. The age gap between the two needs to be at least 5 years, and of course, there should be an adult nearby to help supervise, but with a small Pod After School, this can really work. The older child acts as the leader for at least a part of the session, taking the burden off the parent/grandparent to do it all by themselves. In the process, the older kids learn a lot of great skills too!
  • Rotated Parent Responsibility: This approach is a little harder to organize, but sometimes it’s necessary to split the role of teacher across at least two parents in a pod. The key is consistency. If you are rotating the Pod Leader role, be sure to be as consistent as you can with the other aspects of the Pod After School.
  • Dedicated Parent Leader: Many, many parents are now looking at this as an option for full Pod Schools, but with Pod After School it is possible for a single parent to manage 3-5 children quite easily. The Pod should be respectful of the effort and time required and find small ways to show support and appreciation for the effort.

Is Pod After School Safe?

Right now, the safest thing to do is to listen to your doctor and to the health leaders in our community, to social distance, and to wear a mask.

For those still reading, you know that doing all this has costs and benefits that only you can weigh. They are different for every family and different in different parts of the country. We wanted to talk about Pod After School because the costs of this pandemic are not just physical, they are also economic and social, with the impact on children’s education being high. We are not doctors or health professionals, but as you think about how to make your pod as safe as possible, please follow a few basic guidelines:

  • Wash Hands. On arrival, everyone should wash their hands
  • Go Outside. If inside, be sure to find a space big enough that you can social distance.
  • Wear Masks. On day one, every child should get a mask that is the same, which helps create a strong community around mask wearing, even among young kids.
  • Talk to Parents. Keep in close communication with the parents about potential symptoms in the children or the family.
  • Watch the News. Keep a close eye on community transmission levels in your area.

For those looking for more information, check out this article from Edutopia with more ideas on creating a safe learning environment.


In a way, nothing has changed. We have always known that small class sizes with great dedicated teachers lead to great results. Expensive Pod School programs are exactly that, but Pod After School is a low-cost alternative that can still yield a lot of the benefits, especially when using top-tier program like our TIPS™ Home Curriculum to drive the education side of things.

This is not an ideal world and these are far from ideal times, but we do hope that some of the ideas here help you band together with a few families and find a way through this pandemic. How we act now will greatly impact the future for our kids, so good luck!

“Why can’t my child read?”

“Why can’t my child read as well as everyone else?” is the unasked question we see in the eyes of most of the parents we talk to (on Zoom).

The answer is simple: your child can’t read because English is too hard. Seriously. That’s the problem. Our language itself is terribly, obnoxiously, horrendously, notoriously difficult to read. So don’t worry, it’s not your fault. It’s English itself that is the problem. In fact, it is so hard to read that millions of children fail. It’s not your child, or the class size, or even the teaching methods (this matters, but not as much as you think). It’s the very language itself. This is what the science of reading in the last ten years has been trying to explain.

Most Kids Won’t Read English Proficiently

First, know that if your kid can’t read (or read as well as they “should”), they are in abundant company. As of the most recent Reading Report Card by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), more than half of the kids in the country can’t read proficiently and one in four can barely read at all. Did you know we have a higher percentage of children reading below “basic” levels than we did 10 years ago? Did you know that literacy scores in the last two years are in a sharp decline? The story is even worse if you come from a poor neighborhood or are black or brown. And the consequences of low literacy are severe: it’s a sentence for a lifetime of lower income, slower progress, and uphill battles.

“When our kids can’t read, parents blame themselves. But they shouldn’t. The true problem is our language – it’s English itself. And that’s not opinion, it’s science.” – Zachary Silverzweig, CEO of TinyIvy

Even worse, all of this data is from before the Covid Slide. Before kids were sent home from schools, which disproportionately impacts minority students and those from poor families.

So what’s the answer? Why exactly do so few kids learn to read? It is hard to learn to read because English doesn’t read well. Over the past fifteen years or so, a growing body of research has begun to look at all languages, in a search for fundamental truth in how kids develop reading skills. The conclusion? English is, technically and scientifically, outrageously difficult to learn.

Compare English to Other Languages

For most European languages, kids read with 90-98% accuracy in one year. With English its 34%. That means that the average kid in France can read a book and correctly read nine in ten words.

The quick brown fox jumped over the ???? dog.

The French kid can read and understand the text. They can learn the new word from the context of the ones they understand and teach themselves to read the rest. But in English, that can’t happen. The language is too hard. Compare to how the English kid will likely perform:

The ????? ????? fox ?????? ???? the ???? dog.

The English learner can’t learn on their own with what they know. And this is really why kids who fall behind will never catch up. If you are not able to read well enough, you can’t make forward progress on your own. Practice is painful and feels pointless because your child can’t figure it out.

Speaking of figuring things out, let’s look at Italian. Italian is “transparent”, meaning what you see is what you say. Every letter is pronounced one way. It’s a “one-to-many” relationship. If you know the letter, you know the sound. On the other end of the spectrum is English, where an A or an O an E can make 6-10 different sounds EACH. It’s gobsmacking. Not only does every letter in Italian point to a single sound, but there are 97% fewer spelling rules than in English. Most kids become rapid efficient decoders of Italian in a few months of study. However, in English, most kids never achieve that mark. One-third of Finnish students read proficiently when they start 1st grade, but fewer than half of kids in the US will reach that level.

Can We Just Make English Easier?

So, the next time you are wondering why your kid is having so much trouble reading, look at any sentence in any book (unless it is one of ours) and think about how she could possibly figure it out unless she already knew how to read. What we ask our kids to do is unfair and a huge waste of their time and yours.

And now there really is a better way.

With TIPS, all of the challenges that held kids back are gone. Finally, all the complexity of English spelling and pronunciation is gone. Every single word becomes regular. At long last, English is easy to read. The average child could be reading fluently in 9-12 months of study, not 5 years. It should take a few weeks of instruction and a few months of practice to reach peak decoding speed, not 5 years. 90% of our children should be reading at grade level, not 40%. And now, for the first time ever, there is real hope that this can be the case. For the first time in English, there is a better answer to the question of “why can’t my child read?” They can’t read, because they haven’t tried to read with TIPS™.

How to Avoid COVID Learning Loss?


Every year, “the big summer slide” holds back the educational progress of millions of American kids.But this year, if we don’t act to avoid a massive COVID Learning Loss, the education gap between high and low-income kids will widen to historic levels. This year, Covid Learning Loss is a real thing, and it’s huge.

Studies show that TWO-THIRDS of the reading level gap in 9th graders can be attributed to the fact that many of them read way less over the summer, and lose proficiency. But it is not just 9th graders. Because kids who aren’t reading at or above grade level by 4th grade rarely catch up. And here we are in May, already starting the slide. No end in sight.

With most schools unlikely to reopen until fall, kids will have lost a lot, even the ones lucky enough to still be going to school via video conferencing. Kids from lower-income families generally fall even further behind. So the “Summer Slide” has come early for millions of American kids this year, and no, that doesn’t mean the slide at the playground or the slip n’ slide in the backyard. It means sliding back from the progress achieved during the school year, and nowhere does this have a more pronounced effect than in reading. And this year, the effect will be felt like never before.

So what can you do, as a parent? How can you avoid COVID Learning Loss?


Rule #1: Read. Read, read, read with your kids. They watch what you do, they want to imitate. You read, they will read. We are all bored, and looking for things to occupy our Stay Safe-Stay Home time. Most parents are trying to structure time during the day for their kids to maintain their own sanity, so make sure that part of that day has at least two 20 minute sessions devoted to reading, longer if possible. And let them stay up ½ hour later … in their bed … but only if they read. Even kids who can’t read will look at picture books, or their favorite books, and pretend to read.

Rule #2: Read. Read, read, read with your kids. Repeat Rule #1!

But even with all of this reading, the reality for most kids now is that the day is less structured and includes less educational content than it did before. That means, we need to find a way to teach our kids that is actually easier. Easier for parents to deliver, but also easier for kids to learn.


To avoid COVID Learning Loss, put your kids in the driver seat (of reading). I had one 5 year old who loved to read chapter books. I had another 5 year old who early on didn’t like reading books at all. But he loved reading encyclopedias about animals, or space, or sports… anything that was only a few sentences long. Both were, and still are, voracious readers, of anything they can get their hands on. So let your kids choose what they read because they are more likely to read what they are interested in. It’s about language early on, not literature. They are discovering how a writer can manipulate words to create feelings, portray mental images, and tell a tale as well as learn stuff.

If your children are too young to read on their own or are just learning to read, the key is to read to them. Let them pick the book, and don’t be surprised if they pick the same books over and over. They love the sounds the words make (don’t you love Pout Pout Fish?) or they go wild over the pictures (anything by Maurice Sendak). They have a fine time with rhyme … you can never go wrong with Dr. Seuss! Point to the words, so they get the idea that a group of letters blends together to make a sound called a word. Soon they will start to recognize those words, especially the fun ones like BAM! and WHOOSH! and GLUG! and THWACK!


Here’s a hard fact. Households without books produce the majority of the kids who cannot read at or above grade level. But books cost money and are a luxury item to many people. Libraries are helpful to bridge the gap, but right now the libraries are closed, and there is even less money to spend on “luxuries”.

But you have a smartphone. We often hand our kids the phone to keep them occupied at some point, to keep them entertained (and perhaps quiet during an important conference call). How can we make the best possible use of that technology? How can we turn that moment into a mechanism that delivers something that will help them succeed in life? ReadingWorld (available here in beta) is a fun activity to do with your children. And it’s something they can absolutely do on their own (after a few plays). Full of games, and revolutionary way to teach phonemic awareness and reading, ReadingWorld will help them learn to read super fast, and put them on the path to success. There are a lot of other programs to download also, on a wide variety of subjects. Take advantage of them.


Parenting at any time is tough. Right now it is extraordinarily difficult. As caregivers to our children, we have an even greater obligation to see that not only do we keep them safe by keeping them healthy, but that we keep them safe from falling behind in their reading ability. This is the single most important factor in a child’s success … the ability to read above grade level proficiency. It’s ok to use your phone to help you get through this. And by the way, there are lots of free books for you to read too!

So let’s stop the Covid Learning Slide, and every Summer Slide from here on forward! READ, READ, READ. About happy things. Fun things. Interesting things. Any things. And while you are reading with your kids, don’t forget to snuggle.

Stay Safe. Stay Home.

Tips on Getting Kids Excited to Read

Creating Great Habits to Help Kids Grow

In the wake of COVID-19, many schools have temporarily closed so that kids can stay safe and healthy at home. While this is absolutely the right thing to do as a society, for each parent it creates a big, important question: “How can I make the most of this time I have together with my child?”

Along with fun activities, this can be a great opportunity to . One of the most important of these is the habit of reading. 

Of course, like most things with our kids, this is not that easy to do. Yet statistics clearly show that kids who read and are read to from an early age are much more likely to do well in school, love learning and love reading.

It’s not hard, just follow the three R’s: Read, Read, Read! Read to your kids, from the time that they can open their eyes. Some parents even read to their babies in utero! Make reading time a habit for your kids. Then as they develop the skills and self-confidence to read successfully, they can read by themselves, but it is up to you to create an environment that supports and rewards it. 

Many parents make reading part of the bedtime ritual, but as your child gets older, extend the ritual to include quiet time where they “read” to themselves before lights out. Even if it is just five minutes, it is the habit of reading we are trying to create. 

But what should they read? Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D., a professor emerita at Lesley University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the author of Taking Back Childhood, says that reading, and learning to read, needs to be fun. The TinyIvy Phonics System accomplishes both of those things. Because kids can’t make mistakes, they enjoy the process of learning. It’s a game. It’s fun. They feel good about themselves. And so they keep reading. And even when they are reading themselves, keep reading to them. 

Simply put, what she’s saying is to keep it fun for them. Go back to when you started loving books – how each one is a magical gateway to exploring new worlds, interacting with enchanting creatures, and solving complicated cases. 

Now it’s your kids’ turn to experience the magic of books – here’s how you can help them.

Tip #1: Ambiance is Everything

Set up a fun reading nook or mini library at your home – with some of your kids’ favorite books and reading material. 

Young kids are very visual beings and making their reading environment fun, enticing and overall cozy will motivate them to grab a book.

Pick a special “reading blanket”, and use it as a throw on the floor. Gather there to read as a family, or to your child, or let your kids read their favorite books. When you are done, you can pick it up and regain floor space. But soon they know that Blanket Time is Reading Time. 

Try to work with them in designing their nook and make it an area they will love.

Tip #2: Make it a Family Time

One of the most effective ways to make sure your kids grow up loving books is to read to them. 

Start by letting them pick a book they want you to read to them. Use your drama skills to change voices for characters, make sound effects, and bring each book to life. By example, you can show your children that words make music, evoke emotions, and create images and feelings. This will carry over to when they start reading on their own.  You can even act out the story with them. . Not only can you enrich your children’s reading skills, but it’s an opportunity to develop a stronger bond with them.

Tip #3: Act Out the Story

Foster imagination in a really fun way. You can have your child draw pictures of their favorite scenes or their favorite characters. Have them write their own alternate endings and ‘what if’ scenarios. And, you can also act out the story by staging a sock puppet show!

This will bring more excitement to reading and develop creativity.

Tip #4: Technology is Your Friend Too

Allowing your kids to use reading tools develops independence in learning, which nurtures and develops a child’s natural tendency to be inquisitive. 

Screen time is something that is rationed carefully in many households, but family-in-place sometimes may require some flexibility there! TinyIvy’s ReadingWorld is the perfect way to entertain your little ones while teaching them how to read. A dynamic app for smartphone and tablet, it teaches the TIP system, presenting a unique letter to match every unique sound. No confusion.

There are five fun islands to explore with a variety of games, and Athena, the Reading Guide, to help every step of the way. You can play with your kids, or they can play by themselves. But either way, it is an education in a dynamic and fun format. A few minutes a session, a few sessions a day, and your non-readers could be reading by the time the COVID-19 crisis is over!  What a silver lining!

Want to experience how it works? Send us a message at https://tinyivy.com/contact-us/.

Existing Phonics Programs Fail to Deliver

Phonics Programs Fail to Deliver

How many of the top phonics programs really get kids ready to read? ZERO. That’s right, zero. None. Nada. Not yet at least. Existing phonics programs quite simply fail to deliver the systematic education needed to build the foundation of reading skills.

This isn’t our view. These were the findings of EdReports, a company dedicated to independent validation of educational products. Their review is devastating: not a single program “meets expectations”, not in even a single category of their review.

Reviews Came Up Short. Real Short.

EdReports is a nonprofit that reviews curriculum materials against the current common core standards. Recently, they reviewed five supplemental programs designed to help children read and only three even partially met any of their standards. This new set of standards was specifically focused on children in kindergarten to second grade.

“None of these programs in and of themselves would be sufficient to get all of the foundational skills for kids.”
Eric Hirsch, Executive Director of EdReports

Of the five systems reviewed, not a single product met expectations in even a single category reviewed.

EdReports plans to continue reviewing more programs like this in order to assess their ability to develop fundamental reading ability in children. We can’t wait to get our system ready for review on this list.

Why Failing on Phonics Matters

A child’s ability to read is a simple combination of two factors, their language comprehension and their ability to decode the words printed on the page. Phonics is a powerful tool in a student’s tool belt, allowing the child to sound out words they don’t know by sight.

In the past few years, significant advances in research are proving the importance of teaching phonics in literacy education. Yet remarkably, none of the products have been able to deliver on that need.

Why We Will Do Better

While it is tragic that existing phonics programs fail to deliver the necessary training, the problem is even deeper than that. Phonics “as is”, is simply not enough.

TinyIvy has redesigned reading into something easy, so easy a child can do it. By teaching the most common sounds we use in English, and giving kids visual TIPS so that they know exactly what to say when they see a word, reading is transformed from a laborious guessing game into a simple, linear, progression from zero to literacy.

In the first five levels of our system, we teach just 30 sounds, and the TIPS™ letters that make them. With that knowledge,  your child can read 30,000 words. It’s that simple. The method for teaching a child to read hasn’t really changed for thousands of years: take one child and read to them one-on-one for 2,000 hours. This is why about 1 in 4 children (and adults) in America can’t read at a basic level of proficiency.

What if we could cut that down to 10 hours of instruction? What if those 10 hours taught skills and knowledge so that a child could then practice on their own, almost immediately? We could change the world. And that’s exactly what we are setting out to do.

How to Fix the Literacy Crisis in America

America’s Literacy Crisis

The biggest challenge with addressing literacy in the US is that it doesn’t affect you or me directly. Most folks who read this blog went to college. Most have LinkedIn accounts. Most are employed, with both parents working great jobs. You probably don’t know too many people that didn’t go to college. That get food stamps. That make less than $30k a year. Still, it’s on us. We must fix the literacy crisis in America.

The challenge is real. The bottom 10th percentile of our country is WORSE at reading now than they were 10 years ago. 20% of 15 years olds can’t read like a 10 year old should.

As I said in my post, we need to fix it, and once again we are seeing that the current strategies, policies, tools and technologies don’t work. Not nearly well enough. Not in the communities that need the most support.

How to Fix Reading? Innovation.

In six weeks, my company will be releasing our first product, based on a new system of literacy education. Our mission is to move the needle exactly where the country needs it the most, building a sustainable business that measures success in our impact. We believe that what it takes more than anything is the courage to try something new.

There are two sides to science. On one side, you need to carefully look at data and make decisions based on what is proven to work. That’s the easy part. The hard part is discovering something new. That is Galileo under house arrest territory. It takes the breaking of barriers, the breaking of assumptions, and the changing of minds. And yes, results. Early results. Which we have.

Early Results of Our Reading System

Still in it’s rawest form, our system has already shown the ability to take a child performing at the 25th percentile of a 1st Grade reader in the fall and catapult them into the 50th percentile of a 1st Grade reader in the spring, in 6 weeks, with just a handful of hours of dedicated instruction.

Change is Coming Soon

I’m really grateful to all of you who have been so instrumental in getting me and this business to the place we are in such a short time. Mom, thanks. You funded my record business and my fitness company, two priceless experiences. You clock in every day now on this one too. Rebecca, who has helped keep me focused on the mission, while crafting a gorgeous, insightful marketing campaign. Logan for adopting me into her office. And of course to Amy, my muse, my love, and best friend.

Here we go.

Why is it so Hard for My Child to Learn to Read?

Why is Reading So Hard?

Reading in English is very, very hard. It is difficult because, frankly, our language doesn’t make any sense. Case in point: the E in enjoy sounds like an I. The most common way to pronounce an E is not to pronounce it at all. Like in the word pronounce. Or in the word like.

Reading is easy for a child when the letters make the sounds they expect. Reading is hard when the letters draw on less common sounds. You may teach your child the O sounds of /oh/ like GO and /ah/ like OCTOPUS, but the O in ONCE makes a /wuh/ sound. And once is the first word in every fairytale. Ouch.

You caught that, right? O in OUCH is different too. As it is in TOO…. If you want to learn more about the challenge of Phoneme-Grapheme Correspondence, read more here and here.

Analyzing Reading Complexity

What we have done at TinyIvy is to use really amazing technology to decode every word in the English language using Building Blocks. Every letter-sound combination has a block. Based on how often these combinations are used (both in print and in the dictionary), we assigned these blocks to ten different Reading Levels. The first three levels are described in detail here.

Since every word is now assigned a Reading Level, we can precisely determine the difficulty of reading a particular book. We analyze every word on every page, determining what Level blocks are needed to successfully sound out the words. Books are then assigned to a Level. Each level requires 90% of the words in a book to be within that level.

A Visual Analysis

Before this system was developed, children’s book authors had no way of creating books that were truly easy for children to read. Now we can look at Goodnight Moon in a very structured way. In the graph below, each color represents a different Reading Level, with brighter reds being more difficult than lighter blues. This graph shows the reading complexity of Goodnight Moon. (No criticism here of this beautiful, beloved book … just insight into why we read it to our children instead of them being able to read it themselves.)

Goodnight Moon: Extremely Difficult to Read

Goodnight Moon fluctuates wildly on our Reading Level scale, frequently using rare letter-sound combinations that are extremely likely to confuse a young reader. The average word is Reading Level 4, but you would need almost every Building Block in the English language to successfully sound this book out on your own. 90% comprehension is only achieved at Reading Level 9.

Without technology, it is extremely difficult to write books to a particular Reading Level. Fortunately, we have built some pretty awesome tech. Let’s take a look at what this lets us do.

Athena’s Mission (III): Extremely Easy to Read

Athena’s Mission, one of the first stories introduced to our young readers, uses words almost entirely from Reading Levels 2 and 3.

Athena is on the sand. The sea is calm. She sees a crab and a fish. There are black steps that climb a hill. The steps lead high into the mist. She starts to sprint to the top. She can not pass. There is an immense lock. She has to find the stones to pass.

The most amazing part of our Reading Levels, is that by prioritizing the “uncommon” sounds that make up extremely common power words, we are able to create actual stories even at Level 3.

Keep Reading Easy to Keep Children Learning

Reading is hard because we don’t make it easy. Until now, there was no way we could. Without a systematic understanding of language, and the technology to analyze phonetic complexity in real time, there was no way to write a book that a child could be guaranteed to read. There is now. It’s a brave new world out there. A Reading World.

How Often Should I Teach My Child to Read?

How Often Should I Teach My Child to Read?

Let’s cut to the chase. For optimal learning, you should teach your child to read quite often: two times a day for 10-20 minutes per session, every day of the week. To learn why, read on.

Remember, it is easy and fun for a child to learn. It’s what they were born to do. They do it all the time. For an adult, it often will take 17 repetitions to build a solid memory. A child can retain information after one or two hearings (like a bad word Daddy yelled after stepping on yet another small, criminally sharp plastic dinosaur) if the word is presented in an important context.

The Science of Teaching Frequency

The optimal structure to teach your child to read can be found here. In order to determine the optimal frequency and duration for using our program, we looked at lots of scientific literature, specifically memorization using spaced repetition and long term retention. We ultimately concluded that, in terms of timing and use, our recommendation is that Little Angels play Reading World two times a day. Once either in the morning after breakfast or in the early afternoon, and once again at night as the beginning of their bedtime routine. By spreading out these sessions, we have a great opportunity to reinforce the previous sessions’ learning. The short duration and down time in between is critical for success. Your child will learn faster from two 20 minute sessions than from one 40 minute session.

Similarly, for best results, your child should play every day. Again, this is to allow us to better time the introduction of content appropriately to your child’s progress, and thus make learning easier and more fun. This consistency allows our Reading World app to do some real magic. If you can be consistent, then based on what we see with your specific child, the Reading World app will evolve to present content at different rates, identify places where there is confusion for your child, and reinforce learning optimally.

The Real World

Now, this is all ideal. The reality is that any sort of reading and phonics practice is better than none at all. We hope your child absolutely loves the game, so the conversation becomes more about limiting their time than pushing them to do it.

Reading World makes each letter introduced important, and then systematically re-teaches this content until a baseline understanding is achieved. By presenting this in an optimal frequency and duration, your child can learn to read extremely quickly with very little parental support required.

We know that you, dear mom and dad, are likely tired. It is hard work to be a great parent or caregiver. So if after 20 minutes, you look over and see your little three year old enraptured and hear them sounding out words and laughing as Dante leaps across the jungle, take a few minutes for yourself and enjoy being a great parent. Your child is learning to read all by themselves.

How to Teach a Toddler to Read

Teach Your Toddler to Read

It is absolutely possible to teach your toddler to read. First, you are going to need a heaping helping of three obvious ingredients:

  • Patience: It’s going to take some time.
  • Discipline: You need to be consistent.
  • Love: There are a lot of hugs in learning to read.

But on to the nuts and bolts! In this article, we explain how it is possible to teach a child to read by the age of 3. We know, it’s hard to find the time to have a cup of coffee. That’s why we are creating ReadingWorld, which will walk your child through the progression outlined below. That said, we wanted to explain our amazing system so that you, as a parent, can make an informed decision about how best to teach your toddler to read. We assume that if you are here, you have a child between 2 and 5, and would like to give them every opportunity to develop into the best little human they can be. A lot of what works at this age works at every age, so don’t worry about where your child is starting from, you can start here.

Teaching The Basics: Level 1

The very first letters used to teach your child to read follow a simple pneumonic device: IMPACT. Each letter is pronounced in IMPACT using the basic pronunciations. Which gives us enough content to build essential pre-reading knowledge: 1) letters have shapes and make sounds and 2) letters can be put together to make words. At this point, we already have a handful of nice words to play with: PAT, PIT, CAT, MAP, MAT, TIM, IT, CAP, and TAP, among others. Just remember that a Building Block is both the letter and how it is pronounced, so be careful to always use the letters in words where the pronunciation of each letter is exactly as it was taught.

Once the child is identifying IMPACT blocks correctly at a rate of 90% or more, and successfully sounding out Level 1 words, congratulations! Together you’ve made it to Level 2! Note if you start a child very young (say 1 or 2), Level 1 could take a long time! That’s ok!

Reading Hard Vowels: Level 2

Once your child is 90% proficient at Level 1, we then introduce Level 2 Building Blocks: Ā, Ē, Ō, Ī, O, B, R, L, N, and S. In this set, we have included Reading Tips (marks on the basic letter) for the Ā, Ē, Ō, and Ī which all are pronounced like their letter names, the “hard” sound of “A” like APE, the “E” like NEED, the “I” sound in TIME and the “O” like OPEN. It is important here to teach the child that the same letters can make different sounds, but when you see a Reading Tip, you know exactly what to say. With these Level 2 additions of letter pronunciations we now have a working vocabulary for your child that includes over 1000 words. To graduate from Level 2, all Building Blocks must be identified correctly 90% of the time. This means distinguishing between the Ā and the A, which may take a little practice.

Teaching Real Words: Level 3

At Level 3, we introduce another 10 Building Blocks: SH, Ś, E, Õ, À, D, Ÿ, TH, H, and F. Now we can really start to make some words! This Level gives us the blends for THIS and THAT, the Ś in HIŚ or IŚ, the Õ in TÕ, the Ÿ in MŸ. These are the Power Blocks, which are found rarely in the dictionary, but are essential to reading meaningful stories. They form the words which hold our language together. We also use Level 3 to introduce the concept of Silent Blocks. A Silent Block is used when a letter doesn’t make a sound, like the “E” in TIME or the “A” in NEAR.

Like magic, after learning the 26 Building Blocks outlined above, and the Silent Block concept, your child can read over 15,000 words. By themselves. Without error. Every word they see in our System reinforces earlier learning. After mastering Level 3 content, children can read meaningful books, with real plots, characters, and messages.

Learning to Read: Level 4 through 10

As the child continues to progress through the system, additional Blocks are added at each level. In Level 4-6 we prioritize the Blocks needed to cover the remaining core vocabulary of early language texts. By Level 7, important but rare exceptions are being introduced, along with the vocabulary that uses these exceptions.

At level 10, after learning just 90 Blocks, the child can now read 125,000 words, including virtually all words printed in children’s literature.

The End Goal

Reading is a lifelong pursuit. Our goal is to make it easier, in fact, so easy a child can do it. TIPS™, our TinyIvy Phonics System, removes the barriers to sounding out words that exist in normal English, but that is only the first step. Eventually this needs to translate to “real” reading, using the “real” alphabet, with no Reading Tips. This process is very natural. A “sight picture” of the word is developed after it is read, which ultimately is drawn on during the reading process. As this happens, sounding out a word is no longer needed, and we graduate. Because the Reading Tips are small, the “sight picture” of the word remains largely the same, and so children transition easily to reading without tips and live happily ever after.

The End.

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