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Category: The TIPS™ System

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.

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.

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