Originally Answered: What is the best way to teach a child to read?
Your question shows that you have done your homework. Yes, it is true that most of the fun and colorful books serve more as supplemental material than as stand alone programs.
I have a great book recommendation for you... one that has all the requirements you mentioned, but first I would love to answer the question "What is the best way to teach a child to read?"
PHONICS vs Whole Word
Virtually every scientific study done in the past 50 years has found phonics to be far superior to any other method of teaching children to read. But for complicated reasons, the educational establishment and the textbook companies have banded together to ensure that most children in most schools learn to read by the "whole word" method, which means they memorize words without sounding them out or even knowing the names of the letters. Lately schools have taken to saying their reading instruction is "balanced," meaning it includes some phonics, but they don't go much further than having kids identify the sound of the first letter of a word. Sometimes they focus on the last letter, but they DO NOT teach kids to sound out entire words using the rules of phonics. If you have an older child, bring a list of phonics rules to your parent/teacher conferences sometime, and ask the teacher which rules the children are learning. You will probably discover that the children are not learning ANY of the rules, and the teacher doesn't know them either. The only reason schools are now including a little bit of phonics is because it is required by the No Child Left Behind Act.
It is very important that young readers master the short vowel sounds, as in "rat," "ten," "rid," "not," "cub" before you throw the long vowels at them, as in "rate," "teen," "ride," "note" and "cube." I can't overemphasize this. It is one of the biggest shortcomings of most phonics programs. The short sounds are much harder to learn, and your child will quickly forget the short vowels if you try to teach the long and short vowels all at once. This is why it's so hard to teach a child to read with the storybooks you have laying around the house. You need a real curriculum that teaches the short vowels first.
Every parent knows that kids love repetition. A hundred years ago 6th graders were better readers and writers than high school grads are today, and part of the reason was that teachers were not afraid of repetition. A good reading curriculum will make good use of repetition and new lessons will include words and concepts introduced in previous lessons.
A good curriculum starts at the very beginning (as you have mentioned) and progresses one step at a time, without skipping anything. Bad curricula are all over the board, leaving the teacher struggling to fill in the gaps or rearrange the sequence.
Montessori discovered a long time ago that kids love to write words, even before they can read them. She also discovered that writing helps kids learn to read. It is not necessary for a young child to have perfect handwriting. The purpose of the writing is to include the sense of touch along with hearing and seeing the words.
MY BOOK RECOMMENDATION
"AN ANT - LEARN TO READ"
Ok, that's most of what I wanted to say about how to teach reading. Now here's my enthusiastic recommendation for the best beginning reading book. Pick up a copy of "An Ant - Learn to Read," by Kallie Woods.
"An Ant - Learn to Read" starts at the very beginning with only 6 letter sounds, then progresses in a stepwise fashion, systematically adding new letters and new words with lots of repetition.
This is actually a STORYBOOK with cute characters and bright colors, so it will hold your child's attention while she learns to read 97 stories with easy one-syllable words. All of the words in Book 1 contain short vowels, there is not a long vowel in the entire book! Book 2 in the series has both long and short vowels.
Free Alphabet Flash Cards: Flash cards with pictures (th=thumb, f=fish) are included at the back of the book; you just cut them out. Should one of the cards become lost or damaged you can download the entire set free from the publisher's web site: www.BrodenBooks.com.
Writing practice pages are included every ten stories or so. If you don't want to write in your book, these pages can also be downloaded free. The writing practice pages have the new words your child is learning in light gray print that she can trace with a pencil.
Teacher's notes are included at the bottom of every page to keep you on track. There is virtually no prep time required for these lessons, just open the book and start reading together.