BookSoft Learning

Using Books of Literary Quality With Computers

Generally speaking, three broad approaches have been used to teach beginning reading:

[1] Phonics
[2] Basic Sight Words
[3] Whole Language (i.e. using "trade books" of literary quality)

[4] In addition to those three strategies, Barbara's award-winning books have recently been incorporated within an innovative instructional arrangement called BookSoft learning.

All of these approaches can be used effectively to help students acquire better reading skills:

Although English is riddled with inconsistencies in spelling, there are nevertheless some LETTER PATTERNS that can be employed MOST OF THE TIME to help youngsters acquire some beginning reading skills they can use to DECODE (i.e. pronounce) THE PRINTED WORD. This is very important because the spoken English that children understand greatly exceeds the English they can read. PHONICS aims to give children tools for "unlocking" (i.e. giving voice to) the printed word by means of useful letter patterns.

The most common letter patterns are short vowels, consonant blends, and vowel pairs - as follows:

Short vowel lessons feature the letters A, E, I, O and U - as in HAT, MEN, BIT, GOT, and RUN.

Lessons working with consonant blends use both beginning and ending consonant blends - as in DRIP and MILK.

Phonics lessons also deal with vowel pairs - such as EE and EA.

Learning may be most effective when the student works with complete sentences - not with isolated sounds

The sentences should gradually build upon the various letter patterns.

Turning now to Basic Sight Words - these are most commonly found in what is called the Dolch List of 220 such words. More than 50 years ago, a gentleman by the name of Edward Dolch examined a number of beginning reading books (sometimes called basal readers) that were used in schools across the United States. He picked out the most often used words in those books. He compiled them into a list of 220 words. They included words such as SAID, OF, THE, and so on. As you can see, these are certainly words that children need to learn to read. However, for the most part, they cannot be sounded out phonetically. That is why they are called sight words. You simply have to memorize them by sight. It is strongly recommended that phonics lessons be used first because they yield dependable sounds which can give the learner confidence in his or her ability to learn to read.

Regarding the "whole language" bit - the advocates of this approach understandably react in disgust to some of the truly terrible writing found in basal readers - you know, the Dick and Jane stuff. The whole language people want to acquaint kids with good writing. And that's certainly commendable. Their mistake has been in sometimes throwing the phonics baby out with the basal reader bath.

BookSoft learning offers one way to marry the use of trade books with computerized instruction. It is an approach that employs a teaching arrangement featuring the student, the book, and the computer in a triangular relationship with one another.

The student brings a book of literary merit to the computer. In the case of the BookSoft learning strategy developed by Barbara's husband, all of these books are currently among Barbara's many titles. They range from legends (e.g. THE STAR MAIDEN) to nonfiction "animal books" (e.g. TIGER WITH WINGS: The Great Horned Owl) to poetry (e.g. WORDS WITH WRINKLED KNEES). And so on.

The computer assists the student in reading the book. Depending on what the student asks it to do, the computer will read entire passages to the student - or it will help the student with individual words. The learner's goal is to attain fluency in reading the book. The collaborative arrangement is always centered on text that is beautifully written.

More information on the BookSoft instructional technique can be received by sending an email request to the following address:

Barbara Juster Esbensen Memorial

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