Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Stepping Stones Together: Affordable Early Reading Program

I recently won a one-year subscription to Stepping Stones Together, an early reading program designed for children ages 3-7.  My son fits right in that demographic, so when I saw the contest on another blog, I jumped at the chance to toss entries into the hat and crossed my fingers that I would win.  But now that I've been signed up for a few days, I gave some thought to the this question:  Would I actually have paid for the Stepping Stones Together reading program if I didn't win it?  Based on what I'm seeing in my fledgling reader, I would have to say yes! (and you know PinchingAbe isn't one to part with her pennies!)

Nothing has worked thus far, to be honest.  My son is interested in reading and we read a lot.  I read to him and his older sister reads to him.  We even set a goal of reading 100 books together this summer and surpassed that goal.  I was soooo hoping that my little kindergartener would be reading before his first day of school.  After all, my daughter was reading Dick and Jane before she turned 4.  It wasn't like we weren't borrowing books that interested him at the library or buying them at Barnes & Noble or off Amazon.  I admit, I was a bit disappointed we didn't get him reading like I'd hoped.

After I won, the founder sent me a promo code to Stepping Stones Together for one-full year.  (If you are interested, there are two separate levels of membership -- one for 90 days for $19.99 and one for a full year for $39.99.  If you buy books like we do for our kids, you can easily spend $20 in one quick visit to Borders or Barnes & Noble.  Even if you were hesitant about this program, $20 for 90 days isn't a lot to invest.)  Sign up was easy as pie and I literally was able to get started right away without any waiting time.  I selected categories of books that I felt would interest my son and checked the appropriate boxes for how well he recognized letters, etc. I logged in and the books were right there for me to select a title to get started.

My son likes dinosaurs, so we chose Dexter the Dinosaur.  The whole lesson took maybe 15 minutes.  You read the title to the child and ask them what they think the book might be about.  Then you walk through the book together and ask your child to predict what is happening.  Then you read it together.  The pictures match the text.  If it says "He can read", you can bet the character has a book in his hand!  This makes it very obvious what is going on in the story.  You are supposed to read the story together for two days before moving on to another book.  However, we are currently doubling up because my son wants to read these books!  In fact, he keeps begging me to print more of them...

So, here we are on day two and he is still in love with these books.  They are simple, 8 sentence stories and he can read them to me almost flawlessly.  (I did have him read one book to me backward because he has an exceptionally good memory... he still could read the words when I pointed to them in the story.)  We printed two more books today and I have also been cycling back through the first ones, which I plan to keep doing.  Can Stepping Stones Together's early reading program help me teach my child to read?  I'm hoping!  As I mentioned, he does start kindergarten soon and I know from past experience that our kindergarten teachers have the goal of getting all of their kids reading by the end of the school year.  My little guy already has some word recognition and can correctly identify some sight words from some flash cards that we got.

My first impression of Stepping Stones Together as a reading program is thus far very positive.  As I mentioned, we read over 100 books together this summer and these are the only ones that he could begin to read back to me.... and I was choosing Level 1 and under books all summer long!  I think I see where I went wrong, too.  Kids need a lot of repetition and these books do that very well.

What I plan to do is update my blog once a week letting you all know how it is going.  I love to read reviews from people who have used a product for more than two minutes, don't you?  So I'm going to set a Google calendar alert to remind me on Wednesdays to publish an update.  Some bloggers do "Wordless Wednesday", but I think I'll do "Wordy Wednesday" instead!  Look for my posts labeled with "Stepping Stones Together" in the future.

Disclosure:  As I mentioned, I won a one-year subscription to Stepping Stones Together via a blog contest.  I did not receive compensation for this post.  The opinions are 100% my own, though I did re-visit the Stepping Stones Together site to verify some factual information about this early reading program.
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