The "Downside" to AAS?

All About Learning Press (AALP) is a publishing house that produces several unique and extremely effective language arts products: the All About Spelling and All About Reading series, All About Homophones, and the Beehive ReadersIn early 2009, I was personally invited by Marie Rippel, AALP's founder, to serve as a regular contributor to AALP's first interactive website, The ChatterBee, which she ran from February, 2009, through September, 2011. This was one of my articles.

The other night over dinner, I suddenly remembered that I'd wanted to ask my husband if he were interested in attending an upcoming panel discussion at our church. Afraid I'd forget again, I didn't want to wait until later in the evening to ask. But - given the seminar's topic - neither did I want to ask in front of our young daughters, ages six and seven.

So I did what any parent of a young child does: I spelled out the questionable word.

"Oh, do you want to go to that parenting talk about s-e-x next Monday?"

For the next minute or so, I explained in veiled language why I wanted to attend. Then, as my husband began to consider it, Rachel, our seven-year old blurted out, "There's a talk about sex at church!"

Now, Rachel doesn't have a clue what the word means; I assured myself of that by asking a few general questions once I'd recovered from nearly choking on my peas. And then I briefly explained how it was a meeting for parents and said I'll tell her more about the topic when she's older.

Later, I joked with my husband, "This is All About Spelling's 'fault!'"

You see, though Rachel is a very bright girl, she has struggled a bit with learning to read. Specifically, she's sometimes had a hard time remembering vowel sounds in the context of words - even though she could recite them perfectly in isolation. So, though she's making steady (if somewhat slow) progress, reading has been a bit frustrating for her and, as a result, she'd not been very interested in doing much reading or writing on her own, outside of our lesson times.

But I'd begun to see a change in her since we started All About Spelling four months ago. She used to always mix up short-e and short-i when sounding out words to write - and often confused short-o with short-u as well. And, of course, when reading, she'd hesitate often when she couldn't figure out words from a story's context, uncertain which vowel sounds to use.

Very shortly after starting AAS, though, I noticed that she was getting her "trouble" phonograms right more and more often - credit for which clearly belongs to AAS since nothing else about our literacy learning had changed. Her success yielded increasing confidence - it has been such a joy to see her smiling more and more during our school times! - and, as a result, she'd recently felt good enough to tackle chapter books such as Junie B. Jones and had shown increasing interest in figuring out all kinds of words around her, from book titles to billboards.

I'd also noticed that she was writing more things on her own: notes, short journal entries, menus for a restaurant game she plays with her sister. She'd stopped insisting that I spell out everything for her and wasn't whining anymore that she couldn't do it by herself. To be sure, her spelling hasn't been perfect, and we're still working on the decoding strategies, but the changes have been undeniable.

A few months ago, she would have noticed that I'd spelled out a word when talking to my husband. She knew that meant it was a word I didn't want her to know and she would have asked, "What does that mean?" But she would have had no interest in figuring it out for herself.

Now, thanks to AAS, not only did she want to decode the word she heard; she could do it! And she did it quickly and knew instantly she'd done it right. Wow.

Was it nice just a short time ago when I could count on the spelling-it-out strategy to communicate in code with my husband? Sure. But I'll gladly give that up if it means that my precious daughter has ever-improving literacy skills and a deeper confidence in her abilities. All thanks to All About Spelling.

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