Curriculum Review: How To Read In 100 Easy Lessons

Written by Siegfried Engelmann, Phylllis Haddox, and Elaine Bruner, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons was originally published in 1983 but reformatted for paperback in 2011.

Image source: Abebooks

On the Acknowledgements page, the authors attribute their gratitude to the SRA, the Science Research Associates. The SRA created a well known phonics tool called the SRA cards. 

The SRA gave the authors permission to adapt another program they created called the DISTAR Fast CycleⓇ.. The program was intended for kids who learn at an accelerated pace or students behind in 2nd or 3rd grade. That we’ll come back to. 

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Moving onto the introduction on page 7, the first two paragraphs talk about how schools don’t teach phonics. Now, this was written in 1983 but this fact is still true. The last paragraph talks about the the specifics of the DISTAR method, claiming, “involves no snappy motivational tricks and no instructional magic.”

To put it in plain terms, the program is boring. Don’t my word for it, if you search reviews that’s what you’ll also find the reviews claim. 

The next paragraph talks about how effective the program is. The study includes in the paragraph details how it tested this program on only lower-income children, which is problematic as it further solidifies an us vs. them mentality.

It states how DISTAR ranked the best among any educational commercial program on the market. Now note, this part has not been changed since 1983 so it’s not sure how DISTAR ranks among educational programs right now. 

The last paragraph on the first page of the introduction states, “If you follow the program, you will teach your children to read quite well in one hundred days.”

However, it should state, “If you follow this cut and dry (aka boring) program, you will teach your child to read if your child learns at an accelerated rate or is behind grade level in 2nd or 3rd grade. 

Again, the program is not recommended for “poor” readers who have been taught to read and make frequent mistakes. 

In the parent’s guide, pages 9-12 are essentially covered in the introduction. Page 13 covers the methodology of the DISTAR program which uses Orthography.

Which uses the terminology, “refers to the letters that make up words.” This coding system uses phonological awareness to understand the building blocks of the English language.

The next three pages of the parent guide debrief what Orthology is then pages 16-27 are instructions on how to work the program.

If you are nervous about the program, there are YouTube videos on how to do the program, but note they can be taken down at any time because these videos might be in violation of copyright laws. 

Overall, the summary of the program: 

-Intended for kids who are accelerated learners or students behind 2nd or 3rd grade. 

-Book is not for kids who don’t read well 

-Book takes a large amount of adult investment to understand the program or at least have a genuine interest in understanding it 

-Would not recommend this book for families that have few younger children 

-Large or potentially large families or students 

-Program uses Orthology- phonetic coding 

-To teach the program, you have to learn the language 

-Boring but effective 


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