Sunday, March 11, 2012

Questions about starting a reading program with a 5 year old.

I love checking in on your blog.  I have a just-turned-five-year-old (yesterday), Erin, with Down syndrome.  I also have 6 older children and 1 younger son.  I would like to begin a reading program for Erin.  She knows all her letters and a few words.  I signed up for the Brill Kids free trial.  I like it, but have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind me asking.  No hurry....I know you are a buys mom, like me Smile.

1)  I prefer flashcards I can hold in my hand to flashing on a computer screen.  Do you find a benefit to the computer screen method, or would hand-held cards work just as well, in your opinion?

I preferred flashcards as well & as a matter of fact, K didn't like TV or computer programs as well & didn't seem to learn as quickly from them.  We used laminated card stock flashcards until she was about 3.5 years old when we finally made the transition to using Little Reader as a computer program only.  In fact, until K was 3 years old, we included a picture on the back of almost every flashcard because she did not like word only flashcards.  The odd one we didn't do this with, but usually that was because it was difficult to describe with a picture.  After age 3, this was harder as we started doing the Dolch words like and, it, the, which can't be portrayed with a picture.  Laminated flashcards with pictures took lots of time as well as used a lot of ink & time & money for lamination, but I really think that it was the most beneficial way to teach my daughter.  It will not be the same for all kids, but for K it was because:

 1. printed, laminated cards with pictures kept her interest better which is the most important part of teaching a child

2. by including a picture with each word, K developed an understanding of the meaning of each word & I feel that she has excellent comprehension for her age.

We ended up with lots of cards, but don't be intimidated by this picture. This is about 3 years worth of work.

2)  Where to begin?  If you were just starting out, where would you begin?  Cost is a factor, but not the main factor.  Learning to read in the most efficient way is the main factor (keep in mind that my typical 2 year old will be right along side my daughter with Ds, so I have two kids that will use the program)

When just beginning, I recommend starting with familiar & fun words.  Thing like family member & pet names, lots of nouns & fun action words. If you like Little Reader after the free trial, make sure you check out this link to learn about their discount for kids with DS, etc. If you choose to print & laminate cards there will be a cost involved in that, but at least the initial program with it's thousands of files & pictures will be free which will save you tons of time.

If you do choose to use printed flashcards rather than the computer program, I highly recommend laminating them.  I have written about several different ways to laminate in this post.

Make sure you fast flash them like in this post.

I would teach both kids at the same time.  These methods are meant for really little kids, even under age 2, so I'm sure you will have great success with both kids.

3)  Is the Doman book recommended even IF you are using a reading program, such as Brill Kids, or does it basically just teach you what the packaged programs is already implementing?  Or vice versa! 

You can use one of the reading programs to do basically the same thing, but personally, I would still read How To Teach Your Baby to Read, or even the reading section in the How to Multiply Your Baby's Intelligence book.  It really helped me to have an understanding of why the method worked & when I understand things better, I can implement the idea better.
4)  I am a busy homeschooling mom, teaching 7 kids, so I need a program that can be EASILY implemented.  With that in mind, what would you recommend? 

The simplest thing would be to use a video program like Your Baby Can Read or get the BrillKids Little Reader & use their semesters one & two on the computer.  The next best & still pretty simple is to still follow the Little Reader semesters, print them out & show them by hand. If you use the fast flashing method that I talked about above, it will require only several minutes a day to show the cards to both kids.

Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned with the Ds community!


You are very welcome!


  1. I highly recommend the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County's website ( - their Learning Program is available via free downloads on their site, or pre-laminated workbooks for a fee. It was developed specifically for children with Down syndrome, and follows the guidelines set by Patricia Olwein's Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome (from Woodbine House).

  2. You're right Becca - the Learning Program from DSFOC is also a good one. By the time we found this program K had just turned 3 & reading quite a few words, so it didn't last us long - this happened with most of the premade programs that we used, but I think programs like this would last a lot longer for a child that was just beginning to learn to read. I do however, usually end up recommending Little Reader, just because it has so much more content & is so easy to customize almost everything.

    I actually blogged about the Learning program here:

    I also blogged about a number of other programs on this page: