Newest Review: ... this happens with any type of book, but the rhythm and rhyme of these do make it easier to memorise them. I have found that my son learned... more
Using Dr Seuss to teach phonics
Hop on Pop - Dr. Seuss
Member Name: broxi3781
Hop on Pop - Dr. Seuss
Advantages: Perfect for sounding out rhyming words.
Disadvantages: No real story.
Dr Seuss is almost a dirty word among strict phonics supporters. He has been blamed for everything from the ever rising levels of illiteracy to directly causing dyslexia, which I have even seen referred to as whole language dyslexia. Many educators blame Dr Seuss for the switch from phonetic reading instruction to whole language, and a number of experts believe this switch has created dyslexia. Dr Seuss however, was a firm supporter of phonics, and I can't imagine that he was unaware of how useful books like "Hop on Pop" and "Green Eggs and Ham" would be in teaching children rhyme and phonetic awareness. After he could have written the stories far easier without the rhymes.
The issue stems from the fact that Theodore Le Seig, aka Dr Seuss was given a 220 word list from which he was to write his books. This list was based on the words the publisher felt most school children would know, and many schools did use these books, along with the old Peter and Janet books or Dick and Jane to teach reading whole words rather than sounding them out. But the simple fact is Dr Seuss books do not teach a child to read on their own. Either a parent or teacher will have that job, and Dr Seuss books can be used as easily for phonetic reading instruction as for whole language. The ability to recognise rhymes is a key skill required in learning to read phonetically, and Dr Seuss's books are wonderful for teaching rhyme. In all honesty, they often don't have much of a story, and are a bit nonsensical, but they certainly do have rhythm and rhyme. Whether you teach a child to sound the words out, or simply to memorise them is entirely up to you.
It has been noted that a number of children do memorise the text to these books, and some experts feel this will pose an obstacle to phonetic reading. Why should a child sound it out when they can recite from memory? I have found this happens with any type of book, but the rhythm and rhyme of these do make it easier to memorise them. I have found that my son learned some whole words from a very young age, and I don't really think this can be helped. At some point all readers must learn to use whole language, or sight reading, and I honestly see no harm in children picking up some words by sight on their own. I think the problems come in when sight reading is forced before a child is ready to read (and a great many children are not ready to read when they start school), or when phonics are ignored and only sight reading is taught. But no matter what books you choose, children will eventually memorise the text. My son memorised the phonics sets just as easily as he memorised these. That is why I bought so many sets, so I could be certain he was actually reading. I honestly believe that memorisation of texts does play a role in learning to read to though, and as an added benefit, children who learn from an early age to follow the text as a parent reads, picking out the words they know also learn to read from left to right quite young. For all the hullabaloo that this may cause dyslexia, I have yet to come across a child with dyslexia who actually learned to read by looking at the text as his parents read books at an early age, so I don't really believe this theory holds much water. There is a huge difference in learning whole language through flash cards before reaching reading readiness, and learning to recognise words while listening to a favourite story.
Hop on Pop was never one of our favourite stories. This is primarily because there isn't much of a story to it. It is just a bunch of silly rhymes, but there are some rather funny sections. My sons always liked the section where a furry fellow named Pat sits on various objects,, Pat sat on a hat, a cat, and a bat but when he goes to sit on a cactus plant the text warns him clearly "No Pat No. Don't sit on that!". They also quite liked a part where two creatures we assume to be brothers won't go to bed and have a pillow fight instead. My sons did enjoy this book much more when they were very young, 9 - 24 months. By age two they wanted more complex stories, although this could still be brought out once in a great while for a change and a small laugh, but it was never as popular as the Cat in the Hat, or our all time favourite Dr Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham. The illustrations are cute and colourful and unmistakably Dr Seuss, who has always had his own unique style of illustration.
In my opinion, this book has had two very useful periods. Linguists have long recognised the importance of nursery rhymes in children's later reading development. The problem is - I always found nursery rhymes so boring and so do my children with the exception of "Remember the night you fell in the sh---" which children naturally take to as it has a bad word and conjures up amusing images. Dr Seuss books provide the same sense of rhythm and rhyme. Some of them like Green Eggs and Ham, and Horton Hatches the Egg have very good story lines, but others like this book and One Fish Two Fish Red Blue Fish don't have much of a story at all. There is absolutely no plot and no main character. There are just a bunch of imaginary creatures in silly situations.
But when my son was learning to read through phonics, this book really came into it's own. The text in this book is very simple, in very large black print and only a few words per page, most of which rhyme. The front and back cover pages each have boxes with lists of rhyming words that will be found later in the book, such as "all, call, ball, wall , fall, tall, and small". We would go through these each time we read the book, carefully sounding out "b - a- ll , b- all, ball" etc before starting on the main text. Each set of rhyming words is combined into a silly rhyme with a few pages, like the section I mentioned about the fellow named Pat that sat. Another section tells about Ned , Red, Ted and Ed in a bed.
I used this book when my son had progressed from the very simple consonant vowel consonant words and I was beginning to teach him lists of rhyming words. Of course pat, sat and cat, all fit the cvc pattern, as do many other words in this book, but there are many words that do not. I think the most difficult words in this book were fight, night, right and light. The fact that my son was already able to read a fair number of the simple words though, meant that he could work on the more challenging ones without being to overwhelmed.
I have a very large collection of children's books and have spent a fortune on phonics sets. I have also devoted many days, if not weeks or months to researching and finding good phonetic reading material, which I can tell you from experience is not as easy at it might sound, and a great many books labeled as phonics books are not suitable for a child starting to read phonetically. This is one of the few books I found that really could be read by sounding out with just a bit a help for a very young reader ( age 5) and made a perfect addition to our phonics collection.
If I were rating this book strictly as a story book, I would only give this three stars. it is OK, and it is well suited to very young children, but there really is a real story, and my children never asked for this often enough to rate it any higher. However, I am rating this based on it's utility as a book to teach my son to read phonetically, and considering the other books that serve this same purpose are also often limited in story line, and this book really did help my son improve his reading skills, I am giving this a full five stars. I would note though, that while I used this book phonetically, it could just as easily be used to teach a child using whole language, you would just memorise the lists of words rather than sounding them out.
Summary: It isn't the book - it is how you use it.
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