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I came across the Read at Home flash cards word games online when my eldest son was four. He had recently started school full time and was in foundation class. He had begun reading at school. The school my son goes too uses the Oxford Reading Tree scheme which many schools tend to use. These particular cards are also from the Oxford Reading Tree and include characters from their books. The sixty nine cards and three instruction cards come in a cardboard box not much bigger in size than the actual cards which can mean fitting them back in the box is tricky and not something my son can always manage with them being a tight fit! The cards measure roughly 13cms by 8.5cms and are fairly thin. They are easily to handle child or adult and are perfect for laying out on the table. The words are written in big thick bold text perfect for first readers. They could be quite easily bent so therefore I keep hold of these cards when we are not using them. Within the sixty nine cards are seven picture cards of the familiar characters from the books, Mum, Dad, Gran, Biff, Chip, Kipper and Floppy. The rest of the cards are made up of what I would say are basic key words such as said, the, and, are etc. There are two of each word and a total of thirty one different words. The selection of words available are all words my son came across in the first levels of the Oxford Reading Tree scheme. They are all very important initial words your child needs to become very familiar with. As mentioned the word game cards come with three double sided instruction cards. The first double sided card gives you a brief introduction to the cards, what is included in the pack and how to get best use of the set. It does recommend you add cards of your own to the set like your child's own name, your name, places you have recently been too. To make these cards go further and expand with your child you will need to do this we have. It is a shame they don't provide some blank cards you could write on with a non-permanent pen you are forced to make your own but it isn't really any hardship. The two other instruction cards have four games on for you to try brilliant for building up your child's memory and reading skills. The first two games are very simple and can be used before your child has begun to read. There is the familiar game snap but with words instead of the usual picture snap games you get for young children. We have played this a few times but I got my son to read the word before he could claim the centre pile. We did the same with the memory game which is where you try to find a pair when they are all laid out on the floor/table. I again asked the son to read the word before he could claim the pair. He didn't mind these two games but as we have played many games like these he did find them a bit boring once he had done them a couple of times. The other two games seemed to keep my son entertained more and I felt he was learning at the same time too. One of the suggested games is lotto. To use the cards a bit like bingo but with words. To begin with I showed my son the word he had to look and see if he had it but as he has grown more confident I now shout the word out and he has to see if he has it. Over time I have added more key words to the pack in particular to make this game more fun. We both enjoy this game and I think we will continue to play it adding more words ourselves. The last game that is suggested is making sentences. The first idea is for the adult to make a sentence (of course you will have to add some words yourself as there is a lack of nouns in this pack!) and then mix the cards up for the child to rearrange back into the sentence. I feel this is of course for when you child is more confident with the words and reading them. Now my son has had a full year at school is becoming confident with reading especially his key basic words he enjoys making sentences of his own. Over the year with his reading at school, his reading at home and finding fun games to play with words at home I feel my son has progressed well. To begin with he wasn't very keen on reading. He is a child who hates getting things wrong so won't try at all. I have battled with the teachers alongside as well to get him over this. Playing these fun games at home has really improved his confidence especially with these important words. But most of all we have had fun. These cards are an aid to help your child and do need some effort putting into them with adding cards of your own to expand the life span of them. I managed to get a really good deal for these cards on eBay it is certainly worth a search to get some.
I've always been a strong supporter of phonics, and I do believe in the long run phonics are crucial to becoming a confident reader. Because of this I started my son out with some of the best phonics programmes you can buy, and I have found them very helpful. But the fact is, he loves the Oxford Reading Tree, and while he struggles to read with phonics, he breezes through the books in this series, and what's more, he loves reading them! Phonics is something he does because it is part of our home education curriculum. The Oxford Reading Tree is something he does for the pure joy of reading. Now the most important thing to me, in teaching my children myself is that they learn to love reading. Twenty years from now, no one will no or care at what age they learned to read, but the fact is, if they do not enjoy reading, they no longer will. At any rate, with the Oxford Reading Tree being such a hit in our house, I decided to give these a go, even though I am not especially fond of flash cards. I have always looked on flash cards as dull and boring, perhaps because they are often over used, but my son actually enjoys these. At first he would mix up some words like "on" and "no" without being able to read them in context. This set quickly corrected that problem, and in no time he was able to read the entire pack with confidence. This set includes 31 pairs of high frequency words from levels 1 and 2 of the Oxford reading Tree books, plus 7 character card which show a picture of a character from the series, like Floppy or Kipper with the word underneath. It also includes 2 double sided cards with game ideas. I won't go into detail on snap, memory or lotto as I am sure everyone is familiar with these games, but in this case they all help very early reading skills by allowing children to match identical words. The build a sentence game requires a bit more reading skill but is more fun I think. Unfortunately i do not think this deck has quite enough words to make it really fun, but by adding a few cards of your own with the families names and other familiar words like "smells", "monster" and even "poo" you can create a game sure to bring out plenty of giggles. Finally, we have added one game to this, which is our favourite. My son is really not proficient enough at spelling to play hangman, so we use the cards for hangman. he can choose any card he likes and draw the blanks for each letter while I guess, or I will choose from a set of cards and give him the matching set so he can guess my word by looking at what letters he has gotten right and the cards. he has also learned vowels from this because I tell him to always guess vowels first as each word must have at least one vowel. I am giving these cards 5 stars. At under £4 they make a fun break from ordinary learning activities for us. As a home educator, I found that these were extremely useful for assessment purposes. I really though my son had just memorised many of the books rather than actually reading them, but by having him read the cards on their own, it shows me that he has actually learned the words. I think the matching games of lotto, snap and memory would be best suited from age four, and actual reading of the cards or making sentences, as well as our hangman game from age five. I think these cards could be used at any age with beginning readers, but of course will be outgrown as a child's reading ability improves. The build a sentence game can be used for a while longer, and can later be used to teach nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc... Because Oxford Reading Tree is used in most schools, this wold be a useful way to help reinforce what a child is learning at school as well. I would strongly recommend these as a fun game, but caution against sitting a child down to memorise the words by rote. I would only use flash cards as long as the child is enjoying them. If a child is taught to memorise flash cards before reaching reading readiness it can actually cause more harm than good. Some experts believe this may even cause dyslexia in some cases as the brain is just not ready to process such information. If you really want an early reader, please do not rush out to buy these. Instead buy as many good books as possible and just read to your child. Create a love of reading and the skills will come. But if you just want a fun way to improve reading skills, then by all means, give these a go!