REVIEW: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Earlier this year I decided to try Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for my then four-year-old.  (We started three months before his 5th birthday.)  If you look up the reviews on this book, which is also called the Distar method, they are mostly favorable, but I could see that it doesn’t work for everybody.  That’s not surprising because nothing works for everybody.

Fortunately, my son loved the lessons when we began the book, and I liked the book because it was easy for me to use.

There is an eighteen-page parent guide at the beginning of the book, which is important to read, and in each lesson, there’s a script that parents are supposed to follow exactly.  At first this looked daunting, but after reading the guide and doing a few lessons with my son, I saw that it was beneficial.  During the early lessons, I kept to the script fairly well, though I changed some of the words because I knew my son would understand me better with my changes.

As we continued on with the book, I didn’t have to read the script so closely because it’s very repetitive, and by then my son knew what he needed to do.  However, I glanced at each lesson beforehand to see if there were any changes.

What I like the most about 100 Lessons is that each lesson builds on the one before it, and it introduces new letter sounds gradually.  It helped that my son already knew all the sounds of the letters before we started this book, but the way it’s taught, you could potentially teach a child who doesn’t know any phonics. 

I have a feeling that if my son had not known the sounds of the letters, he would not have liked it.  Since the beginning lessons were very easy for him, it built his confidence and showed him that reading lessons were not scary.  As he sounded out words with these sounds, he was delighted that he could read!

A couple of points about how this book teaches reading:

  • The book teaches the child to sound out words by blending the sounds together instead of pausing between sounds.  For example, we usually teach kids to sound out the word “mat” by saying “mmm (pause) aaa (pause) t.”  The Distar method says not to pause.  Say “mmmaaat.”  This simple technique helped my son hear the word, and he was able to decipher it quicker.
  • The book also uses an altered orthography or symbols to help the child read.  That is, if the sound is a long A, such as in the word “lake”, there is a line over the A, and if it’s a short A sound, such as in the word “cat,” there’s no line.  Silent letters, such as the E in “lake” are printed smaller.

The altered orthography worried me at first because I wondered how my son would transition to regular books with regular print, but quickly this worry faded.  My son was so excited that he could read!  He said, “I can read in this book, but I can’t read in those.”

Three things I liked about the book:

  • The silly pictures: My son would read the stories in the book, and I would keep the accompanying picture covered until he finished. He always looked forward to seeing the picture, so this gave him an incentive to finish the lesson.  (Yet I can see where the pictures and stories might not interest older children.)
  • The book gradually introduces many irregular words or “sight words,” and since there’s so much repetition in the book, my son has most of them memorized now.  This is why I didn’t worry about the altered orthography.
  • The book also requires the student to write two or three sounds at the end of each lesson.  Fortunately, my son was already writing well and enjoyed this part too.  It’s a good reinforcement of the sounds and practice of writing.

Making my child excited about reading is the first step in getting him to read.  I’m grateful that 100 Lessons got us on the road to reading.  Yet, as we got further into it, things changed.

Once we got to around Lesson 50, the lessons got harder.  It wasn’t that my son wasn’t reading well.  He could do the lessons, and he was learning, but while we did the lessons, he would squirm in his seat, start talking about other topics, and act silly.  It was very hard for him to focus on the lesson.

I should interject here and say that the book claims these lessons will take only twenty minutes a day.  The first few lessons took only twenty minutes, but as they get harder and there’s more reading involved, they take much longer.  And when my child could not focus and kept squirming, I think we spent closer to 45 minutes completing a lesson.

Suddenly it became a lesson in patience for mama!  Fortunately, this was about the time we were going on vacation to Chicago, so we took a break.  After returning home, I looked up 100 Lessons on the Internet and began to read what other people’s experiences were.

I found one person who said a tutor recommended this book for her child, but emphasized that the lessons should remain light and fun.  Another man described his little girl as squirmy and unable to focus too.  He gave her incentives to finish each lesson, which worked.

Reading this renewed my patience with my son, and I regained my equanimity.  Here are some tactics I employed:

  • I made sure we had plenty of time to do the lessons.  I didn’t rush my son through them.
  • I gave my son “wiggle moments” when he got too fidgety, and he loved that.  I’d count to three and then we’d both wiggle for a few minutes.
  • I was also more likely to take a day off from a lesson if we were busy with errands whereas in the beginning, I kept a tight daily schedule.

With this new strategy, we inched our way up to Lesson 70 where we reached another plateau.  At that point, the book became monotonous.  Since my son was reading quite well anyway, I decided to take another break from the book.  Now I feel we probably won’t go back to it. I’ve searched my shelves for all the early readers in my house, and my son seems excited to be able to read real books with more lively illustrations.

Above is a photo of part of Lesson 69.  My son completed through Lesson 70.

At the end of 100 Lessons, it states that a child who successfully completes this program will be reading at a second grade level.  Considering that my son is only five-years-old, I feel confident that I don’t have to push him to finish it right now.  He is happy that he’s starting to read, and he’s reading early readers.  I couldn’t be more pleased.

If you have a young child who is struggling with reading, I highly suggest giving 100 Lessons a try.  I’m not sure it would interest older students because the stories and pictures are silly, but it never hurts to try.  Also, I found the book used online for $11, so it doesn’t hurt the pocket book either.

Have you tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons?  What was your experience with it? UPDATE: I will be posting an update of our experience with 100 Easy Lessons this January 2014. My son is now seven, and we are finishing the book!

UPDATE JANUARY 2014: We have finished 100 Easy Lessons. Read about our experience with it two years later here: 1st Grade Homeschool Reading

41 thoughts on “REVIEW: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

  1. I used this book to teach my oldest 3 to read. It’s a wonderful method (especially for the price!), but like you my kids found the activities difficult to sit through. After the first few lessons, I found myself skipping all but the sounding-out practice, and we NEVER finished the book. When each of them learned most of the sounds, they naturally moved to real books (and signs, labels, etc), and would ask, “what’s this sound?”.

    With my fourth child, now 3 1/2, I have misplaced the book, but because I’m so familiar with the process, I’ve made flash cards with the book’s markings and the finger-line underneath. The plan is to introduce the sounds one at a time (by usefulness), then post them on the wall so that she can practice the ones she’s learned. When she’s ready, we’ll pull out some easy readers we have on hand. I think the say it fast/say it slow activities can be easily learned by most kids while sounding out words in a reader, or if the child has difficulty, played as word games just for fun. “Can you guess which word I’m saying slowly?”

    For the sight words, I’ll just teach ‘the’ then deal with the rest as we encounter them.

    I do recommend this method, but you do have to be careful to keep the lessons relaxed and fun.

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  2. Really appreciate your detailed and thoughtful review, just what I needed to get started with this book, I was a little overwhelmed by the introductory reading in the beginning (for the parent), and found myself reading it again and again because I didn’t quite grasp it all, and then got frustrated that I’m not getting started with my child because it’s taking so much effort just to get myself prepared!! My eldest son is almost 5 and just starting show an interest in wanting to read, so I’m looking forward to it but appreciate knowing in advance that the later lessons will take longer. Thanks so much!

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Emily. I’m glad my review helped you. I know what you mean by not being able to grasp the introduction. Just start doing it with your son and then refer to it when you need to. I think it’ll make more sense that way! Good luck! Let me know how it goes!!

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  3. My family was introduced to this book from several parents in a homeschool group we were apart of. I used this book for my second daughter when she was ready to read at seven years old. At first the book was daunting with the lesson for the teacher; I too read it over and over–yet, before becoming neurotic over it, I decided to take the plunge and work out the first five lessons by myself. It was simple and I tabbed the letter sounds key, page for easy reference. We made it to the 60’s lessons before she dove head long into easy readers leaving the book behind.

    I agree with the other posting on using the book and definitely second the advice of only teach from the book when you have time to just be with the child and lesson; don’t be rushed and don’t be harried. Allow wiggle time, praise the efforts, and enjoy the moment. In a nut shell, the book’s method worked for us, I wished we had it for my first child, I will be using this book for our third daughter–as my teenager and preteen daughters have decreed.

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    1. Rebekah, Sorry for the delay in my reply. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with 100 Easy Lessons. You offer good tips for using it too. It’s a coincidence that I’m receiving some new comments on this post because we just started using it again. My son turned 7 in August, and I thought perhaps we could try again, starting with Lesson 50. We’ve completed 9 lessons, and it’s going really well. It’s fairly easy for him now, so I think he’s gaining confidence again. I hope we can finish the book this time. I’ll be sure to write about it at some point.

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  4. Since posting my comments back in April, I’m happy to report an update on our progress – we started around mid May and now we’re on Lesson 80 🙂 Shelli what you shared about your journey with this book is very similar to what I’ve experienced so far – the lessons take longer and longer to complete while my son would get squirmier! Actually he’s fine with the word reading parts of the lessons, but when we get to the story, he often gets overwhelmed and loses patience when he sees the entire page of words (which is of course understandable!). He complains about having to read the story twice. So now we actually break up the lesson in 2-3 sessions in a day or over 2 days, that seems to work well 🙂 There are a few lessons where the child is supposed to ask the parent questions about the story and he LOVED that! However he did get a little bit confused about the change in orthography, and was reluctant to read things the “normal” way. The lessons at this point include stories that come in parts, part 1 and then part 2 in the next lesson – he seems to enjoy the “suspense”! Although he still does not like seeing a whole page of words, at this point I want to keep going because I think it will build confidence, he’s quite proud at the end of each lesson even when he complains about it, he’ll say “wow I read all of THAT!” It also makes his regular picture books seem less daunting 🙂

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    1. Hi Emily – Thank you so much for this update! That’s awesome that you are finding a way to make it work and allow it to give your son confidence! Coincidentally, I recently began using the book with my son again. He turned 7 in August, and though we had completed through Lesson 70, I thought we’d start at Lesson 50, which is where it got harder for him two years ago. At first he didn’t like the idea because he remembered it being hard, but I said let’s just try it, and now he sees that Lesson 50~ is very easy for him! We have completed 9 lessons, and it’s still going well. I hope we can finish the book. I’m glad to hear from you what to expect w/ the rest of the book. I will put my patience cap on and take it slow. Though he willingly does the lessons, he never volunteers to read anything – not so interested – I’m hoping as his ability improves, he’ll start to see that he can read and perhaps want to read. Like your son, he does seem proud of himself at the end of a lesson! 😉

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  5. Hi Shelli, great to hear that you are revisiting this book with your son! Another thing that I liked about this book is that it introduces other things at the same time as teaching sound blending – such as punctuation marks and reading comprehension. However, after a while it stops asking the child to identify punctation marks. I’ve brought it up with my son from time to time just so he won’t forget! Oh I also wanted to share a site that has been helpful to me in terms of practicing writing the sounds: http://donnayoung.org/penmanship/manuscript-lessons.htm this lady made handwriting worksheets for all the lessons of this book, which I have been using happily 🙂 she also has some sound cards/words cards to go with the book, I haven’t used them but they look helpful. Her site is interesting to browse through. Another little “tool” I’m using is a simple sticker chart that has the numbers 1 to 100 to represent each lesson, my son really likes to look at this chart and see the stickers gradually take over the chart….haha!

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    1. Thanks for all this great information, Emily! I will check out that site. We could use some penmanship help. I haven’t really paid attention to the punctuation mark instructions in the book. Sometimes I’ll ask him what the quotes are for to see if he remembers, but other than that, he’s pretty solid on the other punctuation marks. I’ve also noticed that the questions used for reading comprehension seem kind of silly, and I think that might be an indication of my son’s level. He gets it. It was definitely more important when he was five. I guess I should be glad that this means he’s progressing!

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  6. It’s funny, I heard about this book from a few different friends and checked it out from the library. To my surprise, I was flooded with memories of my Kindergarten experience! This is exactly the course that taught me how to read nearly 30 years ago. I remember loving it, and would you believe the concepts carried through and translated well to more advanced reading? I was always a top reader and eventually made it through law school, so there must be something to it. I’m excited to start teaching my little preschooler.

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  7. I am going to be starting to homeschool my almost 4 year old daughter. Last year she was in a part-time preschool but she never really learned her letters and sounds. Would you recommend this book for a child who loves books and wants to learn to read but doesn’t know her letters fully yet?

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      1. Hi Samantha – Yes, I would recommend it, but only if she seems interested in learning to read. My son learned his letters and sounds early, but he’s had trouble learning how to read, and he doesn’t enjoy the process much. For him, I think knowing the letters and sounds was helpful. However, the book teaches the letters and sounds. Actually, it teaches the sounds first and the names of the letters much later in the book. I skipped that part since my son already knew the letters very well. My younger son is like your daughter. He’s almost five and he doesn’t know all the letters and sounds yet. I’ve decided not to start the book with him this year though only because I don’t think he’s ready for it. He seems more interested in writing, and I think through that he may learn the letters and sounds, so I’m approaching that first. If your daughter seems interested in learning to read, definitely give the book a try. You’ll know after you get started if you need to put it away for a while and start again later. Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

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  8. We to have this book. We started our kindergarten year early since my daughter seemed ready. We made it to about lesson 20 before my daughter (only 4) was getting frustrated. I decided to focus on sight words which my daughter lives doing and since the book could essentially be done in a few months, we may use it for reading practice during the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade.

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  9. I bought this book a few months ago and started doing the lessons with my 5 year old. With her being in kindergarten and our busy schedule I stopped after lesson 5 or 6. We are starting to homeschool in September and I will be going to this book for our early reading lessons. Amazingly I am not feeling overwhelmed at all. 😀 Thank you for your thoughtful review.

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  10. Hi, I want to start my 4yo on this but he still doesn’t know all his alphabets and no lower case letters. Is it too soon? Does he need to know all his alphabets upper and lower case first?

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Anna! Thanks for the comment.

      First, take what I’m going to say with a grain of salt because you definitely need to decide for yourself what your child is ready for. In my case, I would feel like four is too young to try to teach a child to read unless they are showing interest and trying to decipher words already. Some kids do start reading very early and it comes naturally to them. I started my eldest son on 100 Easy Lessons right after he turned five, and looking back, I think I pushed him too early even though he already knew the letters and sounds. (I have learned that a child who learns the letters/sounds very early isn’t necessarily going to learn how to read early!) He did okay until Lesson 50 and then it got too hard for him. I eventually stopped, waited until he was seven, and then he was able to do Lessons 50-100 easily. For my second son, I just started 100 Easy Lessons with him in September, right after he turned six. He’s doing well with it. The program does not require a child to know all the alphabet or lower case letters because it teaches that incrementally, and there’s so much repetition that the child should catch on during the program. Later in the book, it teaches the alphabet and the names of the letters. At first, they only teach the sounds the letters make.

      If you want to try it with your son, you should, but don’t get frustrated, if he doesn’t catch on easily. Just put it down for a few months and then come back to it. I will also say that I have friends who have tried 100 Easy Lessons, and they hated it. Their child hated it, and they didn’t like it either. Both my boys seem fine with it, and they get a kick out of the silly stories and pictures, but it’s definitely not for everybody. I wish you much luck! Let me know how it goes.

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  11. Hi there . I started teaching my daughter. We are on lesson 28. She just turned 5. At the moment she is squirming and showing signs of not liking the reading time much at all. I had or have been rather just staying to the course because of the books instructions. I had even tried teaching it every day as it suggested.
    After reading all your comments I think I’m going to slow down.
    I will see how it goes in the next week by giving her wiggle moments as one mom suggested and offering her a game when we are finished. I also think I’m going to read stories in between so she gets diversity.

    Than you for sharing. I’ll post after lesson 40 on or progress.

    Nome

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  12. Anna,

    I bought this book for my 6 year old daughter in the 1st grade. She is struggling to read fluently. She sounds out every individual letter in a word, and in doing that it makes it difficult at times for her to put all the sounds together to make a full word. I have tried multiple things to try and help her but she just ends up frustrated and it breaks my heart. I noticed after buying the book that it is not recommended for children that know how to read, but are considered a “poor reader”. So I was just wondering if you have any input? Should I still do the lessons or find another book to help teach her?

    Thanks,
    Jess

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  13. Hi,
    I bought this for my daughter who is 6 about to turn 7. She is in the 1st grade and struggles reading fluently. She sounds out each individual letter in a word and in turn makes it hard at times for her to decode the full word. After buying this book I noticed that it is not recommended for “poor readers”. So I was just wondering your input should I go ahead and start the lessons or look for an alternative?

    Thanks,
    Jess

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    1. Hi Jess, First, I’m sorry this is such a struggle for you and your daughter. I know that’s hard. In my opinion, I think you could definitely try this book. I would try it and just see how your daughter likes it. If she hates it, and it stresses her out, then stop. My son did the same thing your daughter is doing. He knew the alphabet and the sounds very early, but decoding words was a huge struggle. Putting the sounds together was hard, and no matter how often I reminded him, he never remembered any rules, such as what the silent e does. After I got over my angst about it, I just worked with him very slowly, and I didn’t force any reading lessons. We worked through half this book, stopped for a year and a half, and then went back to it. I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t going to be turned off of reading completely, and I think that helped. Finally, when he was about 8.5, reading clicked for him. I have no idea why he could suddenly read certain words that I felt would be too hard for him. Although our slow progress surely helped him in some way, I really feel that whatever connection needed to happen in his brain finally happened, and he just wasn’t going to read until that happened. I think for some kids, these connections happen early, and for others, it happens later. So while I would keep trying different ways of helping your daughter, I would focus more on making sure she’s not stressed about not being able to read. Tell her you know she’s going to read someday. It’s just a matter of time and practice and that kids learn at different ages, and you’re not worried about her at all. Read aloud to her a lot, letting her pick books she likes, pointing to the words as you go — I’m sure you probably already do that! Anyway, I don’t know why this book says it’s not for poor readers. I guess if you were going to push through the lessons everyday as it recommends, it wouldn’t work, but I don’t think any reading program would work, if you couldn’t tailor it to your child’s individual needs! I hope this helps. Good luck.

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  14. I am a Reading Specialist by trade and I taught both of my daughters to read with this book. It has a great whole language approach and the “walkthrough” pedagogy is very helpful for parents if they stay persistent.

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    1. I am currently on lesson 48 with my 5.5 yr old. She hated it at first. Squirmed, cried, absolutely hated it.
      So I changed tactics. I started finding ways to encourage her to want to read. I found some books called bob’s books which she could read from beginning to end on her own. She loved it. I then reinforced the words she was learning in the 100 easy lessons books with games, abs a program called reading eggs online. Now she is reading at a grade 1 level mid term(so I’ve been told) she loves reading. We are still working through the book but two lessons per week. We make a funny sentence with every individual word she reads the fast way. Sometimes her favorite paw patrol character joins us. I’ve heard parents mention that it has little creativity but I’ve found with a bit of imagination it can go a long way.

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      1. Nome, Thank you for your comment. That’s some great advice regarding making it fun for your child. I have found that not worrying about sticking to the script and not working on it every day (like the book recommends) has gone a long way in making it more pleasant for my boys too. And it worked well to teach my eldest son to read (once he was ready), and now I’m using it with my younger son. I know people who have hated it, though, and that’s okay too. There are plenty of good resources out there for teaching reading.

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  15. Hi!

    My three year old is on lesson 75. We do about 4 lessons a week. Now that they are transitioning out of the distal orthography, he is really struggling with the vowel sounds. They have introduced so many in one lesson like “i” for example: inside, filled, fish. He doesn’t know when to say what “i” sound, for example, without the extra line over the “i”. Do you have any recommendations? He was doing so well, now it seems like he has taken many steps backwards.

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    1. Hi Crystal…Thanks for your comment.

      I noticed that at Lesson 25, 50, and 75, the lessons seem to “go up a level.” Lesson 75 was were I originally stopped using the book with my eldest son because it got too hard for him (up until that point, he was doing really well with the lessons). A year later, I used the book with him again. I went back to Lesson 50 and then we finished the entire book without a problem. So you may want to just stop and revisit it again later. Read books to him, try Starfall.com, and just let him enjoy books….he’ll definitely learn to read if he enjoys books!

      It’s worth noting also that age 3 is very young to learn how to read. If your son enjoys it, and he’s been able to get that far, wow!!! He’s waaaay ahead of the average child, and that’s awesome. I read somewhere that once you finish 100 Easy Lessons, a child would be at approximately 2nd grade reading level. I did not start this book until my son was 5 years old, and when we hit that hard part, I realized he was probably too young to be reading at a 2nd grade level, and I didn’t need him to read at that level yet, which is why I had no problem putting it away for a year.

      Once we finally finished 100 Easy Lessons, I found it still took awhile for my son to transition out of that book to actually being able to read other books. I used all the books 100 Easy Lessons recommended, and we went through them very slowly, but he struggled. Even though he was able to read in 100 Easy Lessons, and he read easy readers with help, reading didn’t “click” for him until age 8. It almost seemed like the change happened overnight. He was suddenly reading fluidly and he was reading complicated words, which would have confounded him a month earlier. I started to wonder if all my effort in teaching him to read really mattered that much — it was just going to happen when he was ready and those brain connections happened!

      Every child’s “learning to read” story is different, and it sounds like your son is quite precocious! I hope this has helped, and I wish you the best of luck. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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  16. My daughter knows her letter sounds but not her letter names. She knows 19 sight words. Do you think that she can use this book without knowing her letter names and just the sounds?

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    1. Hi Tere ~ Actually, that is exactly how the book teaches reading. They teach the sounds first and the letter names later in the book. So yes, I think it would work just fine! Good luck!

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