Now I'm Reading™: Animal Antics
Author: Nora Gaydos. Illustrator: BB Sams
10 Phonic Books with Stickers
Publisher/Date: innovative KIDS®/2001
ISBN: 1584760737
Age Levels: 4-7

Book Review

For several years the phonics vs. whole language arguments could be heard nearly everywhere—from classrooms to the halls of Congress. Thankfully, we have come to realize that teaching a child to read requires a balanced approach. Yes, phonics should be taught. Yes, children should be exposed to literature. Teachers have known for years that the best reading programs for beginning readers combine both.

With regard to phonics, you will find advocates for one particular approach or another. When I gather with my reading teacher colleagues, however, we all agree upon the following: the absolute necessity for early phonemic awareness, the need for the child to be able to decode sequentially, and the importance of engaging text. When I examine the various reading programs available, I look specifically for these three things. If they are present, I then look at the program as a whole. How is this program different from others available? Specifically, are the books leveled? Do the illustrations enhance the text? Will the books grab and hold the child’s attention? Are the books easy to hold and manipulate? Do the stories encourage fluency and comprehension? Is there a parent or teacher guide available?

In reviewing the Now I’m Reading™ program I found all that and more. Six levels comprise the series, from "Pre-Reader" to "Independent."

In this review I will discuss the Level 1 books. Each hardbound holder contains 10 paperback books. The holder itself is cleverly designed. The paperbacks are held inside, and in place, by a large magnetic flap on the outside and individual plastic holders on the inside. There is a parent/teacher guide in the front. Each book comes with a sticker that the child places on the inside front page when he or she has finished reading it.

In Level 1, beginning readers are exposed to predictable, patterned text. The ten books provide readers with short vowel sounds, simple consonant sounds, and sight words. Fat Cat, for example, exposes the reader to the short vowel a, the sight words "a" and "is," the word ending –s, consonant blends "cl," "gl," and "st." Sound dry and dull? Not so! It does all this through a delightfully engaging tale about a cat.

Pig Jigs, another Level 1 book, not only had our beginning reader laughing out loud, but our adult reviewer as well. When both reader and reviewer came back begging for more books, I knew this program was a winner.

As a parent, and now a grandparent, I have had the opportunity to experience several times over the joy of watching a child learn to read. As a reading teacher, I have had the opportunity to experience the heartache of watching teenagers struggle to read simple declarative sentences. After talking with our reviewers, readers, and reading teachers who scrutinized these books, I would, if I could, put a program such as this into the hands of every beginning reader in our nation’s schools.

Reviewed by K.J. Wagner
©2003 Education Oasis

About the Author

Nora Gaydos is an elementary school teacher in Connecticut and has taught for more than ten years. Her classroom experience includes teaching kindergarten, first grade, and third grade. She has a broad understanding of how beginning readers develop from the earliest stage of pre-reading to becoming independent, self-motivated readers. Ms. Gaydos has a degree in elementary education from Miami University in Ohio. She has one young son, Luke, and is the author of Now I Know My ABCs and Now I Know My 1, 2, 3's, both published by innovative KIDS®.