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A whole-word reading program teaches children to recognize and read a word as a single unit. In contrast to a phonics approach, children do not sound out each letter or letter combination. Whole-word methods require fewer prerequisite skills than phonics methods. Thus, children who are not ready or unable to learn to read through phonics may find reading success with a whole-word curriculum. This article is an Edmark Reading Program Review.
Edmark: A Packaged Whole-Word Curriculum
The best whole-word curriculum I have come across is Edmark. I have used Edmark to teach many children to read. I used this program in self-contained settings for children with intellectual disability and also with autistic children. The program can be used with children who have learning disabilities, preschoolers, ESL students, and really anyone who is having difficulty learning to read. The prerequisite skills include pointing to a word on the page, matching pictures, letters, letter combinations, and words. Book 1 of level 1 begins with teaching these prerequisite skills. If the child can already match words, you can skip ahead to the first word lesson.
Edmark teaches both word recognition, reading words in phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, and comprehension skills. Words are first introduced using their lesson book. The program comes with an overlay to isolate the line the child is working on. If you look at the image above, Lesson book 2 is photographed and the word “tree” is visible through the overlay. This program is an open-and-go style and easy to implement. The direction manual explains how to use the lesson book and activities. Comprehension is taught through matching activities. The first type of matching activity (pictured in the image above on the right) has a word, phrase, or sentence and the student places corresponding picture cards to match. The second type of matching activity (pictured in the image above in the middle) has a set of phrase cards. The phrase cards are matched to the corresponding picture on the activity card. Although not pictured above, a story book is also included.
Edmark Reading Program Review Limitations
This program does not work perfectly with every child. I once had an autistic student with language delays who was confused by color adjectives. I had to create a separate activity to teach the concept of an adjective. Also, since the comprehension activities are with cards and drawings, some of the concepts are difficult to teach to children who do not have strong language comprehension. For example, for the sentence, “The yellow dog is in the car.” The child would slip the dog card into a slot in the car card. Students with language comprehension challenges may benefit from using objects in comprehension activities.
The Edmark curriculum comes in both print and computer-based formats. I personally prefer the print version. I have seen the computer-based version in action, but have not used it to teach children. Two levels are available. Level 1 teaches 150 words and Level 2 teaches an additional 200 words. The printed version of the program is pricey at nearly $600 per level. I got a good deal on my Edmark Level 1 on eBay.
Places to buy the print edition Edmark:
Computer-based home version:
- $99 from Boundless
Final Thoughts on this Edmark Reading Program Review
I highly recommend this reading curriculum. The lessons are short (less than 5 minutes) and easy to implement. I have taught many children to read using Edmark and still use it with my own children. I have a 4 year old who does not yet have the prerequisite skills for learning phonics, but he does have the prerequisite skills for whole-word instruction. He can currently read nearly 50 words from level 1. My 2 year old insists on having her turn to read with Edmark and can currently read 3 words (I only work with her when she demands “my turn” and I follow her lead for how much she wants to do).