Breaking the Sound Barrier, by Alice Horwill-Leech, is a step-by-step guide for increasing phonemic and phonological awareness in beginning readers, ages preschool to adult, to ensure future success in literacy.
Horwill-Leech, a retired teacher and private tutor, writes in response to parents’ and caregivers’ “genuine need for some form of assistance” in helping children understand our alphabetic system. Her fun and effective teaching strategies are compiled in this simple workbook that aims to increase students’ “ability to hear and distinguish differences and similarities in the spoken word.” According to Horwill-Leech’s research and experience, mastery of this auditory process is a “vital pre-requisite to gaining the skills necessary to read and spell effectively.”
She provides thorough instruction through exercises that teach syllables, rhyme vs. rime, alliteration, initial and medial digraphs, blending and more. Teachers will appreciate Horwill-Leech’s detailed explanations of each activity’s effectiveness, suggested student outcome, method for teaching, skills and evaluations for determining mastery. Each lesson’s purpose is fully conveyed, and most claims are supported with additional background research, giving the educator confidence in the system.
The bulk of the activities include easily recognizable, creative, original artwork carefully drawn for nonreaders; however, tertiary and adult ESL students may find it too elementary. Educators should be aware that many lessons must be photocopied and cut out before teaching. The student worksheets also contain teaching notes, which might be distracting for students and must be cut away. Toward the end of the book, pictures appear to be missing for the “Final ‘ar’ Sound” activity.
While some users might have appreciated a works-cited page for quick reference and/or concluding directions for a next step after completion of the workbook, Horwill-Leech’s contribution should be an effective tool for developing strong phonemic awareness in readers. It will certainly help home-schooling parents, caregivers and traditional educators.
Also available as an ebook.