How to Use Noah Webster's Reading Handbook

Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook published by Christian Liberty Press is a great inexpensive option for those who feel they need more guidance than is offered in A Home Start in Reading by Ruth Beechick. The Reading Handbook uses the same method, but is already laid out for you in lessons.

Cathy Duffy recommends Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (read our full review):

No frills, no confusion, straight-to-the-point phonics, and there seems to be little missing other than more work on sight words, complete treatment of the ough sounds, and the extra practice and review students need to really master reading skills.

100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy

Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook is:

an updated and modernized version of the old Blue-Backed Speller. It may be used in any grade to teach the fundamentals of phonics and reading, or as remedial work for older students.

But the modernized version is much easier to use than the Blue-Backed Speller, which is in the public domain (see links below).

The Christian Liberty Press version includes instructions for use in the introduction:

  • First the student becomes familiar with the alphabet and the sounds each letter makes.
  • Then the student begins blending sounds: sapsap.
  • Eventually sentences are included.

Reading charts are included in the back of the book. These charts are referenced throughout and are to be used for review and practice.

Those familiar with the methods of Charlotte Mason will appreciate the short lessons — to be no longer than twenty minutes each and broken into two smaller lessons if necessary.

Again, the methods used in Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook essentially follow those in Ruth Beechick’s A Home Start in Reading. Below you’ll find our suggestions and links to helpful resources for using both.

  • Review A Home Start in Reading by Ruth Beechick for a better understanding of how to teach the lessons.
  • Be sure the sounds on the first page are mastered before trying to move forward. Moving forward too quickly will only frustrate child and Mom!
  • Unless your child is completely comfortable with a pencil, don’t include writing as part of the reading exercises. The extra attention to writing can turn off an early reader. The writing will come after a child has learned to read and is learning to correctly spell those words he is already familiar with.
  • Make a phonogram flip book for extra practice.
  • Create a notebook page for your child with each new sound along with examples. He may enjoy illustrating the page.
  • Add the rules to the notebook as you come across them along with examples of the rule.
  • Supplement with Bob Books for extra practice.

Additional Resources
Beechick Basics

A Home Start in Reading by Ruth Beechick
This little book is all you need to teach your child to read. Really. But even if you decide to use Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook, you’ll find the teaching tips here invaluable. Now bundled with The Three Rs.

Teach a Child to Read — The Natural Way!
Suggestions and resources for using A Home Start in Reading by Ruth Beechick.

How to Use Noah Webster's Reading Handbook

Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook
The paperback.

The American Spelling Book by Noah Webster
The original in the public domain for those interested.

The Elementary Spelling Book by Noah Webster
Published later and also in the public domain, this was “an improvement on the American Spelling Book.”

Spelling Book Method of Teaching Reading
If you decide to use the old Blue-Backed Speller, you might appreciate these helps from Don Potter.

Bob Books
These simple beginning readers are designed such that your child can read from a real book using the few sounds he already knows. Set 1 covers the short vowels and three-letter words. We went through several of the sets with great success!

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