I decided to try Scaredy Cat Reading System (SCRS) last year after talking with the representative at our local curriculum fair. The author, Joyce Herzog, had worked for 20+ years in public and, I believe, private schools teaching reading to students including those with special needs and learning disabilities. Ms. Herzog insists that all kids can learn to read. Considering the fact that was starting to be concerned about my then-almost-eight-year-old not reading, I was curious enough to give SCRS a try, especially considering that it wasn’t terribly expensive, compared to other programs on the market.
Although we only used Math-U-See for a few short weeks before deciding to stick with Horizons, I saw enough of it to feel confident in calling SCRS the “Math-U-See of reading.” It’s a mastery-based program, recommending that the student not move on to the next concept before meeting minimum levels of criteria for the current level.
SCRS teaches about vowels making “scared” and “brave” sounds versus long and short. It also teaches the student what causes a vowel to be either scared or brave, as well as using other fun, easy-to-understand concepts to teach phonics rules. Most of these are taught within the context of the story of “The Letter Master,” which I purchased as a CD/coloring book set, but which is now available as a DVD story performed by trained acting professionals.
I really like the way that SCRS approaches reading/phonics systematically, first introducing the easiest and most prominent sound, “scared” A, then progressing through the other four vowels in the Vowels book. (There is a Letters book that comes before this, but my kids were past that point when I discovered SCRS.)
The third book, Words, introduces young readers to all the other various phonics combinations. I was looking in the books to see if it gave an approximate reading level that a child would be at upon completing the books. I didn’t see anything, but based on what I’ve seen while looking through the Words book preparing for this fall, I’d guess that the child would be on at least a beginning third grade level, if not higher.
The only thing that I don’t like about SCRS is that the teacher’s manual isn’t laid out for you in the form of ready-to-use lesson plans. There are general ideas for any word list and any spelling list. Then, each lesson offers ideas of things to do within that lesson. There is also a section on what a typical day might look like, but these are, again, just ideas and not a “do A, then, do B, then do C” type of list. However, there is a Yahoo group of SCRS users that is very helpful and I have, after using it for a year, come up with a general daily outline that works for me.
I could also see where using SCRS in conjunction with a program that is intended to be supplemental, such as Explode the Code, could be very useful. I looked into doing that, but the only problem was that the vowel sounds aren’t introduced in the same order in ETC as they are in SCRS, so it would require some planning and workarounds to use both.
All in all, I have been very pleased with SCRS. Both my 6- and 8- year-olds are now fledgling readers, both able to sound out most any CVC word, with my 6 year old (who is a girl — yes, I do believe that makes a difference, in most cases) being more confident with longer words and most age-appropriate sight words as well (which are introduced in SCRS as “Rebel Words.”) Although Josh, is still “behind” where I might like him to be, I have seen definite, undeniable progress this last year and fully expect to continue to see his reading skills grow as we move into the third book in the series this fall. I am no longer overly concerned about his progress with reading.