William Murray, the creator of Key Words, taught his daughter Lorna Hillman to read with some photos and scrap memorabilia while sitting on his knee. Here, she remembers how her world opened up when she learned to read.
I learned to read sitting on my father’s knee. He was researching the most used words in the English language, ‘key words’, for a series of books which later became the world-famous Key Words with Peter and Jane. These books now have a global reach and have sold over 100 million copies. They have been instrumental in teaching many more millions of young children to learn to read.
My father used those most frequent ‘key words’, along with photos and other memorabilia, to make a scrapbook of all that was most important in my world. I was 3 years old. I can still recall making the book with my father, as well as the feel of each page as we turned it. I remember sitting on his lap, and the comfort of looking at the book over and over again. I remember too the joy and sense of achievement I felt in recognising the words that accompanied the pictures.
I have now used that same method of making a scrapbook, to introduce my own two daughters and six grandchildren to reading, before they first encountered the printed page. We carefully collated words that were important to them, and repeated them, along with the early ‘key words’, which were then made into their own first, personal reader. We linked their names with those of their friends, pets, favourite toys, etc., and with what have been proven to be the most used words in the English language, to become a powerful first book full of happy talking points and memories.
It’s a method that has never failed. It opens the door to early reading success before the child first meets the printed page.
Learning to read should be a positive, personal experience, and making an individual book with a young child, is the most natural introduction to enjoyable reading for a lifetime.
I also used this technique when I was a Special Needs teacher, working with children who sensed that they had already failed in life. Their rapid acceleration in learning to read gave them greater confidence and acted as a springboard for other positive learning experiences.
Learning to read should be personal, positive and fun. It need not be expensive. It can be tailor-made for each child. It can start with a personal scrapbook, and open the door to reading for a lifetime.