The Natural Starting Point

We believe that the natural time for a child to begin to acquire the written language is just after the child has mastered the spoken language.

A child's brain is configured to decode the world around them through observation, trial, and positive feedback when they progress. That's how children learn to speak. When a child decodes the sounds that people make, and figures out their first words, it brings them (and everyone involved in the experience) joy and satisfaction. This motivates the child to keep decoding, to learn more words. They learn because they want to learn, and because the learning is fun.


It's the perfect cycle.

The process for learning to read is similar, with one significant difference: Reading involves the additional step of decoding symbols into the sounds they represent. If we give a child tools that make the decoding process more logical, their satisfaction will be increased, and their progress will be self-motivated.

Our aim is to help make the process of learning to read as positive, and natural, as learning to talk. We believe that the earlier a child is given clues to master the sound-it-out phase, the more likely it is that he or she will become a strong independent reader.


It is equally important that the experience of learning to read is fun. That's what we do at The Tessy & Tab Reading Club.

How Kids Learn to Read

Let's start by remembering how your child learned to talk.

First were months of listening, along with laughing, cooing and crying. Then came months of simple babbling and experimenting with sounds, which led to babbling that was starting to sound a lot like real talking. All along the way, you gave your child positive feedback, acted as if you knew exactly what they were saying, and encouraged them to tell you more.

And then, they spoke their first word. The grown ups were thrilled. Your child had a light bulb moment –"This time, they really know what I am saying!" From that moment, your child's motivation to learn more "real" words was strong and genuine.

Learning to read has much in common with learning to talk.

There is one big difference: reading involves letters that stand for sounds, and they add up to words. In order to read, a child needs to decode these letters into the sounds they represent.

Not long after a child learns to talk he or she realizes that the funny marks in the books that you read aloud are the things that tell you which words to say. 

children quickly see that the ABCs they have begun to learn are part of the way this works. In their preschool years, children have a natural inclination to learn. They love to figure things out. And they love to "do it themselves". The natural way that preschoolers learn is through play, discovery and exploration. Any attempt to add directives or rule-bound lessons work against this, and may stifle their motivation.

It's not that complicated.

You may have heard about the "reading wars", debates that have raged for years over the most appropriate way to teach children to read. There are fanatic believers in phonics – teaching kids to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in the alphabet. And there are those just as passionate about whole language – teaching kids to read by having them learn whole words and phrases in the context of well–selected literature.

We suggest you ignore the drama. Phonics "won" the wars, but that is beside the point. We believe that to the pre-reader, this outcome makes little difference. A child's brain is wired to figure things out, and a curious preschooler will use whatever tools are at hand to accelerate their ability to decode and use written language. They want to read and they are willing to try it all. We believe the truth is...

Every little bit helps.

Learning phonics works. Recognizing whole words and phrases in context works. Building a sight word inventory works. Learning words by recognizing pictures works. Many other mental devices work, and that is because...

Every child is different.

This means that each child will need to find the decoding tools that work for him or her. And you don't need to worry – they will learn. Your role is to give them lots of possible tools, and then to encourage them through this natural period of trial and error.

The Parent's Role

Start early.

A child who is enthusiastic about reading is one who decodes easily, comprehends what he or she has read, and is motivated to read. These may sound like "school" activities, but parents who help raise kids who love words early create a foundation for them in their preschool years.

Make it fun.

Parents who raise happy readers do not take a tiger parent approach. They discover and utilize ways to connect reading with pleasure. Say no to flashcards and drills. Say yes to conversations, stories and games. It's time to take a break and have some fun – let's go get some books!

Let them try, and try again.

Decoding takes patience, especially during the sound-it-out phase. There are no mistakes because trying is part of the process. Resist the urge to correct. Preschoolers like to do things over and are blissfully unselfconscious. You are the supportive audience, their guide to how letters connect to the sounds they can already make.

You already know the basics.

The foundation of reading is language. Without a doubt, the most important step you can take on the path to early literacy is to immerse your child in world filled with words.

  • Talk to your child, a lot. The more words your child hears, the faster their vocabulary grows. The more stuff you explain to them, the greater their knowledge of the world and how things work.
  • Read aloud with your child on a daily basis. There is no better way for them to learn how books work and how much fun books are.
  • Talk about what you have read after you read it. Keep the conversation going.
  • Have as many books in the house as you can, and keep them in many places. When you leave the house, always ask, "Should we take some books along?"
  • Read yourself, often and in your child's presence. Your child wants to do what he or she sees that you enjoy doing.
  • Teach them the alphabet, sing the song. Look at letters a lot. Point them out, talk about their shapes and practice sounds.

There is one more thing.

While immersed in a language-rich environment, your child needs ways to connect verbal fluency and the fulfillment of conversing to printed language and the pleasure of reading. That's where Tessy and Tab come in.

Building Skills and Character

You've heard that non-cognitive social skills can be your child's key to having a happy future and succeeding in the endeavors they choose to undertake. Tessy & Tab stories demonstrate and celebrate these character traits.

Resilience, adaptability, collaboration…

along with curiosity, perseverance, caring, and self-control are built into the narratives of the Tessy & Tab books. Children learn by example. Their friends Tessy and Tab can show the way. Things don't always go according to plan for Tessy and Tab. Sometimes things break. Sometimes they lose the game. Tessy and Tab show your child that it's all OK. You can apologize if you were mean. You can help someone who is having trouble. You can try again. And again.

General knowledge is the key to cultural literacy…

and it starts with you. Your child wants to know how the world works. From "Is cheese always orange?" to "What does extinction mean?", your child has a million questions. Knowledge gathering comes from your conversations with them. All of this background information is the key to their future fluency in reading because it supplies essential information that will not always be found in the text.

Learning through genuine life experiences.

Tessy and Tab have no super powers, and they won't be flying to the moon. Your child's newest friends are leading the exact same sort of life as your child. That is both comforting and exciting. What if you have heard about mini golf, but have not yet been able to try it? Tessy and Tab can show you how it's done. And then, you're in the know.

You will find a lot to talk about in every Tessy & Tab book. If Tessy and Tab are having an experience that your child has not yet had, that's even better!