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A Readiness Program With Children’s Literature at Its Heart

Happily Ever After is a reading readiness program designed to give children the foundation they need to be successful when they begin formal reading instruction.

Well-known, beautifully illustrated selections of children’s literature are the basis of the ten units in the program.

Why Happily Ever After Works: Four Program Principles

Happily Ever After is built on the following principles:

1. Early reading skills are most effectively taught when integrated with the other language arts.

Reading instruction works best when it keeps children constantly engaged in writing, spelling, listening, and speaking. This is the integrated approach used in Happily Ever After. Children listen to stories and discuss them. Children see the teacher write and write themselves by dictating ideas to the teacher. Children begin to understand that written words stand for spoken thoughts and that communication is the goal of all the language arts.

2. Explicit instruction supports children at every step.

A good readiness program assumes nothing. Instead, it carefully breaks down and explains tasks. For example, children aren’t just asked to draw a line. First they learn what a dot and a line are. Then, on pages that show a dot at the left of a line, they learn to put a crayon on the dot and trace the line from left to right. After this, they draw a line independently. Finally, only after learning through concrete activity the meaning of under are children asked to draw a line under something and introduced to the word underline. This careful, explicit, systematic approach makes all children successful, task by task, and gives them the strongest possible foundation for learning to read.

3. A multimodal approach engages all children.

Children, like all of us, learn through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities. Strengthening children’s ability to learn in all the modalities prepares them for reading (which involves mainly the visual modality), spelling (auditory), and writing (kinesthetic). Multimodal practice helps children master skills and concepts regardless of their strengths and weaknesses or preferred learning style. Throughout Happily Ever After, children learn new skills, concepts, and vocabulary by seeing and hearing examples, as well as by participating in physical activities that reinforce their meaning.

4. Motivation is key to children’s success.

Happily Ever After includes beautifully illustrated stories; lively discussions; and a great variety of hands-on activities, group games, and art projects—all of which delight children. Throughout the program, clear instruction builds success step by step, giving children confidence as they develop the skills they need to learn to read.

A Rich Curriculum of Early Literacy Skills

Happily Ever After teaches a rich curriculum of early literacy skills. It focuses on four areas:

Development of language and vocabulary

To succeed across curricula in future years, children must develop concepts and vocabulary to comprehend written and spoken language. Happily Ever After builds this foundation by anchoring instruction in classic stories from children’s literature. Children listen to a well-known story in the first lesson of each unit and return to it again and again as they move through the other lessons in the unit. The story gives them a common framework for new words and concepts.

In addition, new vocabulary, skills, and concepts are first introduced in a concrete way through a game that relates them directly to the familiar, physical world. In this way, instruction proceeds from the concrete to the abstract.

Fine-motor skills

Ultimately, children need to develop fine-motor skills to be able to write. To build these skills, Happily Ever After provides constant practice in cutting, folding, coloring, gluing, tracing, and drawing. Happily Ever After builds children’s fine-motor skills through practice, practice, practice—but practice that takes place in the context of activities children enjoy.

Direction-following skills

Success in school depends on children’s ability to understand instructional vocabulary and follow directions. Following directions involves good listening skills and concentration, often applied to multi-step instructions. It also requires familiarity with common school tasks, such as circling an answer or drawing a line across or under. Happily Ever After builds children’s ability to follow directions by teaching the necessary skills systematically and explicitly and giving children the opportunity to apply the skills in every lesson.

Listening skills

To learn to read and spell, children must become conscious first of environmental sounds and then of sounds that make up speech, such as words and syllables. Finally, they must learn to hear phonemes, the small units of speech that correspond to letters. Happily Ever After carefully builds this sensitivity to sounds through direct instruction and daily routines. Children must also learn to attend thoughtfully to the teacher, to the narrator in audio lessons, and to other children. These listening skills are developed in every activity throughout the program.

Comprehensive Lesson Plans for Ten Units of Instruction

Units are designed to take about two weeks, depending on the length of the school day and children’s abilities. From unit to unit, lessons follow a consistent, predictable sequence.

Each unit is built on a selection of children’s literature and divided into ten lessons that include these elements:

  • Lesson Overview—Summarizes each step of the lesson
  • Daily Routines—Focus on print awareness and working with sounds
  • Step-by-Step Instruction—Helps teacher move smoothly through the explicit lesson parts
  • Ten-Minute Tuck-Ins—Differentiation activities to reteach, reinforce, and extend instruction
  • Lasting Lessons—Relate key concepts in the story to behavioral choices children make in their own lives
  • Project Corner—Cross-curricular activities that relate to the story

Program Materials

The teacher and student materials below form the complete Happily Ever After program.

  • Big Books—The Big Book for each unit contains a classic, richly illustrated story. Big Books for Units 1–5 contain pictures only, and Big Books for Units 6–10 have limited text. Audio story narrations are provided on CDs and in MyZBPortal.com.
  • Concept Boards—The large laminated Concept Boards are used to introduce the new unit concepts such as a color, a shape, and key vocabulary words.
  • Group Activity Boards—These large laminated boards provide games, puzzles, and other activities for developing social skills such as sharing.
  • Student Activity Pages Pad—Activity pages and take-home storybooks are sold in pads for eight students. Students color, trace, cut, fold, and glue on these pages, and activities relate to the unit story.
  • Teacher’s Binder—The Teacher’s Binder includes Teacher’s Guides, Letter Cards, Tactile Cards, Color Squares, Blacklines Masters Book, and more.
  • MyZBPortal.com—MyZBPortal.com provides lesson-planning tools, on-demand professional development videos, digital versions of print materials, and other helpful online resources for teachers.
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Everything You Need to Ensure Children Learn Happily Ever After  !

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