You may be surprised to learn that 2 out of every 5 Canadian adults cannot read well enough to do everyday things without assistance. Learning to read at an early age is vital not only for the development of language skills but also for providing a foundation for social skills. Poor literacy skills result in poor health, low employment prospects and have also been linked to crime. In an attempt to kickstart literacy, Ruth Rumack, founder of Toronto-based Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space (RRLS), is set to bring a new approach to reading for children ages 3-7. The new craze is known as Alpha-Mania.
What is Alpha-Mania?
Rumack created Alpha-Mania over 15 years ago. This novel approach to literacy is based on theme based learning. Children embark on a fascinating voyage of learning by pretending they are in different adventurous scenarios, such as exploring a rain forest, traveling aboard a space ship or sailing the seas on a pirate ship. Learn while participating in stories, games, craft activities, and songs. Alpha-Mania makes learning a lot of fun, while exposing children to the phonetic sounds within words and encouraging them to play with those sounds.
Aloha-Mania is designed to increase both phonological awareness – a child’s ability to recognize and manipulate sounds orally, and phonemic awareness – the ability to recognize and manipulate individual sounds within words. These are both equally important for the development of reading and writing.
Although children are not expected to be reading fluently at the end of Alpha-Mania, it lays a solid foundation for future good reading habits. The program is designed to allow children to explore language and the alphabet, though many children do pick up pre-reading skills during the course of Alpha-Mania. Alpha-Mania can also alert parents to future reading challenges. This is based on teachers’ observations of how children manipulate the five basic elements within the lessons; rhyming, blending, segmenting, alliteration, and sound manipulation.
What Does a Typical Alpha-Mania Lesson Involve?
Each Alpha-Mania lesson is a combination of these interactive components:
Circle Time: introducing the letter of the day and facilitating familiarization with the alphabet in general.
Phonological Awareness Activities: developing skills such as sound identification within words, rhyming, alliteration, blending and syllabication.
Pre-Writing and Printing Skills: developing pencil grip, and the fine motor skills required for letter formation.
Creative Activities: including craft projects, movement activities, and stories selected to immerse children in the daily theme.
In order to extend Alpha-Mania globally, Rumack will soon be launching a crowdfunding campaign on the website Indiegogo.The goal is to raise between $50,000 and $1 million, which will be used to introduce Alpha-Mania lessons to one million children, free of charge. To accomplish this aim, RRLS is developing a series of five story books, two of which are already completed, and three of which are underway.
The story books cover five basic phonological skills:
Rhyming – Captain Ray and the Rhyming Pirates
Blending – Slomo’s Secret Treasure
Alliteration—The Fantastic Floating Feast
Segmenting – The Splitter Critter and the Greedy Pirates
Sound Manipulation – The Great Riddle Race
Each book is comprised of four educational elements: an entertaining story, a focus on the book’s specific skills, a phonics activity requiring children to locate letters and object from within detailed illustrations, and active engagement throughout the story.
How the Crowdfunded Resources will be Used
Rumack intends to used funds to reach out with Alpha-Mania to as many children as possible via free resources. The specific goals include:
If the crowdfunded funds fall between goal landmarks, Rumack intends to pro-rate the free resources to maximize the amount invested. If RRLS exceeds its fifth goal, the free distribution numbers will be increased to match the achievement. All plans will be published online so that investors can see exactly where the money is being allocated.