My oldest daughter doesn't "struggle" with reading, but it's definitely not what comes easiest for her. It's amazing to see the difference in my daughters' abilities to hear phonics. Often times, when trying to sound out words with my 5-year-old, my 4-year-old will hear the word and say it correctly before her big sister. Could this also be related to my youngest's ability to match the pitch of music more quickly (and correctly) than her big sister? Anyone else find that interesting? Maybe she just "hears" things more easily?
Anyway... back to the subject of reading. My oldest daughter protests a bit more when I ask her to practice reading with me, to learn sight words, or do some phonics/reading pages in a workbook. So I looked all over the internet for something we could use to supplement her phonics practice. I didn't want a full-blown reading curriculum and I didn't want anything that would make her feel as though she needed extra help, as if reading were "a problem."
What I found was a series of workbooks called "Explode the Code." It's not a fancy-pants workbook, as most of the pages are in black and white, but my daughter doesn't mind doing workbooks and I thought she'd enjoy it. The lessons are very repetitive and usually consist of 9-10 pages. At first, my daughter thought the lessons were long and difficult, but once she understood that each lesson followed roughly the same format, she started to breeze through them because she knew exactly what to do. And because the workbooks are so dry, and lessons can be long, I usually only ask her to do 1-2 pages per day or every other day.
I cannot tell you how much her phonics abilities have improved by using these workbooks! We started Book 1 in the fall, we are almost finished with Book 2, and will be starting Book 3 soon. She is now sounding things out more slowly - and thus, more correctly - and all the letter sounds have been reinforced. To say that her confidence and abilities have improved dramatically is not an exaggeration.
If your child struggles with phonics, I do not hesitate to suggest checking into these workbooks. They are under $10 each and well worth the money. The company also makes a set of workbooks for the preschool crowd called, "Get Ready for the Code," "Get Set for the Code," and "Go for the Code." I bought these for my 4-year-old and she has almost finished all three books, which focus on letter recognition, letter writing, and letter sounds.
Have you used "Explode the Code" or another phonics program? I'd love to hear your experiences and recommendations.