This book has such a variety of skill ranges included in it that I found it extremely helpful for all of us. The two main reasons you'd want to use this book are to teach penmanship or to correct sloppy penmanship, but it offers more than that. For the beginning reader the book also offers reading instruction and claims you can teach a child to read and write in 60 days. For the remedial user the book offers tips and practice pages to make your handwriting more beautiful. It even teaches simple flourishes as well as the slightly more advanced technique of calligraphy. This method mentions how cursive is not necessary and italic writing is faster and better.
We received the digital version of the book, a 218 page download. The book begins with some background about italic writing and instructions for how to use the book. I was able to print only the chapters each child needed, the instructions say for remedial work to go through chapter 2 and then skip to 6.
The introduction and first chapter are very helpful. A couple of things I took away from the reading was that this method helps each person find their own legible italic writing style, and that it's okay not to form perfect circles when writing! When I told my kids their letters could form ovals instead of circles they were relieved. Teaching about rhythm on the up and down strokes is so helpful, and not something usually found in handwriting instruction, but it is mentioned here!
- Chapter 2 teaches individual letter formation, starting with vowels and then the rest of the alphabet in order. Some of the letters are different, such as k, y, and Y. We found the y to be a MUCH better formation than the traditional method. Some kids like the new way to write k, some do not. I told them that's okay, write what looks and feels best for you, as long as it's legible. Some letters are formed in two strokes, such as e and o, and I didn't enforce this. That's a method used in calligraphy, and my younger kids found it awkward. If two stroke letters help you find your rhythm then do them. If not, that's okay! Those of us who are doing the calligraphy portion practice two stroke letters.
- Chapters 3-5 are for practice and for reading instruction. They have pages full of words and sentences that progressively teach new skills, and allow the child to practice penmanship at the same time. There are 60 lessons, thus the 60 days to teach reading and writing. I felt this would be too fast for most new readers... they need lots more time to practice skills, and there was more writing than I feel a beginning reader could handle. For remedial readers this might be fine!
- Chapter 6 has plenty of practice pages. The final writing project before moving on to extra stuff is to copy "The Night Before Christmas". This was fun to do! It also teaches how to slant the letters and how to join some letters to write legibly AND quickly. If you choose to keep working through the book you'll learn how to use a calligraphy pen, add serifs and simple flourishes, and join calligraphy letters. These last sections were the most helpful for my 8th grader and I.
How did we use the book:
I would show the children the correct way to form each letter, then let them practice. We would work through one or two pages a day. My kindergartner did two letters a day (one full page of work) and when we got to the copywork she did three lines each day. She does other copywork as well so don't think this is all she does! As with any penmanship method, younger children should be guided in their work, not left to practice alone. We did make one modification, on the letter learning pages instead of writing a full line of just that letter, we wrote each letter we had learned to that point so we were practicing all learned letters daily.
My 8th grader and I used chapters 2 and 6. We learned the new letter formation and practiced our italic and calligraphy. She and I often did more than 2 pages a day. We found the joining tips helpful but also confusing. Some of the joins shown weren't consistent so we had to keep flipping pages to see what was suggested. You are supposed to develop your own style though, so that might be the reason. The serifs and flourishes are fun!
My 6th grade son used chapters 2 and 6, as well as some practice sheets from chapter 5. He did this for remedial penmanship. I didn't see any improvement over any other penmanship practice he's done. He did like this method better though, and is excited to start the calligraphy practice soon (he bought a new calligraphy fountain pen specifically for this!) He needs to slow down and focus on his writing, that is the only way we see any improvement.
My 3rd grader used this the same way as my 6th grader. She also needs to make sure she slows down and focuses rather than race through her work. The joins will be helpful for her once she gets to them. She has nice cursive, and I hope that once she finishes the book this helps her have nicer manuscript.
My kindergartner is working through the whole book. She's in chapter 3 now, working on sentences that correspond with what she's already learned to read. She has a hard time with the lines in this book... the traditional solid top and bottom lines with a dashed line in the center are present, but you don't write on them. Instead you write in the space in between those traditional lines. It's hard for her to gauge how tall each uppercase and tall letter should be because they don't reach to a line. I also wish that each sentence started on a new line, it's confusing for her to read like these are laid out. My hope is that this method will help her develop better italic manuscript before we move her on to cursive.
We noticed that the scriptures used in this book were not from the KJV Bible, we didn't expect to see the verses meaning changed from what we usually read. One thing that was frustrating is letter formation is not consistent throughout the book. I found I and J formed in two different ways where my youngest would learn to write, and Y changed when we got to calligraphy.
The book was originally published in 1988, but was republished in 2015. The introduction by Janice Campbell talks about how she enjoyed using the book with her children but wanted to purchase it again only to find out it was no longer available. So she contacted the author, Caroline Joy Adams, and received permission to republish. I wish the formatting were updated, the margins of the work pages are inconsistent (much of the book looks scanned). Some pages are missing blank copywork lines as well. I would like to see the book completely redone to ensure consistent copy lines after tracing lines, and each sentence beginning on its own line.
Overall I quite enjoyed this book and found the handwriting instruction to be a method we like. I will continue to use it as outlined above. I like that my youngest can do copywork on a page that is already set up with words she can read. I can print any page multiple times for extra practice. I like the ideas presented for joining letters and learning to write faster, yet legibly. The calligraphy pages make this book perfect for our family. It's an all in one handwriting method!
Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting is available to purchase in print, as an ebook, or in a bundle of both. The size of the ebook was overwhelming at first, but keep in mind that you can print only the pages you need!