Meanwhile… our early-reading “toolbox”

So… reading is going GREAT!

As I hinted in my previous post, Naomi Rivka knocks my socks off with what she knows every few days; she is gaining by leaps and bounds.

We started the year reading the early BOB Books:  Set 1, Beginning Readers.  More like “reading” than READING.  She was slow, reluctant, even teary at times, especially if other people were around and she didn’t want them seeing or listening in.  She wanted to be good perfect! at reading without ever having done it before.


To be honest, I didn’t love the BOB Books much more than she did, and it was painful forcing her to practice. 

I wasn’t sure we’d ever make it to Set 2, Advancing Beginners.  But make it through the first set we did, and I think the transition to Set 2, triggered something in Naomi:  she could SEE that she had made progress.  Set 2 was WAY easier; we finished it two weeks ago… and that means it’s time to start… Set 3, Word Families!


I also started the year with this Dick and Jane reader, Fun Wherever We Are, that I picked up at Value Village (kids’ books, 99 cents). 


I figured it couldn’t hurt, and once she was pretty secure with the phonics, I introduced these sight-reading stories, one very short, simple story at a time.  These stories are mostly about the pictures (“Oh, Spot!” is not very evocative, but the accompanying pictures are lively and vivid), and she seems to really like the book.

We are still (mostly) all about the phonics, and Naomi continues to slog away at Explode the Code Book 1.  To me, it looks horribly dull and repetitious – but she seems to love the simple, repetitive reinforcement of skills she is acquiring. 

I must say, it gives her a LOT of confidence in her writing.  If she has written, matched, X’d and spelled the word “PAN” or “PIN” fifteen times over the course of a unit in this book, she probably won’t hesitate to write it in another context.  So as long as she isn’t complaining, I plan to transition into the second book in the series as soon as we’re finished, which probably won’t be until June at this rate – though I may step it up to twice a week.


Anyway, with all of that, I also found these two Dick & Jane books at Value Village last week:  We Play Outside and We Play and Pretend.  I’m glad I bought them, because for some reason, I discovered that the reading level in the Fun Wherever We Are book jumps suddenly, about 1/3 of the way through, into much harder stories.

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So I think we’re going to continue with We Play Outside first, then back into the Fun Wherever We Are, and finally into We Play and Pretend.  I wish I could find some indication from the publisher indicating what order they thought these should be used in – from an educator or parent’s perspective, it seems almost like they put out these “nostalgia” editions without a clue that people might use them as – gasp! – actual reading texts.  Shocking!

Depending on how these go, when we’re finished with these books, I plan to either move into the classic McGuffey Readers (I’ve been told that Level 3 is a good place to start).  The lessons seem strange to modern readers, but they are short and the language is very, VERY correct.  There are also poems, word lists, pronunciation exercises and short copywork exercises. 

I just hope the transition isn’t too much of a shock – The Well-Trained Mind emphasizes that this type of reading is quite different from reading for pleasure, so hopefully it will complement whatever she is reading on her own.

imageSPEAKING OF WHICH… the last piece of the puzzle (for the time being) is this set of Winter-themed books from “Brand New Readers”, which I caved in and bought online today.  It’s sight-word-based, like the Dick & Jane books, so they won’t supplant our phonics work, but the books are short enough and lively enough that I really hope they will become the first books Naomi can truly read, by herself, for pleasure.

Are they – as Charlotte Mason might say – twaddle?  Maybe, maybe not.  Are they Great Literature?  Well, no.

The truth of modern life is that, unlike in Miss Mason’s day, there are hundreds of thousands of kids’ books, and most are written and printed without a single thought as to their redeeming value in growing and training a child’s mind.  Every bookstore in the world could put out a banner renaming itself “Twaddle R’ Us.”

My home can only fortify itself so much against the deluge.  I can shove most of the Dora-related kitsch out the door before the kids see it, but there will always be the doting granny who sends, well, terrible, dreary books of no redeeming value. 

(see my rant about TRULY BAD kids’ books, which I have excised from here and given its own post!)

I hope that by continuing to read to the kids – forever, if necessary! – and giving them the skills to read whatever they want, that they will choose to read good stuff and fill their minds, like their bellies, with stuff that helps them be smart and strong and kind and good.

I believe (and hope!) that read-aloud storytime is as much a part of their early-reading toolbox as the letters and words they’re able to sound out for themselves.  What we’ve read so far this year…

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… yup, we’re slow!  But here’s our next chapter book, bought today for 99 cents at Value Village (I like to buy our read-aloud chapters as opposed to taking them out of the library because it takes forever to read them!)!


I think they’re going to love it.  And by they, I don’t just mean Naomi… when they’re not running around madly, I notice the big kids stopping and listening.  I want to tell them you’re never too old to snuggle and listen to a story, but I do keep hoping they will figure it out for themselves.


  1. Level 3 McGuffey is something like a 3rd/4th grade reading level...

  2. Oops. I just realized we're reading Book 2 (not 3) right now. Book 2 is 3rd/4th. Book 3 is 4th/5th. By the time you get to Book 4 it's HEAVY STUFF! :)


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