Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All About Reading

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Our household contains four student readers with two more yet to learn. My first four students learned at varying rates and with varying degrees of motivation. What clicked with my older children was just not working for my kindergarten student this year.

When I was given the opportunity to review the new curriculum, All About Reading (Level Pre-1), I was very excited to give my daughter a fresh program to help her on the way to reading while also introducing her younger sister to letters and sounds.

All About Reading was written by Marie Rippel. According to the All About Reading website:
Level Pre-1 [is] for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and it focuses on what we call the Big Five Skills. These five fundamental pre-reading skills include letter knowledge, phonological awareness, print awareness, listening comprehension, and motivation to read. It is this specific set of skills that helps pre-readers understand the basics of language and how it works, preparing them to learn to read. With All About Reading Level Pre-1, your child will play special games, enjoy little crafts, and engage in charming storytime activities--all the while absorbing these all-important Big Five Skills.
The curriculum sounded like exactly what my daughter needed--a program with a variety of fun activities to help target pre-reading skills and help provide a motivation to read. When the package arrived, I was not disappointed. Unwrapping the contents was like Christmas morning. Here's what greeted me:

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Program components can all be purchased individually but the best value is to purchase either the Basic or Deluxe package. The All About Reading Basic package ($79.95) includes:
  • Teacher's Guide
  • Student Workbook
  • Capital Letter Alphabet Chart
  • Lowercase Letter Alphabet Chart
  • The Zigzag Reader (book for uppercase)
  • Lizard Lou (for lowercase)
  • Picture Cards and Letter Sound Cards for lesson activities
The Deluxe package ($119.95), pictured above, includes all the Basic items plus:
  • Activity Box & dividerscards (to picture/letter sound cards)
  • Ziggy Zebra puppet (extremely high quality from Folkmanus)
  • Letter Sounds A to Z (CD-ROM)
  • Tote bag to hold package contents
Audio CDs of both The Zigzag Reader and Lizard Lou can be purchased separately for $9.95 each. If you are teaching more than one student, additional student packet materials can also be purchased for $24.95 each.

If you'd like to take a peek inside the books, you can view samples of the following:
Teacher Guide
This program has one of the most user-friendly teacher guides I've ever used. It lists the program components and the craft supplies needed. It then has a very helpful explanation of the Big Five Skills related to pre-reading. Each individual lesson in the guide indicates the materials needed and gives a very clear step by step guide for teaching that particular lesson. Everything is completely spelled out--even offering a "script" of what the teacher says to the child.

There are so many wonderful little games and ideas included in the guide. Some elements are repeated (like singing the alphabet song) but other elements are rotated to keep the lessons fresh for the student. And there are also suggestions related to Read-Aloud Time sprinkled through the book--sometimes a list of suggested books or ways to incorporate reading aloud in unique ways (e.g. when you cook, read aloud the recipe).

The Teacher Guide also includes the following appendices:
  • hands-on activities to provide multiple ways for letter interaction
  • alphabet song tips (including an alternate tune that spaces out the letters better)
  • complete reference section if you'd like to further research reading instruction
  • index of topics
  • pages for teacher notes
Student Materials
The activity book comprises 78 lessons. Lessons 1-26 cover the capital letters and Lessons 27-52 cover lowercase. Each day you read to your child one short story from the appropriate reader (Zigzag Reader for capitals; Lizard Lou for lowercase). Both readers are also available as an audio CD. The student workbook has a coloring page with suggestions for doing more than just coloring. Some ideas to decorate the letters were to use rubber stamps, finger paint, or add crafty items like googly eyes (all optional--just use what you have on hand).

Some lessons use the Picture Cards and Letter Sound cards. Cards are printed on sturdy cardstock and come prescored for ease of separation). All the cards are labelled with the corresponding lesson number (very helpful if the cards accidentally get knocked out of the box!). The concept of rhyming words is introduced and the teacher's book explains different ways to use the cards (memory, matching, or which one is different). Parents are provided a list of other reinforcing activities and are encouraged to select one of these each day as well as spending 20 minutes daily reading to their child.

Starting with Lesson 53, the focus is on the learning the most common sound for each letter. Activities in this section also include some cutting and pasting. One fun addition to this final section is the "Tasty Alphabet Time" in which a snack is prepared to match the letter sound. So when learning the sound for "a" the student might enjoy apple slices or animal crackers. For letter "x" the student eats six of something.

The Letter Sounds A to Z CD-ROM is used for Lessons 53-78 and it's basically an interactive poster on your computer. It shows the images from the lowercase alphabet chart and when a letter is clicked, the sound is pronounced. The audio is very clearly enunciated and sounds like a real person, not a computer voice. A student can gain some computer mouse skills while reviewing letter sounds. You can also print off the chart which provides the student with his own mini-poster of the lowercase alphabet chart.

The lessons are short and sweet and with the very clear teacher guide, lessons can be done in 15-20 minutes plus the 20 minutes for reading aloud and you are done in much less than an hour. The variety of games and activities really make each day a fun surprise.

Our Experience
My six year old daughter used the program (her 4 year old sister often participated in the memory games or listening to The Zigzag Reader). The program is a complete program with everything all prepared for you. My daughter enjoyed the coloring pages and the Picture cards and the readers (that's pretty much everything that she loved). When we took out the reader for each new letter, my daughter always asked to start from the beginning of the book which helped serve as a great cumulative review of letters.

I personally love the graphics used on the poster and in the readers. The illustrations reminded me of vintage drawings from old school books--incredibly detailed and very realistic. It's nice to have a program with illustrations that aren't so childish that an older learner would be embarrassed by them. Sometimes a full-color production can be a visual distraction so I like that the illustrations are all in black and white.

Program Strengths
  • Very user-friendly teacher manual requiring little preparation
  • Student materials are simple and keep focus on letters
  • Short lessons for young attention spans
  • Beautiful readers reinforce letter learning (gorgeous illustrations!)
  • Audio CDs to accompany the books (helps child review material independently)
  • Game and craft suggestions that help cement what is learned
  • High quality materials
  • Having a tote bag to contain all the materials was a truly inspired idea!
I really cannot come up with anything we did not like about the program. This comprehensive program systematically teaches all letters and their sounds and uses games and word cards to work on the skills necessary to begin reading. My daughters loved using the cards for rhyming games and memory games and they of course LOVED the zebra puppet. Some of the games with Ziggy Zebra had my daughter laughing uproariously--the lessons were pure joy to her.

With such a variety of materials (teacher & student books, readers, audio and puppet), having the tote bag to store it all was marvelous. We can grab it to go in the car, and my daughter can follow along in her reader while listening to the audio CD as I drive. The tote ensures that everything stays together and helps keep the puppet safe, reserved just for our All About Reading lessons. That extra little touch of having a puppet really made lesson time extra special. I plan to purchase the next All About Reading level as soon as it becomes available (tentative date is June or July 2011).

If you'd like to read what other homeschool families thought about All About Reading, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

And if you'd like to chat and share with others about language arts topics, you can visit "The ChatterBee." Within the Chatter Bee Community, there is also an All About Reading Group.

Other Products from All About Learning
All About Learning Press also has a spelling program called All About Spelling. The spelling program consists of seven levels. You can read testimonials about this product on their website.

Contact Information
Website:www.allaboutreading.com
Phone: 715-477-1976
Fax: 877-774-8006
Address: All About Learning Press, Inc., 2038 Anvil Lake Road, Eagle River, WI 54521

Disclaimer: We were provided with the All About Reading program free of charge for the purpose of reviewing and sharing our opinions. No other compensation was received.

2 comments:

Jenny said...

Looks cool!

Rebecca said...

This is a great review....I think I need to try it! Stopping by and following...hope you'll drop by, too!

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