Please Note: A Beka does not sell their materials to Exodus Books. The following overview is meant to help you evaluate A Beka as a curriculum, and give you some other options to consider as well.
A Beka’s reading program fills the gap between phonics in the younger grades (K4-2) and literature in the upper ones (7-12). The goal is to increase and cement student reading proficiency by having them read lessons and answer comprehension questions. The series has been noted for its colorful pictures and the appeal of the stories for students, as well as for the character-building nature of most of the content.
How Do These Work?
For grades 1-3 there is an average of ten readers per grade, each with an optional accompanying teacher edition. Mostly the readers are simply collections of stories, with some vocabulary and review/comprehension questions at the end of each one. The teacher editions are simply reproductions of the student books with answers to comprehension questions; some also include extra discussion questions.
Each book includes a sequence number on its spine. These numbers correspond to the language arts lesson plan/curriculum guides for each grade in which the readers are ordered with short lesson plans. For grades 3-6 there is a single answer key per grade for all the readers in that level, making the teacher editions basically useless for home schoolers.
The texts for grades 4-6 are longer (as are the individual stories), so there are fewer—usually four or five. The format of the earlier grades continues, but stories and questions are more challenging. There are also fewer illustrations. By this time students should need less teacher supervision and should be able to read all of the stories by themselves; you may want to have them answer comprehension questions orally, however. There are also "Adventure" readers for these grades, one for each level, with quizzes in the back; these serve as speed and comprehension readers.
Read & Think Skill Sheets for grades 3-6 reinforce comprehension skills. There is a single consumable student worktext with answer key included. Students complete a timed reading of a brief passage and then answer questions about it. The emphasis is on speed and comprehension, not just comprehension.
If you just want to give your kids readers and don’t want to worry about anything beyond that, this series works well. While it’s a good idea to have your kids answer the questions, they aren’t necessary. In the early grades the emphasis is on sounding out words and applying newly learned phonics rules; in the later grades the emphasis is on comprehension. Stories are composed accordingly.
There are a variety of supplemental texts, especially for middle and high school. Most of these are reprints of older biographies of famous Christians or classic literature and are classified by A Beka as Book Report Books. There is nothing fancy about these—just text without teacher or supplemental materials, though there is the occasional forward.
Our Honest Opinion:
These are pretty standard readers. Many parents will appreciate the focus on morals and character-building stories, though sometimes the plots seem fairly contrived. The lack of much teacher material undercuts the use of these as anything other than readers, which are easily replaced with other books of your own choosing. If you plan on using A Beka for phonics instruction you’ll want to use the early grade readers in conjunction, but for older elementary students we suggest just giving them lots of good literature.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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