Robert Gilleland found a lot of literature study guides—the problem was most of them downplayed or marginalized the Christian faith, were too basic, or even included factual inaccuracies. A lesser man would have resigned himself and made the best out of a bad situation. Gilleland opted to create a whole new situation and, along with wife Rebecca, wrote his own series of literature study guides. Progeny Press Guides were the result, and the 100-title series continues to grow.
There are a number of guides for four distinct grade ranges: early elementary, later elementary, middle school and high school. Each level is designated by a 100’s numbering system (for instance, early elementary guides are numbered 101, 102, etc.) so you can tell at a glance which level the guide you want covers. The grade level of the guide is determined by the reading and content level of the book dealt with.
Each guide works on multiple levels. On the surface level, students learn vocabulary words and regurgitate key plot points to show they’ve retained what they’ve read. In this sense, Progeny Guides are reading comprehension guides. On a deeper level, students will learn important literary terms and concepts, providing them a good basis for further literary analysis and study. Still deeper, the authors of each guide compare what students read in the source text to Bible passages to compare worldviews.
While the authors of the series (the Gilleland’s have enlisted the help of others) are all orthodox Protestant Christians, the guides themselves don’t necessarily assume the students or even teachers to be Christians. They simply compare content and attitudes found in the books to the Bible, in a straightforward but not preachy manner.
Implementing these guides is pretty simple. Students read the chosen novel and then complete the exercises. Progeny does not generally recommend specific editions, so you can use whatever copy you like (although they do require an unabridged version). In the early grades there are suggestions for activities to be organized by the teacher; the later grades are student-directed. Vocabulary exercises are multiple choice and fill in the blank. Other questions require short or essay answers. Each guide has a complete answer key in the back.
The guides are designed to be consumable, though reproductions within a single classroom or family are acceptable. They are also available in PDF format on CD as printouts, or directly online as downloads from the publisher. These PDF CDS are interactive, allowing students to complete the exercises directly on the computer.
The most common complaint among users of the Progeny Press Guides is their length. The publishers encourage teachers to use 3 per year, and each guide is designed to reflect a similar schedule. If you’re using this as a supplement, or even if your student is just a really good reader, however, you won’t need to spend as much time as the authors apparently intend, and you can skip exercises. Overall these are excellent literature guides, though you may not want to use them as your sole literature program. Because you can pick and choose which ones you use, these make excellent supplements to a more involved literary curriculum. Consider using these in conjunction with the Andrews’ Teaching the Classics, or for some lighter literary analysis alongside Omnibus.