The folks at Christian Liberty Press firmly believe good stories exist not only to entertain us, but also to instruct us in virtuous living (a concept originally articulated by Aristotle in his book Poetics). While their reading program isn’t so much a cohesive, systematic curriculum as a collection of readers for different grade levels, this standard is adhered to in each text making for a series of books for students that is informative, challenging, and character-building.
As a guide to teaching reading comprehension and basic story analysis, How to Teach Reading Successfully is for parents. This is not a phonics instruction guide; it simply helps you improve your kids’ reading abilities, vocabularies, and helps you know what to have them look for when they read. More along the phonics line, Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook for grades 1-2 is a revision of the classic and contains word lists and charts grouped according to phonics rules for students to study and memorize.
While this isn’t a systematic reading program, there are options available for each grade from K-6. For the most part students read a section and then write answers to comprehension questions. The texts are illustrated, either in color or black and white. Most of them have accompanying teacher guides/answer keys for the comprehension questions.
For grades K-2 there are the Phonics Readers. There are four, and range between 27-59 pages. Color cartoon drawings by Vic Lockman make the texts appealing for young kids. Stories are short and simple (two pages long apiece), with a list of vocabulary words at the beginning relating to a specific phonics rule or principle. The next is Trottino’s Tale (formerly Lessons from the Farmyard) for K-3 graders. This contains a series of stories about a young rabbit and his friends who learn important character lessons in a number of fantasy adventures.
Most popular at Exodus, the Nature Readers are a series of six readers for grades K-5, each covering one year. Texts are illustrated with old fashioned two-tone drawings. Stories are excursions in nature study, often with a moral or virtue attached. For each there is an accompanying answer key with answers to all in-text questions. While you could have your kids write their answers, it would probably be better at this stage to just have them discuss the answers with you.
Meeting New Friends is for first grade, and contains 95 two-page lessons with vocabulary words, a story to read, and comprehension questions, all illustrated with color photographs. There is a series of word charts for further study in the back. For second grade there is Beautiful Stories for Children and The Robinson Crusoe Reader. Both are illustrated with color drawings; the first contains character-building stories and vocabulary words, the second is simply an abridgment of the classic novel.
Stories of the Pilgrims covers grades 2-4; stories are longer and comprehension questions more challenging. Illustrations are in color, and there is an answer key. History Stories for Children and The Story of the Wright Brothers and Their Sister are both for third grade. History Stories is a series of biographical sketches of famous (usually Christian) historical figures with vocabulary words and comprehension questions; a teacher’s manual includes answers to written exercises as well as information and resources for further study. Wright Brothers is a biography with lots of black and white drawings.
The emphasis in Boys and Girls of Colonial Days for grade four is on comprehension, with several questions at the end of each story. There is an accompanying answer key. Pinocchio’s Quest for grades 4-6 is a retelling of Pinocchio narrated by the puppet himself; a coloring book accompanies.
For grade 6 The Story of Inventions offers a series of narratives concerning famous scientific inventions and progresses with black and white illustrations; there is an answer key and test packet as well. Children of the Covered Wagon is a novel about the Oregon Trail for grades 3-5; Iron Scouts of the Confederacy is a novel about the Civil War for students grades 6-8.
For the most part these are excellent readers. The comprehension questions are genuinely challenging, and the reading level is higher than in many comparable readers. The newer editions of the books are engaging with colorful artwork. Beautiful Stories for Children and Pinocchio’s Quest are the weak links in the series; Beautiful Stories is very stilted and the moral lessons seem contrived, while Pinocchio’s Quest is basically just a retelling of the original novel at the same reading level but not as well written. Other than those two (which are the two least popular among Exodus customers), these volumes represent quality reading material from a consciously Christian perspective.