As of January 2019, All About Learning released new, full-color editions of Reading 1-4. With slight tweaking, these can be used with the previous editions (click here for correlation info). Prices have risen as a result of the change. Older editions are being discontinued.
The prospect of teaching their kids to read leaves many parents in a state of acute paralysis. And no wonder: it's not exactly an intuitive task. At least, it doesn't seem so at first blush, but the folks at All About Learning have proved that reading instruction doesn't need to be difficult for students or parents.
All About Reading is a 5-level phonics-based program designed to get kids reading well with a minimum of frustration. While the Pre-Reading level includes the use of a puppet and a variety of hands-on activities, this is a remarkably no-frills course that doesn't sacrifice genuine education for fun.
At the same time, it doesn't leave fun out. Too many programs aimed at young children are austere and bland, trying to force facts down small throats and only succeeding in choking the poor kids academically. All About Reading incorporates just the right amount of whimsicality to keep kids engaged, balancing it with a healthy dose of instruction.
How Does This Work?
Each level of All About Reading centers around a teacher's manual built on the "open-and-go" approach. "Open-and-go" means that you can open the book when it's time for your child's lesson and simply start teaching; while this isn't strictly possible in the case of All About Reading, it's pretty close.
Every lesson is fully scripted; literally everything you need to know and say is laid out for you in the teacher's manual, so there's no need to run around collecting other sources. Anything you need to know or do before teaching is carefully laid out at the beginning of each lesson, followed by sections for review and new teaching.
All About Reading Pre-Reading is basically a primer before jumping into the main course. It's meant to impart five essential pre-reading skills: print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, listening comprehension, and motivation to read. All of these are meant to get kids prepared for actual reading with a minimum of stress.
These skills are called the Big Five Skills, and are based on research that demonstrates kids need these skills in order to learn to read with ease and ability. Unlike many reading programs which immediately focus on sounds and their combinations, these Big Five Skills are focused on recognition and familiarity with the written word.
Kids participate in games, craft projects, rhyming activities, coloring pages, and read-alouds, guided directly at every stage by the parent/teacher. Everything points to the Big Five Skills, which are more basic than you might expect. For instance, "print awareness" simply shows kids how print is used, how it appears on paper, that text is read left to right, etc.
In addition to a 78-lesson teacher's manual, you'll need the student packet, which includes the My Book of Letters and Sounds - Activity Book, picture cards, letter sound cards, capital letter alphabet chart, and lowercase letter alphabet chart. There are also two supplemental books, Lizard Lou: A Collection of Rhymes Old and New and The Zigzag Zebra: A Rhyming Alphabet.
A "Ziggy Zebra" puppet is also available (you can order it direct (affiliate), or special order from us); the idea is that kids teach Ziggy and correct his mistakes (all scripted by the parent), thus reinforcing their own knowledge and feeling empowered by their ability to help Ziggy. Ziggy is well-made, and can easily be a toy outside of school time.
All About Reading Level 1 through All About Reading Level 4 turn their focus toward the actual five reading skills identified by the authors: phonological awareness, phonics and decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Like the previous level, these are built around comprehensive teacher's manuals, which include fully-scripted lessons.
Again, students complete projects (these become less of the "hands-on" variety, and more of the directly academic variety), practice their reading skills, and mark their progress chart. Hardcover readers (three for Level 1, two for Levels 2-4) with attractive illustrations (now in full-color!) offer fun stories of graduated difficulty for kids to work toward complete fluency.
Please note that for all levels, you'll need an All About Reading Basic Interactive Kit, which includes letter tiles with magnets (for which you'll need a magnet board), divider cards, and a Phonogram CD-ROM. Since this is a phonics-based program, kids spend a lot of time learning the phonograms, their sounds, and their combinations. (If you're using this with All About Spelling, this package is essentially the same but with different divider cards, which can be purchased separately.)
The student packets for each level include an activity book, phonogram cards, word cards, and a viewfinder bookmark. While you'll only ever need one teacher's manual, you'll need one student packet per child. Fortunately, All About Reading is fairly affordable, especially in comparison to other homeschool reading programs.
All About Reading is a very teacher-intensive curriculum, though that doesn't mean it'll take a long time each day. The teacher's manuals are streamlined, easy to use, and clear. Quite a bit of initial work is required to get the cards ready, etc., but once you've started there's not much more to do than preview each lesson, then present it.
One distinguishing feature of All About Reading is that parents read aloud to their kids for twenty minutes every day. While this isn't necessarily immediately rewarding, it goes a long way to fostering both love of reading, and helping kids toward phonetic awareness/recognition.
These are of the "move on when you've mastered the topic" program variety. Take as long as you need with each lesson; you can get through each level in a matter of months, a year, or three semesters—however long you and your student require, so long as they're learning what they need to and progressing.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is one of the best phonics-based reading programs we've encountered. All About Reading fully deserves its place in Cathy Duffy's 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, as well as all the other accolades it's been receiving. Teaching children to read can be confusing and even scary, and this course removes both obstacles.
Of particular value is the absence of frills. The one possible distraction is Ziggy the Zebra puppet, which (while it's a fun idea) can re-focus some kids on the puppet rather than on the content he's meant to illustrate and teach. We don't encourage parents to go out of their way to acquire Ziggy, though he is included in the deluxe Pre-Reading Kit, or is available separately on the All About Learning website.
Regardless of Ziggy's puppet-y presence, All About Reading remains a fantastic option. This isn't a language arts program (kids don't learn writing, grammar, spelling, etc.), but it is a comprehensive introduction to reading, perfectly suited to get kids from illiterate to fluent in a remarkably short space of time.
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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