BJU's Reading program for elementary grades (and Literature, for junior high and high school), is the easiest BJU subject to teach. Each level uses the bare minimum of resources, so teachers don't have to worry about which text to use when or about losing test books, test answer keys, quiz books, quiz keys, workbooks, workbook teacher editions, etc. The 1st grade kit includes six readers, a consumable student worktext, and a two-part teacher edition. Grade 2 has four readers and its teacher edition includes two additional novels with study guides. Grades 3-6 each use a student reader (grade 3 has two volumes), a teacher guide, a consumable worktext, worktext answer key, and a flipchart.
This is strictly a reading course. While other disciplines are integrated as needed, this is not an "all-in-one" program; BJU offers spelling, handwriting and grammar courses separately. First grade is basically phonics, second and third cover phonics in addition to vocabulary and comprehension skills, and 4-6 concentrate on perfecting students' basic reading skills, focusing on retention and comprehension. The single-minded approach helps students become increasingly quick and able readers.
How Do These Work?
Students read a story from their reader, and then new words or important phonics rules are identified and discussed by the teacher. (This program doesn't require a lot of prep time on the teacher's part, but you will need to walk your child through the lessons, at least through the second grade.) Each level is designed for use three days a week over a regular 36-week school year. The flipcharts include engaging charts and pictures to reinforce important rules. Each reading assignment has a correlating lesson in the worktext, mostly having to do with vocabulary or proper sentence construction. The readers and the worktexts are very colorful, but usually not in an obnoxious way.
Everything the teacher needs is contained in the teacher guides. Important information to be discussed with students is printed in blue, and the worktext teacher edition contains reduced pages with answers for all the pages in the student workbook. While it is helpful for the parent to know something of phonics and the way language works independent of the teacher material, it is certainly not required. Almost any question a child will ask is answered somewhere, as well as a lot they won't ask.
The comprehension questions in this elementary level deal with the straightforward elements of the stories rather than with meaning and subtext. This is a program designed to instruct children in basic reading skills; interpretation and identifying nuance come in the Literature program for upper grades. As a result, students aren't confronted with moral dilemmas or complex characters. These are basically moral tales with a few fables and Bible stories thrown in for good measure. Good is always blessed and bad is always defeated and punished. The stories are simple and each one espouses a moral virtue of some kind. BJU is a respected Christian publisher, and there is nothing here to offend anyone.
Our Honest Opinion:
As a reading program, this is hard to beat. The stories are age-appropriate, the workbook pages are straightforward, and the teacher guides are thorough and self-contained. This isn't an attempt on the part of the publishers to cover every aspect of language arts, just to get kids reading proficiently. If you want to introduce your children to great literature from the beginning, this isn't the program for you unless you supplement. If your main objective is to get them reading well, this easy-to-use program is probably just the kind you're looking for.
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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