I think it’s the one thing that keeps 1st grade teachers coming back year after year. Although those little 6 year olds start out so needy and full of energy, by the end of the year she has had the opportunity to watch the magic of learning to read. I know it was a blessing to me. While not all of my students would learn to read in their first grade year, the beauty of watching them grow is just indescribable.
As a homeschool mom, it thrills me that I not only get to be there when the door to all things written busts open wide, I get to actually TEACH them and guide them through the process. But don’t be fooled. Even for this veteran teacher, there is no magic formula to snap your fingers and make them readers. It’s plain old hard work. Different children may require different methods. AND the resources at home are certainly much different than in the classroom.
Perhaps my biggest challenge as a homeschool mom teaching reading was finding top choice homeschool beginning readers. Not everything in print these days is high quality reading, both in terms of excellent language and in terms of moral value. In fact, I find that leveled readers (those books with numbers on them) are some of the worst quality literature. They also are a cause for great confusion.
You’ve probably noticed. You can pick up two different “level 1” books and find that the reading difficulty varies greatly. I find that most of the books available in regular book stores suffer from this ambiguity. Plus, they often are filled with poor sentence structure and horrible story lines.
But take heart, it’s not a hopeless cause. There are plenty of high quality beginning readers out there. You just might have to dig a little deeper.
My Top Choice Homeschool Beginning Readers
1. Pathway Readers
I have to start with my absolute favorite. I was first introduced to Pathway Readers about 7 years ago. They are a durable hardback, so excellent for families with multiple children. There are 3 readers for 1st grade: First Steps, Days Go By and More Days Go By. Each book contains a series of short stories. The stories contain the same characters each time and progress as the characters live out their everyday life. You won’t see goofy behavior, trouble-making, or disobedience as a theme. They tell the simple story of a boy and a girl who live on a farm. These readers just make me super happy. My girls have loved reading them and even gone back later to re-read just for fun. The text is simple, but high quality.
You can also get a complete set of these readers with accompanying workbooks. I’ve never used the workbooks myself, but have a few friends that have enjoyed them.
2. BJU Press Readers
Last year I was introduced to BJU Press readers and I honestly wish that I had found them sooner. BJU Press curriculum is rather vigorous academically, so I’ll start by mentioning the Kindergarten (K-5) Readers (pictured above as number 2). These readers start from the very beginning with picture reading and work through basic sound and letter combinations. At the end of these books, the student is reading very well. The best part of these books is that there is a student part and a teacher part to read. This keeps the story going and it’s much more interesting for young readers that way. The 1st grade readers (pictured above as number 3) do start on a simple level, but they assume some basic sight word knowledge, as well as, decoding ability (sounding the words out).
My 6 year old son started this year in the 1st grade readers. Everyday he could not WAIT until it was time to read his story. I’ll be honest. Neither could I. The readers are full of interesting and engaging illustrations, as well as story line. You will also find stories about well-known missionaries and stories from the Bible. Nathan’s favorite story this year was about a missionary pilot who had trouble landing his plane in the jungle where he was going to deliver supplies to the villagers. It was exciting, full of all kinds of things I want him to learn about life and godliness, and he could READ every word!
3. God is Good Series
The God is Good Series by Rod and Staff Publishers was all over my house when I went digging for it. That just reminds me how much my kids love them. They have bright and colorful covers making them attractive to any young reader. The storyline is wholesome and simple, making them one of mom’s favorite. Most of the books are based on animals or nature. All focus on God’s love for us and His amazing creation.
There are 9 books in the series. I would think that these would be a good fit for the second half of first grade. They are short, but not as simple as the other readers we’ve mentioned so far. The 9 books do not get more difficult in progression. They seem to be pretty similar in level.
4. Say it Again Series
What’s not to love about beginning readers that specifically reinforce God’s truth? The Say it Again Series by Rod and Staff Publishers promises to do just that. There are 7 books in the series, all based on a passage/story in the Bible. The focus of the book is to provide practice for young readers. The text is fairly simple and full of sight words, as well as, simple words to decode.
5. Rookie Readers
As a classroom teacher, Rookie Readers were a part of every single day. They are simple and short little books. They are also easy to get your hands on. In our home, we own a few boxed sets: Level A, Level B, Level C. We also own many of the single books. These books do not promise the same level of wholesome living that the above mentioned sets do, but I’ve not found anything offensive either. The best part is, you can get many of these books from the easy reader section of your library. Just ask the librarian to point you in the right direction!
6. Lakeshore Readers
The Lakeshore Readers have been in my collection since I first started homeschooling. There are several great sets available. These books most closely resemble what I used in the classroom to teach reading. They are short and simple with repetitive text and sight words. I have the Sight Word Set 1 and the Beginning Readers Set.
If you are struggling to figure out what level your child should be reading on, you might find this to be a helpful resource: choosing just right readers.
If you’ve got older students, you might also enjoy reading about our favorite chapter books.
So how about you. What are your favorite beginning readers?