All About Reading is a comprehensive reading program that teaches reading systematically in 4 levels (plus a pre-reading level). The programs focuses on phonics and decoding using a variety of teaching tools and resources. All About Reading is mastery based, meaning each lesson is designed to last as long as the student needs.
We have used All About Reading from level 1 all the way through the end of level 4, so needless to say, I was pleased with the program. I also feel confident in giving a complete review, so here are my thoughts on the entire All About Reading journey.
If I had to pick, I would say that the greatest strength All About Reading (AAR) has is the logical progression of teaching reading. Most words are introduced as the student learns the rules for that particular set of words. The student then uses a whole new set of words with this rule to practice the rule and become comfortable with it. For example, ai and ay are introduced together because they both make the same sound. Then the student uses them to read words like ‘day’, ‘rain’, ‘stay’, ‘explain’, and so on. From that point on, whenever the ay and ai are used, the student knows to make a long a sound to pronounce them.
Very few sight words are used in this program, which I appreciate. Sometimes, however, a few words are introduced just because they are high frequency words that would be difficult to wait to learn the rule for, or the words just don’t follow the rules the student would expect them to. This is a great compromise for words that are a bit irregular, but very common.
The program provides multiple ways for students to practice the concepts, a feature that just about anyone can appreciate. For lessons that introduce a new topic, there is usually teaching that introduces the rule with letter tiles, a game or activity to practice the new words, a few pages full of words, phrases, and sentences to practice reading, flash cards, letter tiles to build the words and play with the new sounds, and often a short story to follow the lesson that heavily features the new rule. These tools can be used in any way the parent sees fit. If one works better for a student, the parents are encouraged to use that tool more than the others. However, most students will benefit from using all the tools for reinforcement, even if some work better than others.
AAR comes with two (or three in level one) readers full of short stories that are beautifully illustrated. My children both loved the stories and they became rewards for the new learning. They still talk about some of the stories they read several levels ago. The stories were also a great way to show off reading skills to friends and family without dragging out the textbook.
Every aspect of AAR is so thoughtfully put together. The resources and tools all compliment each other, and each step of the program builds off of the last. The emphasis on syllables that I found so strange at the start of the program really pays off later on. I find myself using rules and concepts from AAR to help my children read new words and I am so grateful to have the tools to explain things properly. This is such a contrast from my reading instruction of ‘because it just is”.
For new teachers, the lesson progression built on mastery might be a little intimidating; it certainly was for me when I started. I was used to doing this lesson on this day and having my hand held. With AAR, the teacher is encouraged to take the time the student needs, to use the resources as they are needed, as many times as they are needed (or not). This required a bit of getting used to, but in the end, this method worked so much better than a lesson a day approach would have.
If I had to critique the program, I would say that sometimes materials management can be a little tricky. Each level of the program comes with literally hundreds of cards, by level 4 there are an ungodly amount of tiles (letters, vowel teams, consonant teams, syllable tags, prefixes, suffixes, sh sounds, er sounds, and so on and so on…), and many of the activities generate lots of little pieces of paper with words on them, not to mention all the reading pages, phonogram cards, and readers. It’s a lot to keep track of. However, each of these items does legitimately add to the curriculum, and shouldn’t be skipped. I do think a letter tile app would be wonderful though. Last I checked, they were working on that.
Another criticism would be the price. Each level comes in at 100$ to 120$, and you also need to buy a kit for the program that runs 30$ for the basic kit, more for the deluxe. For all 4 levels, that can add up, especially if your student is able to do more than one level a year. Fortunately, most of the items are non-consumable, so the program gets to be a better and better value the more kids you use it with. In all honesty, you are getting a good bit for the price too. The level kits come with a teacher’s manual, a student book (consumable), level-specific tiles, hundreds of flashcards, and two hardcover readers.
If I had it all to do again, I would jump on All About Reading in a heartbeat. Despite the cost, I don’t think there is a better way to teach reading. Everything was logical and well designed. Never did I say ‘well that’s just how it is’, to teach a new concept. My children very rarely had trouble understanding. I felt like the program gave me the tools to use concepts outside of the lessons, exactly as a good teacher would. Having this program made teaching my children to read the joy it was meant to be, and I can’t express what that meant to me.
Pros: Systematic and complete, engaging activities, fun stories, customizable pace
Cons: Priced on the high side, lots of stuff to loose