Hey friends! Let's talk about readers today. It can be such a challenge to find great reading material for our kids. I can't be the only one who struggled to find something that fits our family. So many things to consider - budget, content, engagement, ease of use, etc.
Over the course of our homeschool journey thus far we have used many different independent reader options. We have used All about Reading, Sonlight's booklists, Usborne readers, McGuffey's readers, and more. These all had their pros and cons and all could be good options for families, but none quite checked all of our boxes.
So, what are my favorite readers?
That is easy, Pathway Readers from Pathway Publishers.
Let's start with budget.
Pathway readers are incredibly affordable. You can shop around a bit for the best deal, but generally you will find them for about $6- $7 a book. There are also workbooks that can be purchased for a couple dollars each, but we choose to just use the readers on their own.
The series has readers available for grades 1-8. I've purchased the readers for grades 1-4 so those are the ones I will be focusing on in this post.
The first grade set includes 3 readers: First Steps, Days Go By, More Days Go By
The second grade set includes 3 readers: Busy Times, More Busy Times, Climbing Higher
The third grade set includes 2 readers: New Friends, More New Friends
The fourth grade set includes 1 reader: Building Our Lives
Here is a look inside two of the first grade readers:
First Steps starts out very simply. Children who have finished basic phonics instructions will most likely be ready for this book. You could use the phonics program from Pathway that precedes this level, but we did not. We used Foundations Phonics from Master Books, and by the end of that my almost 6 year old is ready for the first steps book.
My older children used Sonlight phonics and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons - both of these, or really any phonics program of your choice would also work.
You can see that by the third reader in the first grade set, they have progressed significantly.
Here is a look inside of one of the second grade readers:
Here is a look inside one of the third grade readers:
And finally, here is a look inside the fourth grade reader:
The books feature simple black and white pictures in all the levels (1-4 anyway, can't speak to grades 5-8), but illustrations are less frequent as the books progress. Font size is large in all the books to offer comfortable reading and avoid eye strain, but is age appropriate- so the First Steps font is definitely larger and lines spaced further than Building Our Lives.
The books are well made and bound in hardcover. They can easily stand up to the wear and tear of multiple children using them daily.
As far as content is concerned, we haven't experienced any issues or had any concerns. Obviously this will vary by family so I do encourage you to pre-read anything you give to your children to read independently.
These were originally written for Amish children to use in school, and are still widely used in both Amish and Mennonite schools as well as homeschool families. They feature wholesome stories and highlight good character.
One of my favorite things about these (and my children's too!) is that they read like chapter books more than short stories or other leveled readers we have tried. You follow the same children as they grow and have their little adventures. They are often found in a rural setting, although some stories do feature other settings. The stories are simple and not full of thrills, however, my kids find them incredibly engaging and relatable. Often my oldest asks to read ahead because she wants to know what will happen next. If that isn't a win I don't know what is, ha!
We started these when my two oldest were past the first and second grade readers, but they both have chosen to read the earlier levels in their free reading time, because they didn't want to "miss" any of the story. I also think reading books below their reading level or re-reading books is incredibly helpful for extra practice, improving reading fluency and speed, as well as improving comprehension skills. So having books that they are happy to reach for again and again is valuable in my opinion.
We definitely plan to order levels 5-8 when my children are ready for those.
Do you have favorite independent readers? I'd love to hear what works for your family.
Until next time!
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