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Homeschool Essentials for Teaching Reading

Resources for Teaching Reading

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Our final Day of “5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials” has arrived and today I’m sharing a comparison of the resources I use (and have used) to teach reading.

This is probably one of the areas that scares new homeschoolers the most.  How do I teach my kids to read?  It’s basic to learning anything else, so it must be done right!  Well, I’m here to tell you not to fear.  So many companies have written some awesome reading curricula.  See below for what I’ve used and what I recommend.

TATRAS: Teach America to Read and Spell

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What’s interesting about TATRAS (Teach America to Read and Spell) is that you teach all sounds of each letter/phonogram at once; it’s called “vertical phonics”.  For example, you teach the child that “a” has 3 sounds–like you’d hear in “cat”, “ate”, and “all”.  This helped me immensely when I first started teaching reading because I didn’t know that there were so many different sounds for the same letter or phonogram (like “er”).  Then, when a child is sounding out a word and gets the sound wrong, you can say “try the second sound of ‘a’ .”  What I don’t recommend about TATRAS is that it’s confusing for the teacher and not well laid out.  It is inexpensive, though!

McGuffey’s First Eclectic Reader (Illustrated) (McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers)

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The McGuffey readers are very old–from the 1800s.  I love the sweet old-fashioned stories in them.  My kids have enjoyed reading these 2 books.

Rod and Staff Bible readers

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What I most love about the Rod and Staff readers is that the kids are reading the Bible stories to themselves, before they are able to actually read the Bible.  I have had my kids read the 3 books of level 1, the 2 books of level 2, and the first book of level 3.  By that point, they can switch to reading the Bible pretty well.

The above 3 materials were all I used to teach my first 3 children to read. It worked great! We read through the phonograms from the TATRAS chart daily and memorized them. Then we worked on practicing reading from the readers. After a couple of years, they could read well.

I tried the same method with child #4, and it wasn’t working. So, I pulled out my copy of

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

I had bought a used copy years ago because I heard it recommended so often.  But my daughter only got halfway through when it became too difficult to continue.

I did start and finish it with child #5 though. He learned to read with it, so I do recommend this resource, too.  What’s nice about it is that it’s all in one book (don’t even need extra readers until you finish it).  It’s inexpensive and gives you an exact “script” to follow so you know what to say during each lesson with your child.  I’m not sure why, but I didn’t like this book very much and probably won’t use it again.

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Next, I received an offer to try


Here is another resource I had heard of for years but had never seen.  I decided to start from the beginning of Alpha-Phonics with child #4  to try to help build up her confidence again. I also started at the beginning of Alpha-Phonics with child #6 and about two-thirds of the way through with child #5, so he could continue where Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons left off. Alpha-Phonics is definitely easier than TATRAS, but I still had the children memorize the phonogram chart.

A lesson page from Alpha-Phonics:

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I think Alpha-Phonics is pretty good.  It groups together many words from a particular phonogram sound.  Sometimes, though, there are so many words on a page that it’s pretty overwhelming.  For the most part my 6th child has really enjoyed it and has taken off with reading.

I didn’t get too far with Alpha-Phonics when I decided my struggling reader #4 had a reading disability, probably dyslexia.  I thought about getting her tested but decided instead just to use a curriculum written specifically  for kids with learning disabilities:

All About Reading

We have been using All About Reading since September.  I am very pleased with her progress.  No, she still hasn’t “taken off” like her 3 older siblings and 2 younger siblings.  But there is definitely progress and hope! The downsides of All About Reading is that it’s incredibly more time-consuming and more labor intensive for mom, has more “items” to keep track of, and is more expensive than all the other resources I mentioned above. But there are 2 types of people I would heartily recommend it for: if you have a student with a reading disability such as dyslexia, or you’re a mom who wants a very organized reading plan to follow. Plus, it’s a lot more FUN and colorful than any of the other resources I mentioned above! I am happy with her progress and will probably continue with level 3 when we finish level 2!

There is a box of phonogram and word cards, magnetic tiles to spell words and learn about syllable types, and a teacher book, as well as an activity book and readers.

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The readers from All About Reading have beautiful illustrations!  I really love these books.


There is lots of hands-on practice.  It’s easy to cut these out right before you use them.

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If you’d like to try it out, here are some FREE downloads!  And I LOVE their new free phonogram sounds app (available on many different devices)!  This app might make my ubiquitous TATRAS phonogram chart obsolete!

Finally, here few “extras” that we love–and I really believe that these (along with all my reading aloud) have helped with pre-reading skills and readiness:

My 3-year-old uses the Starfall Website, watches LeapFrog: Letter Factory

(Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory DVDs)  (there is no better way to learn the basic letter sounds than watching “Letter Factory”!), and uses Dianne Craft’s Right Brain Phonics Cards.

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The Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers are great because very early readers can read a “real” book!

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We also have the Bob Books app on my iPad.

My Summary:

I used TATRAS: Teach America to Read and Spell to teach three children to readTeach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to teach one child to read, and Alpha-Phonics to teach one child to read.  They all worked for my non special-needs kids!  All About Reading is working for my child with a reading disability.  The best thing to do in choosing the best curriculum for teaching reading is to identify both your and your child’s learning styles and preference.  If you have further questions about what’s in one of these specific curricula or how it works, please leave a comment.  I’d be glad to help!

Do you have some different favorite “teaching reading” resources?  Please share in the comments what you use!




(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.)

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  1. It is great that there are so many resources out there. My favorite “teaching to read” resource is The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. It saved me when I was floundering and feeling like I would never be able to teach my son to read.

    Great post!

  2. All About Reading is my favorite program! We’ve used BOB books as supplement and I could not stand 100EZ Lessons. It’s good to compare and contrast!

  3. What wonderful resources! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Sandra L. says:

    I used Rod & Staff with all three of my older children and LOVED it!! It gave them a very strong foundation in reading, and they are all strong readers. I plan on using it on my youngest when she starts next year.

  5. We’ve sampled enough stuff that I have begun to believe that, unless they have a learning disability, they’re going to get it no matter what you use 🙂 Great rundown on different reading curricula!

  6. My children begin with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but we never make it past lesson 50 before switching to Phonics Pathways, my favorite. I’m really impressed you completed the book with one child!

  7. I love teaching my kids to read! I have used The Writing Road to Reading and The Reading Lesson. I used the former with my son and he is an amazing reader. I’m in the middle of the latter with my daughter and she is doing well, but we will see how the rest of the book goes. I recently wanted to firm up some spelling issues, but didn’t want to plan more lessons, so we are trying All About Spelling and I’m LOVING it! It’s everything I loved about The Writing Road to Reading without me having to plan all the lessons. I have a feeling that if I am ever blessed with another little one to teach how to read, I would go with AAR (unless my days are less busy then, but I doubt that ever happens =) Oh, we also use the McGuffey readers, which I love, for practice and they increase in difficulty at just the right rate! Great post, Gena. Thanks for sharing all your insight!

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All About Spelling homeschool curriculum, now in color