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Start To Read (Level 1 Kit) Review by Cindy West

By Barbara Gregorich (author of readers)
School Zone Publishing Company
1819 Industrial Drive, PO Box 777
Grand Haven, MI 49417

Start To Read, Level 1, is a nicely-put-together package of two early reading books with a journal, CD, songbook, and write-on/wipe-off comprehension sheets to go with each book. Also included are a pencil for journal writing, a dry erase marker and eraser for the write-on/wipe-off sheets, and stencils and stickers for decorating the journals. Everything in the package is neatly tucked away in vinyl covers or compartments for easy storage and organization.

The Level 1 books are Jump, Frog, Jump and I Want a Pet. Both books focus on early phonics skills and easy sight words. The accompanying comprehension sheets (which can be used again and again with the write-on/wipe-off marker) further promote reading as the student reads words and sentences to complete simple exercises. Students are then encouraged to use the journals to start writing words and sentences on their own. The CDs play upbeat, silly songs that add interest, auditory skills, and movement to the kit.

Meant for very early and emerging readers, these materials should capture the attention of your 4- to 6-year-old. The program is a good addition to a phonics program, but is not a complete curriculum by itself. Even though not specifically made for homeschoolers, it lends itself well to one-on-one instruction.

My son, who is an emerging reader, enjoyed the success that the books and comprehension sheets gave him. Of course, he loved using the write-on/wipe-off pages most of all! Over several days, I had him read the books to gain familiarity with the sight words and speed with reading out loud. Each day, we would tackle several of the comprehension pages; then I would have him write a few sentences in the journals. It took us about two weeks to get through everything. That's both a positive and negative. It's positive because he accomplished the entire set in a short amount of time, which means he was learning! It's negative because the kit only took two weeks to finish. I can't see buying a new kit every two weeks.

Overall, I found this kit is exciting for children because of all the extras they get to see and do besides "just reading". If your children need the extra bells and whistles to get excited about reading, this kit may be just what you're looking for.

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2007