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Academic Success For All Learners: Little Books Program / Phonemic Awareness For All Learners Review by Melissa Cummings

Academic Success for All Learners
131 North 1175 West #5
Logan, UT 84321

This is an impressive collection of products from a company that is obviously passionate about their curricula. The website is extremely thorough, providing resources for purchase as well as accompanying free resources to complement the products. If you are looking for thorough, systematic programs for teaching young children to read, I am confident that you will find what you desire with Academic Success for All Learners. From a homeschooling perspective, this program is an extremely comprehensible--easy to grasp and simple to implement. While it has been used successfully by schoolteachers and tutors, I really feel its impact in a homeschooling household could be monumental.

Intended for preschool and kindergarten aged children, Phonemic Awareness for All Learners is keenly geared toward the young mind. The Teacher's Manual describes everything needed to complete this program with your young child, giving page-by-page descriptions, tasks, milestones, summaries, and guides. Photocopying pages from the book--to keep records of each student's progress, for example--is simple, and the book is very resilient even with much use. I find the frequent bullet-point layout very helpful, and the appendices are excellent reference points to keep on hand. As Phonemics Awareness is suitable for both group and individual settings--although I believe there is a definite emphasis on small group settings--there are tips and notes included throughout the program to aid in helping each child master the skills, regardless of their natural abilities.

The Presentation Book for the Phonemics Awareness program is exceptional. Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is the simplest aspect: the spiral binding makes it easy to use, and the pages are all very thick and durable. This isn't a book that you will need to replace after one year; it will survive many schoolrooms and many successful young children. The format is arranged so that while sitting opposite the students, you hold one page up for the children to see. The page you are following for instruction is oriented properly. This is a simple thing, but it is so helpful. The pictures are clever and amusing, which will draw children's attention and keep them excited to move forward with each lesson. The format is easily accessible and very thorough, regardless of the teacher or parent's previous experience. There are even little reminders to praise the students for their good effort and tips for how to know when the students are ready to move on. There are also "correction procedure" hints to guide the parent in correcting the child until the missed task is accomplished correctly. It just doesn't get more detailed than this! As a young mother and new homeschooler, I find it especially helpful.

Transitioning from Phonemic Awareness to the Little Books program is smooth for both teacher and student, as the programs are designed to work together. They follow the same general agenda, right up through a reading level of the average third grader. The books present five essentials of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. (Obviously, completion of the Phonemic Awareness program is one big step toward achieving these goals.) The Little Books guide the teacher in directing the child to complete each goal, one step at a time. There are eight sets of Little Books , totaling 141 color-coded paperback books that systematically build on one another. Cardboard Organizers are available for storing and organizing the collections of books. While I tend to prefer plastic organizers myself, these are very sturdy and appropriate for the Little Books. At least four Organizers would be needed to hold all 141 books.

The plethora of support materials for the Little Books program is both astounding and helpful. Since not everyone would begin with Phonemic Awareness and move directly on to the Little Books, a Placement & Assessment Manual is available to aid in placing a child in the correct set of books. It also aids in tracking the progress of a student. This is a small spiral-bound book, very amenable to photocopying for repeated use. To introduce a teacher or parent to the format of the Little Books , the "Anatomy of a Little Book" pamphlet is very helpful, if not a bit simple and obvious.

As with the Phonemic Awareness curriculum, the Little Books come with very thorough Instructor Guidelines. From helping the teacher create an environment for success to encouraging the teacher to ask the child questions about the stories to facilitate discussion, the Instructor Guidelines are short, concrete, and useful. Progress and success are recurring themes in this curriculum, which is inspiring not only for the student but for the teacher as well. Color-coded Certificates of Success that match the color-coded Little Books are a tangible reward for the child to use as markers of reading achievements.

A set of Flashcards to accompany the Little Books is a great review tool. Color-coded to match the books, these are not only educationally handy but also really fun for the child. They can easily be taken anywhere for review and practice on the go, and they can be stored in the Organizers with the Little Books themselves. The cards are made of a somewhat thick paper, but it seems a little flimsy for repeated use. I am personally considering laminating them to extend their life.

With all the bells and whistles of accompanying curriculum aids and free downloadable resources, Little Books is a program that has my utter devotion. The complex concepts introduced in such simple ways is really reminiscent of the retro Dick and Jane books, but with a new, more methodical system. Although the Little Books themselves lack any color or particular pizzazz, there is no hiding the fact that this is a thorough, detailed, valuable curriculum.

Available solely from Academic Success for All Learners, the products overall are reasonably priced and very well made. Because they are available individually or in various sets and packages, you can pick and choose the products that would be most helpful for your needs. The staff seems both approachable and friendly, and the videos available online for perusal and practical help are educational for the parent preparing to use the Little Books and related resources.

The folks at Academic Success for All Learners have gone out of their way to produce a line of products beautifully geared toward the education of small children. Its presence in any homeschool would be edifying and enriching.

Product review by Melissa Cummings, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC , January 2011