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Learning Language Arts Through Literature Series Review by Heather Wise

Common Sense Press

I received Learning Language Arts Through Literature Blue Book through Gray Book to review. Learning Language Arts Through Literature uses the integrated language approach which incorporates phonics, reading, spelling, handwriting, introductory grammar, and higher-order thinking skills into the weekly lessons. Using this approach, this one curriculum covers the subjects of phonics, reading, writing, handwriting, and spelling all in one.

The first book in the series is The Blue Book 3rd Edition. It was written by Debbie Strayer and Susan Simpson and was intended for use in the first grade. The cost of the complete Blue Book program is $110 and included is a Teacher's Manual, 28 Story Readers, a Student Activity Book, and a Materials Pack. There are thirty-six lessons in The Blue Book. There are thirteen additional read-aloud books that are used in many of the weekly lessons. These books can be checked out at a library or purchased. Many of the suggested read-aloud books for grade one are classics that may already be available, such as Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, and the Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. As each book is read in the lesson, there is a list of suggested questions to ask the child to help with recall, setting, characters, feelings, sequencing, and higher order thinking. In the materials pack, there are 127 color coded letter cards, ninety sight word cards, game cards and letter dice. The Student Activity book is consumable, so you will need one for each student.

I have a five-year-old and a six-year-old that completed a kindergarten homeschool program in April of this year. I was excited to receive Learning Language Arts Through Literature to start with my boys this May. I found that The Blue Book, which is intended for first grade, included a lot of material we had covered in our kindergarten program as both of my boys were already reading. However, one of my boys still struggled with sounding out words and remembering sight words, so I decided to start The Blue Book with both to see if it would help to better develop his reading skills. We have completed thirteen of the thirty-six lessons and his reading is greatly improving. This program is very comprehensive. It continues to reinforce the sounds and words that the student is learning from week to week. The readers that are provided are high quality and have been engaging for my kids. They have also enjoyed working on the Student Activity book and have especially enjoyed the read-aloud stories that are included in the Student Activity book. I plan to continue this program throughout our first-grade year to continue developing their reading skills so that we can easily transition to the second-grade level in Learning Language Arts Through Literature.

The second book in the series is The Red Book 3rd Edition. Debbie Strayer and Susan Simpson also wrote it. The cost of the complete program is $100 and included is a Teacher Book, Student Activity Book, six readers, and a Reading Progress Chart. There are thirty-six lessons that have five day a week lesson plans. The six readers include five or six stories each. These readers include exciting stories and nice illustrations that will capture the students' interest. While we have not had a chance to try The Red Book in our homeschool, I have read several of the lessons and read each reader. Throughout the week the student will read a story, learn spelling words, learn about punctuation, develop reading comprehension, and much more. In one of the readers are stories about famous people, including Hans Christian Anderson, George Washington Carver, Anne Sullivan, George Washington, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is nice that this also incorporates history lessons.

The third, fourth, and fifth books are also written by Debbie Strayer and Susan Simpson. These books are known as The Yellow Book for third grade, The Orange Book for fourth grade, and The Purple Book for fifth grade. For each grade level the Teacher's Book which costs $34 and the Student Activity Book which costs $28 are needed. Each book has thirty-six lessons that are five day a week. Beginning in The Yellow Book (third grade) students begin to learn dictation. This is a fantastic way to teach students grammar skills while also learning about reading and writing. This is also an effective way to identify spelling words to study for the week. Each grade level has four book studies. The books for these book studies can be purchased or checked out from the library. In addition to the book studies, students begin to keep a journal in the third-grade level and in the fourth-grade level students complete a research unit, a poetry unit, a journal writing unit, a newspaper unit, and more.

The sixth, seventh, and eighth books are known as The Tan Book for sixth grade, The Green Book for seventh grade, and The Gray Book for eighth grade. Diane Welch and Susan Simpson wrote these books. Each grade level will need the Teacher's Book which costs $34 and the Student Activity Book which costs $28. There are thirty-six, five day a week lessons in each book. In each grade level there are three or four book studies and parents will need to purchase the books or check them out from the library. In the seventh and eighth grade levels, many lessons are dedicated to students dictating literature passages.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature is one of the most comprehensive language arts curriculums I have ever seen. I have used The Blue Book with my first graders and have been impressed with the ease of completing each daily assignment and how well the assignments flow through the lessons each week. I like the assessments that the books provide periodically to see how the student is doing. They give students an opportunity to have refreshers on material that may not be as well learned. My boys really enjoy marking off the books they have read on the enclosed Reading Progress Chart.

I have read all the books from The Blue Book Common Sense Reading Program for first grade through The Gray Book for eighth grade. Each of these books build on the skills learned the previous year and would help a child to master grammar skills, spelling, reading, writing, reading comprehension, and critical thinking skills. I was also impressed with the books recommended for each book study. Some examples are: The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, Carry on, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham, Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, and God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew. I am looking forward to reading these classic books and completing each grade level with my children as we homeschool throughout the years.

Product review by Heather Wise, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June 2022