See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
Marie Rippel's All About Spelling has become one of the most popular spelling programs among home educators, so I was naturally curious about All About Reading since it correlates with All About Spelling for level one and above.
All About Reading (AAR) is an intensive phonics program for preK through about fourth grade that uses Orton-Gillingham methodology. With this method, 97% of English words can be learned according to phonetic rules, leaving only 3% to be learned as sight words.
AAR consists of two main parts: the Pre-reading program (teaching essential pre-reading skills) and the Reading program (consisting of Levels 1 through 4)....
AAR is a highly interactive multi-sensory program that needs to be taught by the parent or teacher. However, the open-and-go lesson plans are scripted and illustrated, making it simple for the inexperienced parent or teacher to present the lessons with little or no prep time. Even though it is scripted, AAR is easy to adapt to each child's needs by selecting among the suggested hands-on activities, choosing their favorite books for read-aloud time, and adjusting the pace and amount of interaction.
The phonetic readers are beautifully illustrated hardcover books that could stand on their own. They feature finely detailed black-and-white drawings that are a delight in themselves.
The All About Reading Pre-reading Program teaches essential pre-reading skills. The primary focus is on what Rippel calls the Big Five Skills™ that are foundational to a child's future reading and spelling abilities: print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, listening comprehension, and motivation to read.
The AAR Pre-reading Program components are a teacher's manual, a student packet, two read-aloud books, the Letter Sounds A to Z app, a Ziggy the Zebra hand puppet used to help teach many of the lessons, a card filing box, reading divider cards, and a tote bag....
All of the components and activities in the Pre-reading Program work together nicely to contribute to the development of other readiness skills as children work with following directions, cutting, and coloring as well as listening, comprehending, identifying syllables auditorily, making inferences, developing vocabulary, and otherwise acquiring the Big Five Skills.
Levels 1 through 4
Beginning in AAR Level 1 and continuing through Level 4, the five key components of reading shift to: phonological awareness, phonics/decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Before starting Level 1, students should already know the alphabet and be able to identify both uppercase and lowercase letters. They might have completed the All About Reading Pre-reading Program, but that is not required if you have introduced the alphabet and other pre-reading skills in some other fashion.
You will also need an Interactive Kit, which is used in Levels 1 through 4 of the reading program as well as the free Phonogram Sounds app for computers and mobile devices that you can download from the website. There are two Interactive Kit options: Basic or Deluxe. Both kits include a set of letter tiles, magnets, and reading divider cards to organize the phonogram and word cards in your index card box. The Deluxe Kit adds a customized storage box for the cards, star stickers for use on the progress chart, and a custom tote bag for storing all the components. (Note: the All About Spelling program uses the same letter tiles, so if you are using both the reading and spelling programs, you can avoid duplicates by purchasing individual items instead of a complete Interactive Kit.)
In addition to the essential items for AAR, you should also have a 2' x 3' magnetic white board for both storing and working with the letter tiles. Once you have set up your letter tiles and separated the phonogram and word cards, the program is easy to use. The scripted lesson plans guide you step by step. If you are not familiar with the sounds of the phonograms being taught in a lesson, you can use the Phonogram Sounds app to click on any phonogram to hear the pronunciation.
The AAR program is incremental. The first lesson of Level 1 uses phonogram cards and letter tiles to teach the four sounds: /m/, /s/, /p/, and /?/. Tiles are also used to introduce blending for three-letter words and to demonstrate how switching the first letter (e.g., using the words Sam and Pam) changes only the initial sound. Students also learn to identify vowels and consonants, which are color coded on the tiles. Activity sheets in the student workbook add additional practice and, sometimes, additional instruction.
Lessons continue in this fashion, occasionally alerting teachers to strategies for overcoming common problems they might encounter. The introduction of letters follows a progression similar to that of other intensive phonics programs, gradually introducing vowels with consonants in a way that allows students to begin reading immediately.
All levels of AAR provide fluency practice through the word cards, practice sheets in the activity book, and readers.
The student activity books are a major component and add much variety to the lessons through short reading games and activities that motivate young learners. For example, in Lesson 3 of Level 1, students play “Feed the Monster” by reading words and then “feeding” them to the monster.
The hardcover readers in Levels 1 through 4 are just as top-notch as those for the Pre-reading Program, with lovely illustrations and relatively interesting content for vocabulary-controlled reading material.
AAR can be used independently or together with the All About Spelling program. Handwriting is not included as part of this reading program.
[Details for both the Pre-Reading Program and Levels 1 through 4 are in the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.]