The Treasure Trove of Literature series

The Treasure Trove of Literature series

The Treasure Trove of Literature and the Art of Understanding It is a series of three courses—Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3—each of which takes students through an in-depth study of five novels. The three courses are recommended for grades four through six, respectively, but I think they can be used with students up through grades seven or eight. The courses gradually increase in difficulty, so they should be used in sequence if you plan to use more than one.

The courses are written for Catholic students and have numerous references to Catholic beliefs, practices, and saints.

The books to be read are excellent choices. Level 1 has students read Little House in the Big Woods; The Father Brown Reader; Minn of the Mississippi; The Winged Watchman; and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In Level 2, they will read The Wizard of Oz, Madeleine Takes Command, The Borrowers, Misty of Chincoteague, and The Magician’s Nephew. The five novels for Level 3 are The Hobbit, The Door in the Wall, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Endless Steppe, and Treasure Island.

The first two courses each have two components: a non-consumable guidebook and a notebook—each about 300 pages. Students will use both of these books, getting their assignments from the guidebook and writing and drawing directly in the notebook. An answer key for parents is at the back of each notebook, and you might want to remove those pages so that they are available to the parent rather than the student. The third course is contained in one consumable book that is over 400 pages.

All of the courses are written directly to students so that they can complete much of their work independently the first four days of each week and work with a parent or teacher the fifth day. This lesson design makes the courses perfect for group classes that meet once a week, using the fifth day’s work in the group class.

The first lesson for the study of each novel opens with information about the author. This is followed by information that might address the genre of the book, the historical setting, or another helpful topic. This first lesson varies. It usually covers introductory material, but sometimes it introduces some assignments. Most lessons include some vocabulary words with their definitions in Level 1 and Level 2. Level 3 differs in that most lessons direct students to select three or more unfamiliar words from their reading, look them up, and write down their definitions. Next, students will answer a series of Reading Review Questions for each lesson that checks for reading comprehension. Level 3 often substitutes an oral narration in which the student summarizes what they have read to another person. Occasionally, Level 3 students will be given a journaling assignment instead of either questions or oral narration. Most lessons also include brief instruction about a literary element (plot, theme, characters, and setting) or a literary device (e.g., figures of speech, dialogue, and techniques authors use to build suspense). Instruction about a literary element or device is often followed by its own writing activity or exercise and,  occasionally, a quiz.

Almost every fifth lesson for each novel is titled Discussion & Activities. Under this heading, there is always a series of questions for students to discuss with their parents, many of which require deeper levels of critical thinking. The suggested activities offer a huge variety of options—such as art projects, field trips, games, research, drama, and science projects—all related to the novel. Parents or teachers need to be involved at this point and at the conclusion of each study.

Each level uses graphic organizers to study the plot of at least one of the novels. Level 1 students simply write down the key event in each chapter of Minn of the Mississippi on a river-shaped graphic, then they create a visual panorama by drawing three to five key scenes that illustrate the story. Levels 2 and 3 provide more-detailed graphic organizers for students to complete by filling in elements such as the rising action, the climax, and the resolution.

Concluding activities for each book vary greatly. Some are simple and others are quite involved. For instance, the study for Little House in the Big Woods has students create a diorama. For The Winged Watchman, they will create a themed poster, and for The Endless Steppe, students create a detailed family tree. These projects are in addition to other concluding activities, such as discussions about characters in the novels (in the first two levels) and optional activities, such as hosting a family party, playing a game, or listening to music.

The first two courses include a few features not found in Level 3. The notebooks have boxes in which students are to draw a simple illustration for each chapter of the book they are reading then write a brief note about what they have drawn. (This is to help them visualize what they have read.) Students will discuss their illustrations and their observations about the characters with parents at the conclusion of each study. Also, the Discussion & Activities for the fifth lesson has a substantial section titled either “Character Quality of the Week” or “Lessons from Nature.” These sections use the content of the novel as a springboard for personal and spiritual growth by focusing on a particular character quality each week. (Level 3 includes only an occasional character-quality study.) The sections specifically titled Character Quality make connections to pertinent Bible verses. The character-quality studies continue with a story about a saint, or group of saints, who exemplifies the character quality. This is sometimes followed by suggestions for practical application of the character quality. In addition, Level 1 and Level 2 handle the study of character qualities in a different fashion for one of the five novels. In Level 1, for the study of The Winged Watchman, all character-quality studies are focused on the theme of bravery, rather than a different character quality each week. In Level 2, for the study of Misty of Chincoteague, these sections focus on the theme of freedom in its various aspects. All character-quality sections conclude with a prayer. 

The books are all bound with a plastic spiral so that they will lie flat as students read or write in them. Hand-drawn illustrations, scanned images, graphic-organizer pages, and decorative borders on the pages make the books attractive even though they are printed in black and white.

The lessons vary in the amount of time required each day, but it will usually be substantial since students will read lesson material from the coursebook, read pages from a novel, answer questions in their notebooks, and complete other assignments. The studies average about six weeks per novel (with just a few significantly shorter or longer), so students should have time to savor the novels if they read slowly. Students who can’t wait that long to find out what happens next in the story will probably read the book through quickly, then review what they read as they complete the lessons at a slower pace. The Discussions & Activities section of a lesson could take anywhere from an hour to an entire day depending upon what you choose to do. So you might want to plan ahead and free up extra time for those days.


The entire series does an excellent job of teaching literary appreciation, literary analysis, and vocabulary (along with a bit of work on composition skills), and it goes much deeper than some other study guides for novels. While you might need to add some instruction in composition skills, grammar, and spelling, this will be a significant piece of your language-arts curriculum rather than a supplement.

Pricing Information

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Level 1 and Level 2: guidebook - $27.95 each, notebook - $17.95 each
Level 3: $38.95

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Instant Key

  • Need For Parent or Teacher Instruction: low to moderate
  • Learning Environment: independent study plus discussion
  • Grade Level: grades 4-8
  • Religious Perspective: Catholic

Publisher's Info

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