If you choose to use real books rather than a reading program with your children, you can soothe your qualms about accountability by using a reading comprehension resource such as this series from Modern Curriculum Press. Books A through F are suggested for grade levels 1 through 6.
Student books are printed in full color. Each lesson begins with a short narrative followed by a variety of comprehension and vocabulary activities as well as some activities that stretch into areas such as grammar, map reading, and research. At the end of each lesson is a writing assignment to be done in a separate notebook. Since there are 30 lessons per book, you would likely use one per week.
Narrative selections in these books are wide ranging. While some fantasy is included, I found none of the narratives in the three books I looked through likely to be offensive to Christian parents.
Younger levels begin with concepts like main idea and details, drawing conclusions, order of events, fantasy and reality, fact and opinion, and character. Each skill is continually developed each year at a more challenging level. At the top end of the series, students add skills in literary analysis (character, plot, theme, setting), comparing and contrasting, paraphrasing, recognizing the author’s purpose and point of view, outlining, use of persuasion and propaganda, figurative language, and connotation and denotation. Most levels also work with analogies, synonyms, homonyms, and antonyms. They also cover reading of maps, tables, charts, and graphs plus using dictionaries, encyclopedias, the library, and the internet.
While some answers are multiple-choice, many are open-ended questions. That means they will take a bit longer for parents to check even though possible answers are in the Teacher’s Guide.
Children can complete workbook lessons independently if need be, but lessons are designed to be taught. Teacher’s Guides have detailed lesson presentations that are very easy to use. However, you might find the presentation and discussion unnecessary. For example, there are new vocabulary words in each lesson. The Teacher’s Guide instructs the teacher to discuss the meaning of these words with students before they tackle the vocabulary exercise. However, the student book has a glossary with definitions of these words that students can use on their own.
There are additional discussions and writing projects in the Teacher’s Guide that are useful but not essential. The Teacher’s Guide also has reproducible tests in a standardized test format and organizational forms for children to use for such activities as charting cause and effect, story sequence, or main ideas and details. I recommend getting a Teacher’s Guide then using as much as is practical in your situation.
There are other reading comprehension series that use only one-word or multiple-choice answers, but the extra writing and thinking required in this series will be more effective for developing reading skills.