According to BC’s Ministry of Education, English language arts skills include listening, speaking, reading and writing. No kidding! So yes, we want our children to learn to listen, speak, read and write effectively (emphasis on listening, some days). Within that, there are heaps of options. Below I’ve listed the most popular with families at ASCEND.
- Siegfried Engelmann, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is the most starting point for most of my families. There is also now a newer edition for those who don’t like the way letters are arranged in the original––and shorter too: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons. A good ‘short-cut’ approach for many, especially as so many don’t work all the way through the 100 Lessons in the original.
- Run Bug Run! is a phonics reader with a collection of short stories developed by All About Learning, so correlated to All About Reading and All About Spelling, although it can also be used as a stand-alone reader.
- Other popular early readers include Catholic Heritage Curricula’s Little Stories for Little Folks readers and the Bob Books series.
- Learning Language Arts through Literature is a ‘living-books’ approach that closely fits BC outcomes. It focuses on all areas of language arts: reading and comprehension, as well as phonics, grammar and spelling.
- Five in a Row is a series of read-out-loud lessons and discussions for a variety of topic areas, matched to quality children’s books. The books themselves can be purchased together in a pack, or borrowed from the library. I really like the idea behind this program because it contextualizes lessons about geography, math, science language, and ethics within a short, engaging story.
- Come Sit By Me offers a similar program to Five in a Row, but focuses on Canadian content, and also includes biblical content––so a great alternative for the Canadian Catholic context! Oriented to the primary grades (4-7 year olds) and available through Maple Tree Publications.
- All About Reading––a thorough beginner reading program, especially helpful for struggling readers.
- Child1st.com is a multi-sensory reading program geared especially towards struggling learners.
- Emma Serl’s Primary Language Lessons is a comprehensive guide for learning phonics and spelling, geared especially towards primary students after they have learned to read.This can be used for developing a variety of reading and writing skills, best for students in grades 2 – 3. This can also be followed with Intermediate Language Lessons in grades 4 – 5.
- Language Lessons for the Elementary Child––a consumable text with 180 daily lessons and full color classic paintings that correspond to the lessons in Primary Language Lessons, but in consumable format. Followed by Language Lessons for the Secondary Child.
- All About Spelling––a great option for early phonics and spelling, and growing in popularity for several reasons: this program adopts the Orton-Gillingham principles of language development and lays them out in an easy-to-follow format. This is also a great choice for those who experience signs of dyslexia or other difficulties with reading (especially decoding and spelling).
- Ruth Heller’s parts of speech series of storybooks is a great introduction to the different parts of speech through humour. For primary students.
- Handwriting Without Tears, a multi sensory handwriting program for students in K – 5.
- Julia M. Fogassy, Sound Beginnings: reading, handwriting, spelling, phonics, listening––a thorough program outline for exploring phonics, but with an emphasis on memorizing rules of spelling that many may find overwhelming.
- The Writing Road to Reading takes the Spalding approach to language arts. Rigorous but thorough. Also useful as a reference.
- Sequential Spelling explores the various spelling patterns of the English language systematically over several years.
- The Phonetic Zoo, from the Institute for Excellence in Writing
- Wordly Wise, focused on vocabulary development
- My Catholic Speller, from Catholic Heritage Curricula is a popular phonics-based spelling program for elementary students.
- Developed by Andrew Pudewa in accordance with the principles of the Suzuki violin method applied to language learning, The Institute for Excellence in Writing builds skills systematically so that students become strong communicators, ready for the post-secondary world. The Writing Intensives are a great introduction to writing at the 4th grade level especially, as students prepare for Foundational Skills Assessments (FSAs). The writing program focuses on style, organization and form in preparation for secondary and post-secondary writing. Highly recommended.
- Memoria Press offers a range of resources for all areas of language arts. A classical approach that is both efficient, thorough and engaging.
- Webster’s Online Academy offers online writing classes according to the Excellence in Writing principles
- Martin Cothran, Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle: Traditional Principles of Speaking & Writing
- Jump In is a workbook for learning to write persuasively. Oriented to middle grades, from Apologia Press.
- Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing with Ease series is a writing program geared towards the intermediate grades (in the logical phase), building on earlier skills learned in Primary Language Lessons. I am not as familiar with this one, so any thoughts or experience you have to share is welcome!
- If you’re looking for some quick-reference cheat sheets, Rainbow Resource Centre has a range in all subject areas, including English norms and grammar.
- Diane Hacker, A Writer’s Reference––a reference guide for all aspects of writing, grammar, spelling and mechanics. A great go-to for parents, as well as high school students as they prepare for post-secondary.
- Oxford Canadian A-Z of Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation: Defining Canadian English––another excellent handbook, including advice on how to fix common grammatical errors and a review of important spelling principles
- Victor Pellegrino’s A Writer’s Guide to transitional words and expressions is another great reference, specifically for older students who are learning to write essays and need ideas for transitional phrases
- Strunk & White’s Elements of Style––a small but useful (and stylish) text on writing style & grammar.
- The Art of Composition: Writing the Essay––a brief yet excellent introduction to essay writing, including how to develop a thesis, plus some discussion of structure & tone
- The Canadian Writer’s Reference––provides specific guidance for all the stylistic & technical aspects of writing, including writing process, grammar, plus citation guides for both MLA & APA formats
- prezi.com––a website and app that allows students to create lively and polished presentations for their subjects. Suitable for grades 6+. Free to parents if a ‘school-based email’ is used to create an account.
- Word Play: Write Your Own Crazy Comics, for those who would like to learn comic-booking skills.
- Elizabeth Wilson, Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature
- Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart
- Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie series––also great from a social studies perspective as a look at North American pioneer life
- Charles & Mary Lamb, Tales from Shakespeare
- Dave & Neta Jackson, Trailblazers (featuring Christian heroes)
- Literature Study Online––a ginormous compendium of literature-related resources for the upper grades, especially.
- Focus on the Family also has a link to discussion questions for various novel studies.
Literature for Boys
- William O’Steele, The Perilous Road
- Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
- Robert Siegel, Whalesong Trilogy
- Jack London, The Call of the Wild
- Leon Walter Tillage, Leon’s Story
- Francisco Jimenez, The Circuit, also available to read online
- Rudyard Kipling, Captains Courageous
- Katherine Paterson, Preacher’s Boy
- Elizabeth George Speare, The Sign of the Beaver
- Jean Merrill, The Pushcart War
- Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
- TH White, The Sword in the Stone (actually the first of a series called The Once & Future King)
- Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Julies Verne, Around the World in 80 Days
- Ben Mikaelsen, Touching Spirit Bear
You can also check out some reading lists here:
- Simply Charlotte Mason has a page dedicated to various book lists, with the goal of building your own curriculum––but you can also just use the lists, no need to turn everything into a program!
- Ambleside Online, another Charlotte Mason site, offers a full curriculum organized by subject, so again, you could just use the titles as good reading, or do more with it, as you prefer.
- ‘Twaddle-Free’ living book lists is also based on the principles of Charlotte Mason for reading good literature, or ‘living books’.
- The Read-Aloud Revival has several book lists with suitable works, available through (free) email subscription.
- 1000 Good Books List was put together by the Classical Christian Education Support Loop.
- Laura Berquist, The Harp and Laurel Wreath: Poetry and Dictation for the Classical Curriculum––a collection of poems that will take a child from early dictation and memory work into high school, with a wide range of style and topics.
- Random House Book of Poetry for Children––a beautifully illustrated collection, including modern authors too
- Christine Perrin, The Art of Poetry––a thorough introduction to the important elements and structures of poetry at the middle and high school level, and a good preparation for Grade 10 provincial exam.