Comparing Three Books on Teaching Reading

Teaching Reading ComparisonAnd an update as of May 2015: After stalling out on using The Reading Lesson, I went ahead and tried All about Reading Level 1. In short: We love it! It’s fantastic! I’ve written about Levels 1 and 2 already, and will eventually share my thoughts on Levels 3 (which we’ve just finished) and 4 (which we’ve just started).

So I mentioned on a recent library haul post that I’ve been looking at some of the “teach your child to read” books available from my library. It’s been nice that I could borrow them all and examine them without having to commit to purchasing one of them and hoping that it’d be a good fit for us.

The books I examined were The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching ReadingThe Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy LessonsTeach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann, and The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy LessonsThe Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons by Michael Levin and Charan Langston. From reviews, blog reading, and forum stalking, I expected to like the Ordinary Parent’s Guide most, then Teach Your Child, and The Reading Lesson the least.

Instead, I vastly preferred The Reading Lesson to the other two. It was easy to use, and my son is enjoying the lessons from it. He quickly worked through the first three lessons and was very enthusiastic about his new abilities to sound out short words.

The Reading Lesson has a short introductory section, and then each lesson itself has an introduction for the parent. The rest of the pages in the lesson are visually uncluttered, and easy to use with my son – I don’t have to write flashcards or pull together any other materials; the book itself works as the teaching material.

Teach Your Child has a fairly long and dense parent’s guide at the beginning, including an explanation of the Distar orthography that’s used in the rest of the book. My biggest complaint with it, and why it didn’t work well for us, is that it is so scripted that each page is filled with tons of text for the parent. It was distracting for my son when I’d try to point to the parts that he was supposed to pay attention to. The arrows used under the letters and words also distracted him a lot more than I would have expected. It wasn’t a matter of me just skipping their script; it was that the pages themselves were so full that it became hard for him to focus on what was the specific lesson. I suppose I could have rewritten each lesson on its own sheet of paper, but realistically? That’s a hassle.

Ordinary Parent’s Guide is less visually cluttered, but it’s still not as appealing to use as a lesson book on its own. The book has big chunks of text, and the detailed scripting that is provided was not helpful to me. It also expects that the parents obtain a magnetic board with alphabet tiles, and other supplies (most of them very simple – I think yarn, magnets, and a dowel were the only ones I didn’t already have on hand, and I am not well stocked with craft supplies). Despite this not really being a big deal, it did again add to the appeal of The Reading Lesson where the book itself was the lesson, and nothing else was needed. No cards to keep track of even! If I didn’t have a younger child around who likes to run off with things that might not have been as big of a plus as it was for me.

Neither of the other two books are bad, and I’m sure they’re successful for a lot of parents. For us though, after being convinced that I’d love Ordinary Parents, and really only grabbing The Reading Lesson because it was the one recommended by Timberdoodle (one of my new favorite resources for educational items), I was fairly astonished at how clearly it was the winner for us.

I feel like I need to add some disclaimers, or additional info before I get comments questioning some things. No, we haven’t finished the book, so my opinion might change. Yes, I understand the potential benefits of the Distar program. No, I’m not saying that everyone should use this book – I can easily imagine the other two working well for others. For us though, The Reading LessonThe Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons by Michael Levin and Charan Langston has been (five lessons in) a great fit, and is working well to give my son confidence as he learns to read.


  1. Eight years into our homeschooling journey, I’ve learned that the best curriculum or material for any family is the one that works. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Isn’t it exciting when your child first learns to read? One of the best feelings in the world.

    • It is *so* much fun seeing him get it and be so proud of himself and excited to see what else he can read. He’s very enthusiastic about finishing the book because “look at all the words I’ll know by then!!!”

      What are some of your favorite materials that you’ve used (or are using)?

  2. I love the library for this very situation. Reading reviews is all well and good, but sometimes you need to try the book and see if it is a good fit for you. I was surprised that the book with the fewer lessons worked the best when you first described them. After you mentioned all the clutter in the other two books, I completely understand. I am a therapist, and I have seen books with lots of text for the therapist when the book was supposed to be a patient workbook. I have rewritten worksheets for patients, but it is a hassle.

    • I am so fortunate to have access to a great library system that allowed me to do this side-by-side comparison of the three books.

      The fewer lessons thing is misleading – it’s twenty lessons, but each lesson is much longer than the other books. The 100 lessons book has each lesson being a concept/sound/blend etc. The 20 lesson book has each lesson being a group of sounds etc, and then it’s subdivided into smaller portions. We do a page or two at a time in that book, so it takes us two weeks or more to get through a lesson, where in that same time in the 100 lesson book we’d have covered 15+ lessons. Same material overall, just organized differently.

      And that would be such a hassle to rewrite worksheets for your patients! Why do they do that – if it’s supposed to be a patient workbook, why include the text for the therapist? That seems silly.

  3. That’s funny–when I read your post I thought, “Wait? The OPG requires tiles and cards?” Clearly I don’t read the parent instruction parts much. ๐Ÿ™‚ I tried the 100 Easy Lessons with Hannah and she liked it, but at the end of it she had a hard time transitioning to regular books because she didn’t know a lot of phonics, so I had her go over some of the OPG lessons to make sure she knew all of the random phonics connections and she was fine. I taught the next two with OPG (but not the bells and whistles). As someone else said, the best thing is the one that works for you!

    And I also agree that seeing a kid really GET reading is probably one of my top five favorite things about life. It’s always amazing!

    • Ha! That’s funny. Apparently you didn’t notice that in the parent’s part. Or else I imagined it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ They didn’t require tiles or cards, just recommended them. OPG will be my second choice if TRL ends up not working for us as we get further along in the book.

  4. Not sure how I missed this post. We are doing OPG. I tried 100 easy lessons and it just didn’t fit us. OPG is working fine for my son, but I don’t know that it is going to work for my daughter. Completely different learning style so I feel like I’m at zero again researching… I hadn’t heard of TRL so thanks for the recommendation.

    • That Amazon link lets you preview the first lesson (maybe two), so if it is something you end up needing to change with your daughter you may be able to get a better idea if that one would work for you.

      I don’t know yet if my two have different learning styles, so I’m still going to hope I can reuse everything with my daughter. I’m sure I’m being overly optimistic though. ๐Ÿ™‚


  1. […] Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington […]

  2. […] on the way. It should arrive next week and we’ll get started on it. We were still using The Reading Lesson, but AAR is more fun for him, and that’s very motivating. I’ll probably let The Reading […]

  3. […] wrote before about three books on teaching reading, and my favorite of the […]

  4. […] Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons I wrote about this one already, and it’s still working really well for us. Love it. We’re also taking it very slow, […]

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