All About Reading Level 1 {A Full Homeschool Review}

Alright, here we go, my heartfelt full review of All About Reading Level 1.

The very first thing I want to mention is that I absolutely love the people behind All About Learning Press.  They are authentic, kind-hearted, wonderful to speak with, and they truly care about children and parents.  They really, seriously, are in this to help kids read and spell well and the help parents help their kids succeed in literacy and in life.  And that is a very good starting point for the kind of products I want to use in our home every day.
As for All about Reading – our family absolutely LOVES this program.  Our son (who was 6 when he started Level 1 and is age 7 now) did remarkably well with All about Reading.
When we started in the Spring, Alex was struggling with reading.  Although, I hate to word it this way, this is the way most of the world would look at it.  Considering his age, he wasn’t reading quite at the level many of his peers would be reading.  He had learned his letter sounds and various very simple vowel sounds but was not reading fluently and did not have a very large amount of sight words he knew.  However, he did have the desire to learn, so I knew it was time to get a bit more focused on reading skills.
I wasn’t sure whether to place him in Level 1 or Level 2 of All About Reading.  When I looked through some of the content of Level 2, I thought he may be able to do it, but upon ordering Level 2, I realized Alex really should have started in the first level.

I want to chat about his placement.  As I stated above, when I first looked at the Placement Tests, I made the wrong choice for Alex.  I thought he would fit best into Level 2.  I made this decision based on my own ideas of what he ‘knew’ and how he could read through readers as well as a look at the Placement Tests for both Level 1 and 2.  What I found is that he could read some of the words and understood some of the concepts but he did not have a very strong base for his ability.  Much of his ability came from sight word recognition and memory.
I strongly encourage you, if you are starting All About Reading with a young student – consider starting with Level 1.  Alex was reading simple single vowel words a year ago, but I am so glad I started back at the basics with him because the program progresses quite quickly.  In Level 1 – Lesson 1, children are reading words like map, Sam, sap, map.  By lesson 18 they are reading:  fish, rash, dish, shut.  By lesson 33 they are reading: stick, trick, check, clock, snack.  By the end they are learning several alternate sounds for vowels.  It starts off simple, but children are reading quite well by the end of Level 1.  

All About Reading is very in-depth.  When you work through this program, you cover ALL your bases.  All About Reading starts with the Pre-reading Program, then comes Level 1.  If your child is just at the beginning reading stages, I’d encourage you to look through the placement tests and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to email the amazing people at All About Learning Press.

In hind sight, boy, am I ever glad I bumped him back a bit to Level 1.  Although the first few weeks were a bit of a review, he learned quickly and easily and was introduced to a more detailed approach to reading instruction.  His success encouraged him and gave him the confidence to move forward with enthusiasm.

Alex completed the entire program in about  3 months.  He went from barely reading to reading fluently in this time!  Hooray, Alex!

Our pile of All About Reading Level 1 stuff…

Some snapshots of the children enjoying the program.

Alex hanging out with his buddy, enjoying one of the Level 1 readers.

Alex’s completed progress chart, Yippee Alex!  He was so proud to put that last star on there!

Let’s take a closer look at All About Reading Level 1 and how we used it in our home:

One of the things I love about the All About Reading program is that it is very self-paced.  You work through it at the speed you need or want to.  We chose to move through Level 1 quite quickly because we could and Alex was ready.  
There are may families and children who will take an entire school year or longer to work through Level 1… and that’s perfectly fine!  You can go at the pace that works for you and your child, which is lovely.
This program is multi-sensory.  This means that it engages many different senses and will appeal to many learning styles.  Our children both loved all the elements of the lessons.  They were motivated and excited to work through All About Reading.  It was their go-to when they started their day, always wanting to ‘do’ their All about Reading work.

Getting Started:

When we first received our package in the mail, I opened it with Alex and got excited along with him.  The materials are so beautiful, so colourful, so high-quality…  we were both drawn to them and wanted to use them!  (Let’s just say, this is not the case for all reading programs!)
I’m pretty sure I actually started the day after I received my box.  This program is so ‘open and go’, that it was quite easy to do this.  I just read the material in the first few pages and got the manipulatives ready (mostly, I had to take apart the Phonogram and Word Cards and put magnet stickers on the back of the letter tiles – which came with the materials in the Student Packet).
I decided to store all our pages from the Student Packet in a plastic folder, as this was what my good friend had done and it seemed to work well!  Taking out the pages and cutting the activities ahead of time is helpful, but not necessary.  There are many days I did it on the fly.  *smile*
It was so simple to start, literally, just open up the Teacher’s Manual and go.  This is so helpful for a busy homeschool Mom, isn’t it?  No long prep time, no confusing teacher’s guide.
I love how the Teacher’s Manual is set up.  It makes it so incredibly easy to follow along.  They use icons to show what to do next and the print is large, bolded in parts, and simple to read as you teach.  
At the top of each first page of a new lesson, the items you will need for that day are clearly listed.  There will be a step-by-step lesson plan that follows.  You can read it ahead of time or just open and go.

The Different Elements of All About Reading Level 1

If you are ordering All About Reading Level 1 for the very first time and you have no other All about Reading Resources, you will need to buy the following:
All about Reading Level 1 Materials (includes the Teacher’s Manual, Student Packet, and the 3 Readers)
A Reading Interactive Kit (you choose if you want the Deluxe or the Basic, we got the Deluxe)
The lessons flow in a very natural and fun format.  Generally, you work through a concept in one lesson, then in the next lesson, the child will read one or two of the stories from the readers which uses and applies that reading concept.

Of course, the stories get harder as the child moves through the level – by the end they are reading pretty challenging stuff!

The Blast Off to Reading! Activity Book (you really do need this), along with the Student Packet for Level 1 before I took all the cards apart.

Love this little Viewfinder Bookmark!  It helped our kids focus on the word they were reading, rather than being distracted by a page of words.

The Phonogram and Word Cards found in the Level 1 Student Packet before you take them apart and organize them.

Teacher’s Manual, Student Packet, stickers, and Readers.  These are all used consistently in All About Reading.

Don’t you love how colorful and inviting these materials are?  Makes you want to do the program, doesn’t it?!  

Word Cards with the All About Reading Review Box.  I love having this box, it is such a tidy, colorful way to store our cards which we use daily. The kids recognize it as their ‘word box’ and they know where to find it.

The three Readers that come with Level 1.  We loved these.

Phonogram Cards – the back of the cards have printed prompts and give the sounds for each letter.

Divider Cards for the Phonogram and Word Cards.

Some of the Word Cards from a later lesson.

Once we took the pages out of our Student Activity Book, we kept our sheets in a plastic folder.  We also did this for Level 2.  This was an easy way to store all our games, fluency charts, print-outs, and progress charts and stickers.

Fluency Practice is a part of every reading lesson.

How we store our extra Word Tiles – just a simple crafting bin from a dollar store.  

All About Reading uses Letter Tiles in almost every lesson.  You don’t need to purchase a large magnetic board, but it is suggested.  We decided to buy one at a local office store for about $40.  Make sure if you buy a white board, that it actually is magnetic and that it is the recommended size listed in the All About Reading information.  (4ft by 2ft, I think!)

More Fluency Practices.  There are several sections – New Words, Mixed Review, Phrases and Sentences and then the progressive sentences.  Many families take days or even weeks to work through these Fluency pages.  It depends on the child’s readiness.

One of the activities/games for a lesson and some of the Word Flippers.  Our children loved all the extras that came along with All About Reading (in the Student Activity Packet).

Fluency and activities from much later lessons.

Another fun game we enjoyed from one of the earlier lessons.

How the Lessons Work

Here is an overview of a typical lesson flow for All About Reading Level 1:

First we do our Review
We start with a review of the Phonogram Cards and Word Cards we had in our “review” sections in our word box.  These are cards that have previously been taught but that the children still need to practice until they are mastered.   All the Phonogram Cards are yellow, and the word cards are green.  This ‘review/mastered’ pattern follows for Level 1 to 4 of All About Reading.

Then we do our New Teaching – Here we are presenting the new concepts.  This often includes new letter sounds (here we use the Phonogram Cards), new reading concepts, new rules, etc.  This starts very simple and gets progressively more difficult.

Here are some examples of what the New Teaching looks like in the lessons:

Lesson 1 –  New Phonogram Cards for M, S, P, and A (ah).  Children are taught the sounds for these letters and use the Letter Tiles to make simple words like MAP.  We practice sounding out each letter in the word M-A-P.  Then we do SAM and PAM and SAP and MAP again. We then learn about the difference between vowels and consonants.

Lesson 12 – New Phonogram Card for the letter E.  We learn the two most common sounds the E makes.  We use Letter Tiles to blend sounds with E.  So, BED, SET, JET, MET, HEN, PEN, PET, BET, YET, YES…

Lesson 22 – Here we are practicing and learning how to blend the sounds we know with final blends.  We are using letter tiles to build words like, LAND, BEST, LUNCH, TENTH.

Lesson 33 – New Phonogram Card for the consonant team ‘CK’.  Children are learning the sound of the blend CK and building words like, PICK, NECK, SNACK, SACK, SICK, PICK, LUCK, etc.

The Letter Board!  Our children love playing with the Letter Tiles on our big magnetic white board.  These boards are not required for All About Reading, but I highly recommend making the investment!  
We use the letter tiles usually in the ‘New Teaching’ section of the lesson.  This is used to build words and practice what we’ve learned in previous lessons as well as new concepts.  The kids use the tiles to sound out the consonants and vowel sounds in words and eventually, to build their own words.    
We also play “Change the Word”, which our children love.  Here we simply swap out beginning and ending consonants to create new words.  It works like this, imagine each new bullet is the new word:
  • mob
  • mom
  • mop
  • top
  • hop
  • hot
  • rot
  • pot
  • got
I will say, “Ok, change ‘mob’ to ‘mom’,  now change ‘mom’ to ‘mop’!  (And so on.)  This is a fun, easy way to play with words and practice reading.  The hands-on, tactile process works so well with my children, as I’m sure it would with most children.

Next there is usually some kind of Activity or Game to complete The games and activities vary in difficulty, length of time, and style or learning.

Some examples of activities/games include:

  • Feed the Monster (photographed below).  The child reads words on the back of the bones and after reading them correctly he/she feeds the monster by feeding them through his mouth
  • Letter Sounds Bingo
  • Monkeys and Bananas (photographed below).  The child finds the bananas that rhyme with the monkey’s name and reads each of the rhyming words.
  • Over Easy.  The child uses a spatula to flip over paper ‘eggs’ one at a time and read the words on the back of the eggs.

Now – We Practice our Reading Words!  This is the part of the lesson where we apply what we’ve learned.  I took out the required Word Cards and we flipped through them together, having Alex read each word as it came to the top of the pile.  If the child is able to read the word, it moves to the ‘Mastered’ section of the Word Box, if not, it is placed in the ‘Review’ section.

On to Fluency Practice!  The Fluency Practice sheets are found in the All About Reading Blast Off Activity Book which comes in the Level 1 Materials Pack.

There are various parts to these sheets including, New Words, Mixed Review, and Phrases and Sentences.  These sheets will combine what children have learned in previous lessons to build on their reading skills.  These sheets can seem a bit daunting to some children.  There is quite a bit to read though and practice.  We often didn’t read through every single word.  These are meant as a tool to practice what you’ve learned. They are a great resource!

Hooray, if your child has completed their lesson, it is time for a sticker on the All About Reading Level 1  Progress Chart!   This is a cherished and favourite part of the program for our children!  They love the feeling of putting that star on that chart and seeing their progress!

And… that’s what a typical Lesson looks like!

Sometimes, it would take us a couple days to finish one lesson, just for reference.

The ‘Reading’ Lesson

Some lessons are what I call,  Reading Lessons.  These lessons are ones where the child applies what they’ve learned by reading one or two stories from their All About Reading Reader.  No new concepts are taught during the Reading Lesson.  The child simply focuses on reading the story or stories assigned.

The main idea is to snuggle up and read together, having your child read his best through the assigned stories.  Once they have successfully read the stories for that lesson, they earn another sticker for their Progress Chart!

I love the readers from All about Reading.  They are beautifully made with hard covers, gorgeous hand-sketched illustrations, and stories that actually make sense and are engaging.  I think All About Reading did a great job on their readers. These are readers I actually want to read and keep!

After we completed the program, the phonogram and word box looked like this – all the cards in the “Mastered”!  (The green cards you see in front are for Level 2, which we are working through with our daughter and now Alex!)

We also love using the All About Reading Read-Aloud Record to keep track of what books the children are now reading.  They have grown SO much in their ability!

I truly hope this post is helpful to those of you trying to decide on a great reading program for your child.  I give a whole-hearted ‘two thumbs up’ for All About Reading.  It worked wonders for us and I hope and trust it can and will do the same for many other Homeschool families!

Some of my other All About Reading posts:


  • Megan Russell

    Thank you for this very detailed review. I just started AAR, pre-reading level, with my 5 year old. He is considered "late" by the world because he doesn't yet know all of his letters and sounds. He just wasn't ready until a few weeks ago. We are loving AAR, and I was excited to see what level 1 will be like. I cannot wait to use it! You make it look so fun!

  • serenity

    HI Megan, I'm on the same boat as you with respect to the world thinking my son is "late ". It's a good thing his mother isn't swayed by what the world thinks πŸ™‚
    I was thinking of actually starting Level 1 when he turns 6 in September . Our focal point right now is to read plenty of books daily and really enjoy it. I want my son to have a strong desire for reading. I am also here and there giving him various letter "activities " but he seems to actually know his letters without anyone teaching him, so I figured reading to him must be working. May God guide us all.
    Thanks for the detailed review.

  • carrie beth

    Hello! I am just now exploring the idea of homeschooling. I have two boys. One is almost 3 and the other is 4. I have been reading over your blog. It's very helpful and informative, but I do have a question for you. I have read your reviews of Five in a Row, Sonlight, and All About Reading. Do you use all of these at the same time? I had done some research about Sonlight and it looked like it included everything you would need. I just don't know where to start!! help πŸ™‚

    • Cassandra

      Hi Carrie Beth. πŸ™‚ Hooray for your exploration of this wonderful thing called, 'homeschooling'!!! It is an exciting time. I'm so glad this little blog has been encouraging to you. So, you will see lots of reviews that I have done over the years. Many of the programs I review(ed) I no longer use. This could be for many reasons- my kids outgrew it, our needs changed, my philosophies changed, our budget changed, etc. For Sonlight – we used it for 2 years and enjoyed it very much because it was an open and go situation which is very nice when you are first starting and not sure what to do. It really opened a world of GREAT books and learning through literature for us. HUGE gift. We did combine some Five in a Row with Sonlight as we went along, but we would pause Sonlight to do a Five in a Row book and then jump back into Sonlight. The young years of Sonlight talk alot about world cultures – so that fits very well with FIAR. As for All About Reading, it could be combined with anything you are doing as it is completely separate reading program. Honestly, from my heart to yours – at your children's ages… just enjoy them. Do everything you can to totally cherish their young cuteness. Do playdough and dig in dirt and do fingerpainting and sing songs. Read, read, read TONS of great books. (This is why I loved Five in a Row because it gave me these things – great books, light hearted learning). Dont' stress. πŸ™‚ As for your question of what to start? Well, after about 7 years… One of the things I've taken WAY too long to learn is to pray earnestly and seek God's will for our homeschool and our direction… it is really easy to get sucked in to searching EVERY SINGLE curriculum and going nuts in the process. (I'm currently planning a post about how we 'quit' curriculum (are are in the process…). Honestly, the single most important thing is the soul and the character of the child… their relationship with God and others…. not anything academic (at least for us)… so that remains a priority. πŸ™‚ Hope this offers some encouragement.

  • Erin

    What a fantastic review! We've just finished Level 1 and soo love it too, can't rave enough about AAR (and Spelling) enough myself.
    Pretty pleased too to find another Aussie blog.
    Just linked you up at my post on AAR Pre-Reading.

  • serenity

    Your reply to Carrie Beth makes me smile . Sometimes we can get caught up in curriculum and planning….and realize we're missing out on our children's lives. I also realized I wouldn't care if my child was 'top notch' in academics if he had bad character!

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