Literature is one of my favorite subjects to teach. There are just so many good books out there, and by using a wide variety of curricula, my boys are exposed to books that are American classics. Sometimes the books we read are new to me, too. But the best thing of all is when they learn to read beyond just the book – critical thinking along with reading comprehension. This last point is something I tend to struggle with (which is a big part of why I started my virtual book club). But Debra Bell from Apologia Educational Ministries is great with it, and she’s developed a literature curriculum called Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth). Munchkin and I have had the pleasure of working through this during the past few weeks (when we weren’t busy moving, that is).
What it is
Readers in Residence is a companion to Apologia’s Writers in Residence program, but you can use them independently of one another. Readers in Residence is designed to help kids problem solve their way through books, starting even before they open to the first chapter.
The student book is huge – 562 pages in an 8.5×11″ spiral bound, consumable book, and there are 6 units for students to work through. In the odd numbered units, students are given a book to read, and in the even numbered units, they choose a book of their own in the same genre as the book from the previous unit. For example, the first unit is Sarah, Plain and Tall, and the second unit is the studen’s choice do a historical fiction book. After reading Charlotte’s Web, they choose an animal fiction book. And upon finishing Because of Winn Dixie, the entire fiction section of the library (or book store) is free reign. Each unit has a different focus, and those with an assigned book have a big unit project as well.
The book includes a suggested daily schedule, covering 4 days a week. I found this really helpful in trying to wrap my mind around the gigantic volume. Knowing where to begin and how much to do in a a given day was super helpful. After I studied the schedule and felt like I had a handle on what to expect from this curriculum, I passed the student book on to Munchkin.
How we used it
Munchkin, who is nearing the end of 5th grade, was pretty much given free reign over this curriculum. I was around when he needed help, but he pretty much did it all on his own. I just went over his answers each day when he’d finished. He dove right into Unit 1: Sarah, Plain and Tall. He’d read this book before, bit it had been a few years, so he was happy to read it again.
The subtitle of this curriculum is Sleuth, and that’s very fitting. The opening module of the unit teaches students about becoming an expert reader – both what that means and how to become one. They start by exploring the cover of the book and looking for clues as to what the book might be like based on the cover. There’s a diagram showing the different parts do the cover (title, author, illustrator, awards, etc). Then they’re taught the difference between fiction and nonfiction, and this section is where the first exercise is. Students are instructed to find books of both genres at home and write down their titles. The module continues in this manner, until they’re given instruction to actually pick up the book to read. At that point, they use the information learned to analyze the book before they begin reading.
I had Munchkin follow the schedule laid out in the beginning of the workbook, just for the sake of ease. This fell apart a little bit when we were in the middle of the move, but he’s right back into this book now that we’re settled.
What we think of it
We didn’t make it as far into the curriculum as I’d hoped and expected because our move was sudden and unexpected right in the middle of the review period. Despite that, I really like what I’ve seen so far. I like the 4-day week, I like the methodology behind the program, and I like that my son is learning to take an active role in the books he reads rather than staying a passive reader. I think it’s important to do things deliberately, and Readers in Residence helps students learn to read with a purpose. This is a definite win in my book (pardon the pun).