Find and Fix the Gaps in Your Child’s Reading with All About Reading

This post contains affiliate links. Disclosure.

As a kid, I was a reader. A lot doesn’t even begin to describe how much I read. And though it had to happen at some point, I can’t remember not being able to read or learning to read.  I just remember hours spent curled up with a good book enjoying stories of far off lands and times.

So when I got pregnant with Olivia, I was sure that she would be a reader too. I did everything right. I started reading to her in utero and continued after her birth.

As she got older we learned letter sounds and played with fridge magnets. Her room — the entire house — was filled with books that were at her disposal.

In the meantime, I read those stories of children who learned to read early and easily, and I was just sure that my kid was going to be like that.

We would just skip right over the hard work of reading instruction. She would soak it up like a sponge thanks to our hours of reading aloud and print-rich environment.

Except she didn’t.

Reading did not come easy for Olivia. She did not learn early, and she has not learned quickly. She learns, but progress is slow, without many of the bursts of development I had been led to expect by reading experts.

For a long time I worried and tried to find that magic solution that would make everything click and reading come easy. She was doing pretty well at the start of this school year, and I was seeing good progress with our regular practice.

I was not doing any set instruction with her, but instead she was reading aloud each day while I modeled sounding out the words she did not know. Mostly because sounding out multiple syllable words was something she refused to even try to do.

A possible reading solution

And then last November I started looking at All About Reading Level 1 for my first grader. In the process, I noticed the newly released All About Reading Level 3 and my curiosity was peaked.

Could this be something that would help Olivia over her final hump in reading? Was this something my already-reading third grader really needed and would it be worth the purchase price?

I called Olivia over and administered the placement test. As I suspected it showed that she knew most of the material needed to start the level. The big question was, did she know so much of the material in the level that this be a waste of our money and time?

So I turned to the online samples from the middle of the book and had her read. Sure enough it seemed as if she read the samples with relative ease, only missing a word or so every other sentence.

But after careful consideration, I realized the words she was missing were the words from the lesson. The words she was able to read were the easier words that filled out the story. I was pretty sure I had my answer and placed our order.

Finding the Gaps

We have been working steadily on the program since about mid-November. Since then I have seen an increase in fluency, confidence, and in Olivia’s ability to use skills to attack and decode unknown words.

What I love about the All About Reading program is its systematic approach to instruction. The lesson will introduce a concept — say a syllable division rule or a specific phonogram. You then practice that skill with the multisensory activities until it is mastered.

In subsequent chapters, review of the skill is worked into the program on fluency practice sheets and in the stories you read. It’s genius.

The way the program is designed also makes it easy for me to see which phonograms are tripping her up. If she begins to flounder with “ai” or what sound is made by “sh,” we can go back and spend extra time practicing those using word cards.

I discovered very quickly that Olivia had no skills for decoding multiple syllable words. Basically, when she came across one, she guessed. Because she has a huge vocabulary and good comprehension skills — she has been read to since birth and devours audio books — she is able to guess correctly a surprising amount of the time.

Now, though, after learning and reviewing syllable division rules in All About Reading, she has exactly the skills she needs to break the words into manageable chunks and use the rules to sound them out.

She agreed to show us exactly how she is learning to do this in a video. If you can’t see the video below you can find it at All About Reading Full Blending Procedure with Two Syllables.

And one of the best things is that I am now armed with the knowledge to help her. I do not remember my reading instruction, but given my memories of Dick and Jane, I am fairly certain it was look/say in nature.

Now that I know the rules in All About Reading, I know how to make suggestions and guide her in the right direction.

Knowing what your kids need and being able to help them is the best feeling ever. I feel a bit guilty that I have been telling her to “just sound it out” for the past couple of years without giving her the skills she needed to do that.

I am trying not to beat myself up about too much and enjoy the happiness that comes with her success and confidence. Which makes All About Reading worth it in so many ways.

I did not receive this product free, nor did I receive compensation for this review — I just love and believe in this method. Affiliate links are included. I hope you found this helpful and thank you so much for clicking through!



  • Erin says:

    Well if you want to beat yourself up, try being me. I could have written your story, I entered school already reading apparently. both dh and I are excellent readers and spellers so I assumed our children would be too. I even have done a Spalding course (very similar to AAR and AAS- based on the same methods) I know this stuff but.. I never managed to impart it properly to my children.

    we've had children who've learnt to read earlish and quite late and in between, all bar one of our readers are dreadful spellers or they were for many years and still not the best. I kept thinking we must have missed something, I received a better education than I was giving my children, oh cartloads of guilt.

    Still have two later children who should be reading grr 9 and 7 well they can read in context, nearly at chapter books but we;ve been here foreverrrrr. sigh. anyhow after Sarah's enthusiasm recently I bought the pre-reader for our new kindergartner, our 5 yr old. our first lesson today. I've never taught capitals or the names, but i decided to go with the program and do it as scripted, so we'll see.

    I would have loved to have bought the other levels I'm sure we have the same situation as you do with Olivia, in fact I trialed them with the level 2 test and they couldn't read the words, no context. but alas not enough money to spare, unless they wanted an Australian reviewer;) but they programs are dearer here, add another $50 to each level!!

    and now you have a blog post from me:)
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  • Elizabeth says:

    I am so intrigued by all about reading. Will definitely keep this in mind if I see a need. Seriously though, the video of Olivia is priceless! She is adorable:)

  • Sarah says:

    I just love how she says “okay, Mommy.” My son is… ahem… not *quite* that respectful and cooperative. Although we are HUGE fans of All About Reading here! Huge, huge, huge!

    Great post.

    • edsnapshots says:

      Ha! The “okay Mommy” was totally for the benefit of the video. 😀 That is not the norm around here. I didn't coach her to do it, but somehow she got all shy ????? when it came time to make the video.
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  • edsnapshots says:

    No beating yourself up! If you can find anyway to swing it, I think it would benefit them from what you are saying. And keep in mind — almost the entire curriculum is reuseable for younger kids — I am sure you would get more than one use out of it!

    I am planning on using the primer level with Thomas when he is ready to start. And, of course, Olivia is in AAS Level 2 and John should be starting AAS Level 1 next year (they suggest you finish AAR Level 1 first).
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  • Tara says:

    I think it's hard, too, when you have one child that gets it quickly and you think you will just do the same thing with the next one. With Camille I goofed even further by not doing phonics for 1st grade. She did it in K, but for some reason I totally dropped the ball the next year. I still look back and wonder what on earth I was thinking. Luckily she reads well now, but I remember how hard it was! Now our main focus is slowing down to really get what she is reading. The mechanics are fine, but the understanding needs to improve. With a little one coming along I am taking in all these suggestions since I had gotten rid of most of what I used with the girls never dreaming I would need it again. That may prove to be a blessing since I will be able to see what he needs instead of just using what we used before.
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    • edsnapshots says:

      Tara I have heard others say exactly that and I imagine it would have been the same with me. John is really luck Olivia broke me in! And yes, finding something for each one is important. Right now we are all using the same things in math and reading, but I wonder if John will branch out into much more conceptual math at some point. He is already doing Olivia's math in his head, much to her chagrin. 😀
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  • Lisa says:

    So glad you found something helpful and loved the video!
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  • Hayley says:

    This post convinced med to order AAR 3 for my struggling reader. My daughter has similar reading struggles. She has excellent reading comprehension, but struggles to read a list of unrelated words because she is guessing instead of decoding. My package arrive yesterday and I’m so excited to get started! I just wanted to thank you for sharing this. 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    Great post, love the video! Do you have any input on starting level 1 or 2 with struggling going into 2nd kiddos?

    I did the tests and I don’t think they have all the level 1 skills down but I hate to pay for level 1 if we can just dig in on level 2,,,,,

    Thanks for any input!

  • Sarah Jo says:

    I used a variety of things for our oldest and he not only dislikes reading, he doesn’t have a sufficient foundation and guesses often. I wanted to believe that it would just “click” and I’d bide my time until then. I wanted to keep things simple since he’s reluctant to do school but I’m starting to wonder if I don’t need to give AAR a serious try. (I bought it and returned it without using it!) Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      It helped us to push through Sarah Jo. She never did completely finish the program. She just started moving much faster than it about half way through, but to me it was worth it because it got her over that hump. I do have two more coming behind her who will use it, but it was just what she needed.

  • Jeanette says:

    Question: I have a 4 1/2 year old who is DESPERATE to do school every day and I’ve been wanting to do something more formal since she’s so desperately craving it. I’ve looked at this program a few times with the Prereading level. You may not have ever used it, but if you have any guidance, do you think it would be worth it? My daughter knows most of her letters, and I’d say about 1/2 her sounds.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Jeanette – I started the pre-reading level with my then five-year-old last spring (this year is his official K year though he turned 6 in October). He loves it. It goes through the alphabet three times. First it introduces the uppercase letter, then the lowercase, and then the sound. He loves the program. There is a coloring page every day which he tolerates, but he LOVES the games with Ziggy the Zebra. There is one each day. They build a foundation of rhyming and sound segmenting that is important to later reading skills. My favorite part are the story books. The first one with the animals is fun, but the second book of poems is awesome. When a 6yo boy anxiously awaits the poems each day you know they are good. There are some craft, additional letter activities, and fun letter food suggestions. Since he is my youngest we really don’t do those, but they are there if you want them. We have loved using the program and will be sad to finish it next month.

      • Jeanette says:

        thanks so much for responding so quickly! 🙂

  • Shehla says:

    Thank you for sharing your honest review, I’m going to place my order for level 1. It’s silly, but I feel guilty for seeking help beyond Ruth Beechick’s 3Rs book. Please don’t tell anyone I needed additional help. 😉

    Olivia was so precious in that video! Thanks for demonstrating how it works. Is she reading easier these days?

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Shehla — I have the 3Rs and I never could have pulled that off. I need something much more systematic.

      Olivia IS reading much easier. And she loves to do it, too. Chapter books are no problem these days.

  • LeAnn Taylor says:

    I am considering this curriculum for my youngest. My older child was a breeze to teach reading and even spelling. He just tends to “get it,” but his little sister just isn’t the same. I really appreciate this review and this video. It’s super helpful!

  • Sara says:

    Thank you so much for this review! I am pulling my supposed to be 4th grader out of public school this year. She is struggling with reading and did not pass the IRead test that is required to pass in 3rd grade public schools. I’ve been reading about AAR and couldn’t decide which level to start her in. She tested into the 4th level, but I’m going back to the 3rd just to give her extra practice with their methods. I’m praying this flips the switch for her and gets her back on track. Thank you again for sharing!

  • Amber says:

    I looked into All About Reading and realized the headquarters are in my hometown! Ha! My oldest son is an advanced reader. My second does fairly well, but he is inconsistent in some areas. I could see the All About Reading approach working well.

    Also, your daughter is just adorable!

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