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All About Reading for Building Fluency and Confidence


Written by Jessica.


(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Our family has been using one or more levels of All About Reading in our homeschool for the past six years. I’ve changed curriculum in other subjects more times than I’d like to admit. But, AAR has been a constant. There are many reviews out there about the first levels of the All About Reading program but few about Level 4. Whether you’re already an AAR fan or have just heard about it, this might help you to discern whether using AAR Level 4 is a good fit.


A Quick Overview of All About Reading


All About Reading does not use designated grade levels and is instead a mastery-based program. It can be used more quickly by an advanced younger reader, used traditionally grade by grade, or used as remediation to help a struggling older reader catch up.

AAR Pre-Reading corresponds with traditional preschool work, with a focus on upper and lowercase letter recognition and phonological and print awareness.

AAR Level 1 corresponds with kindergarten reading skills, focusing on things like consonant sounds, short and long vowel sounds, two-letter consonant blends, and CVC words.

AAR Level 2 corresponds with first-grade level reading and focuses on things like CVCE words, two-letter vowel teams, three-letter consonant blends, contractions, and shorter multi-syllable words.

AAR Level 3 corresponds with second-grade level reading, with a focus on more complex two and three-letter phonograms, prefixes/suffixes and base words, and longer multi-syllable words.


Using AAR Level 3


Three years ago, our oldest child was in second grade and was using All About Reading Level 3 in a traditional, grade level type way. I divided the lessons so that we’d focus on one lesson, one set of new phonograms/rules/words, and a story from the reader each week. She was developing fluency and also reading beginner reader books but still wasn’t what I’d call “a reader.”

Then, something amazing happened! In the early spring, I was reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my kids at bed-time, and it immediately piqued her interest. She asked if she could read ahead, and I said of course. Although I didn’t say so, I initially thought the book was too advanced for her reading abilities. The Little House on the Prairie book series is for readers ages eight through age twelve, or grades three through seven.

At that time she was a young second grader, only seven-years-old. Well, she quickly proved me wrong. Over the next few days, she couldn’t put the book down. And I soon realized that she had made a quantum leap in reading. She was reading words with phonograms and rules that I had not even taught her yet and was reading with excellent fluency and comprehension. Almost overnight, my oldest had become a reader!

To this school teacher-turned-homeschooler, “a reader” is the child who can read fluently (although reading growth will still happen for years to come) AND who chooses to read for the joy of reading. And read for joy she did! As a big believer in having a home library with high-quality literature at the ready, I invested in all the books in the Little House on the Prairie series. In that spring and summer, before she turned eight, she devoured those books, reading and re-reading them. For the first time ever, she was reading in her free time and past bed-time. That was the year of the pioneer dress and bonnet for her birthday. It was a magical time!

Meanwhile, she finished the remaining months of second grade using AAR Level 3. At this point, she could fluently read the phonogram/word cards, fluency sheets, and stories from the reader as soon as they were put in front of her. And she didn’t want to read from the reading book any longer – she only wanted real books! When she tested three grade levels ahead in reading at the end of that school year, it confirmed what I already saw. With her confident fluency, a clear interest in certain types of books, and a new love of reading, I knew I could do reading with her going forward with only books. AAR had gotten her to that point, and Level 3 was enough.


Using AAR Level 4


Fast forward to last spring! My middle child was now completing his second-grade year and was also using AAR Level 3. He was completing the Level 3 lessons at about the same pace my oldest had been, but with two exceptions.

First, while his reading was strong and while he tested two grade levels ahead for reading, he was not showing consistent fluency. I really wanted to see that confidence and independence that comes from being a truly fluent reader. Second, he wasn’t overly interested in reading yet. As a second grader, he greatly loved all of the books in the Henry and Mudge series and also really enjoyed beginner chapter books about American history, animals, and heroism. He would read these books for enjoyment or with me in conjunction with AAR Level 3, but I didn’t see a true love of reading developing yet.

In addition, the books that he was reading were shorter ones. And at the time, I didn’t have confidence in myself to compile books for him that would be of interest to him, at his reading level, and would help deepen his reading skills. So, with these three factors in mind, I decided to use AAR Level 4 for the first time with my middle child. It turned out to be a great fit!


A Look at AAR Level 4


All About Reading Level 4 uses similar materials and approaches as previous AAR levels. If you already love AAR, you will not be disappointed with Level 4! There are phonogram and word cards, fluency sheets, cut-out games, word-flippers, and two reading books with high-interest stories. The teacher's manual and student activity book follow the same easy-to-use format as the other levels.

The pacing of AAR Level 4 is quicker. New stories correspond with almost every lesson, and the stories are longer than in AAR Level 3. For the older or advanced reader, this is great because there is ample reading practice and exposure to more stories and genres. There are lots of cut-out games that correspond with each lesson (sometimes more than one per lesson); again, even more games than in previous levels. This adds interest and fun to the lessons.

I worried that AAR Level 4 would be too easy, but it’s definitely not a “fluff” program. It covers topics such as words with more complex phonograms, words with multiple prefixes and suffixes, words with silent letters, unaccented syllables, homonyms and heteronyms, synonyms and antonyms, onomatopoeia, alliteration, idioms, personification, acronyms, hyperbole, and words containing influences from Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian. It’s meaty and for the more advanced reader. Decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills are worked on throughout every lesson.


I highly recommend AAR Level:
If you have a child who is reading well in Level 3 but who needs to further develop fluency, confidence, or independence in reading.

If you like an open-and-go curriculum. The older my kids get, the more their educational needs increase, not decrease. I no longer have the energy to reinvent any wheels, and the programs I love most and find I stick with are the ones like this. I could have pieced together many of the topics AAR Level 4 covers, but it would absolutely not be worth my time to do so.

If you have a younger, gifted reader. My youngest, in first grade, is an advanced reader and completed AAR Level 3 partway through this school year. I’ve filled the remaining months of school by having him read books. But next school year, he will be using AAR Level 4 in addition to reading books. This will allow me to keep working on targeted reading skills with him for another school year.

If you want to work on higher level reading skills with your reader. As described above, there are plenty of challenging concepts covered in AAR Level 4. Even an advanced or gifted reader would benefit from covering these topics.


Becoming a Reader


Using AAR Level 4, my third grader’s fluency improved rapidly. He, too, got to the place where he could almost always fluently read the phonogram/word cards, fluency sheets, and stories as soon as they were in front of him. AAR helped build that foundation, but there was one important thing still missing: a love for reading.

Just like with his sister, the magic happened when my middle child discovered books that really interested him. I found the Ranger in Time series, and it instantly appealed to my history, adventure, and dog-loving boy. His love of reading slowly grew. Then, when I stumbled across the I Survived series, he was hooked on books. Suddenly, he was staying up hours past bedtime to read more chapters, telling his sister and brother they’d have to wait to play with him because he wanted to read another chapter, and completing a book in a day or two. As he worked through the books in both series and re-read favorites, he was already asking me what books/series he should read next. We had another reader in our house!

Because it took a little longer than it did for his older sister and because I feared it might not happen, my middle child developing a love for reading has been especially sweet for this mama. AAR Level 4 helped him to make the jump from being able to read, to being able to read fluently and confidently. Good books, on topics and in genres he likes, then piqued his interest and grew his love of reading.

Becoming a reader, to me, is about more than just learning how to read. It’s about being able to read fluently and confidently. It’s about finding true enjoyment in reading books and developing a love of reading. It’s those things that will make a child want to read, not just for school but for a lifetime.



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