Review: Readers in Residence

Without a doubt, my favorite feature of Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) by Apologia Educational Ministries is the "Book Talk" section of each module.

From page 28 Readers in Residence Student Text

Every time Little Princess and I have opened a family discussion with the questions provided, the dinner-time conversations have become lively and interesting.

The kids have even asked, "How come [Little Princess] has such cool school?"

But first, some back story:

We were offered the opportunity to review the Readers in Residence Volume 1 full set.  That means we received both the massive (picture 2+ inches thick) all-in-one Student Text and Workbook and the Answer Key.

According to the FAQ, this reading comprehension program "is geared at students in 4th grade and up."

As my Nature Angel is a 4th grader, we naturally figured she'd be the lucky family member to enjoy this curriculum.

But she broke her arm just as it arrived.

Her right arm.

Her writing arm.

So, all school requiring writing was suddenly out of the question.

And, as Readers in Residence is chock full of pages requiring writing such as this . . .

 . . . and this . . .

 . . . we were kind of at a loss about what to do.

Until Little Princess picked up the book and looked through it and exclaimed, "I want to do this school!!!!"

Little Princess is a second grader who is an advanced reader.

We needed a family member to do this review.

We gave it a shot.

And it worked. :)

How it worked:

Readers in Residence Volume 1 is divided into 6 units.  Units 1, 3, and 5 are designed around specific high-quality children's literature--Sarah, Plain and Tall; Charlotte's Web; and Because of Winn-Dixie.  Units 2, 4, and 6 are called On Your Own units in which the student chooses a book of the same literary genre as the specific unit preceding (i.e.  Unit 1 is about the historical fiction novel Sarah, Plain, and Tall, so the student would choose a different historical fiction book for Unit 2--don't worry, there's a list of recommendations if you need it!) and applies the skills learned from the previous Unit.

Working 3-5 days each week, and totally enjoying the included lesson plan calendar, Little Princess and I almost finished Unit 1 over the course of our review period.

Each Unit is divided into modules, and each module is further divided into numbered sections for ease of making assignments.

Modules include direct instruction:


reading assignments;

written assignments (as seen above);

conversation starters (also seen above);

my second favorite feature--Sowing Seeds;

 vocabulary; grammar (minimal); drawing; book club meeting suggestions; and lots more!

No wonder this book is so huge!

Day-to-Day workings:

At first, Little Princess and I sat down together to work through the program as directed--essentially that I would show her which lessons to do, point out anything I thought she might need help with, and send her off to read and write on her own.

That would work with the 4th+ graders this program is designed for.  Had Nature Angel had use of her hand, she'd have really enjoyed reading and responding on her own.

But Little Princess, while a capable reader and thinker, is not ready to handle so much independent work.

We adjusted.

First we sat together to read the text, talk about what we'd learned, and then I'd help her write her answers down.

Eventually we shifted to almost completely oral work.  Now we just read and talk our way through the questions.  For the vocabulary sections, we do some talking and some dictionary/writing.  For the grammar sections, we do the writing together.  She narrates a lot of what she understands to me, and I record it.

It is joyful.

And, honestly, I'm so grateful that we did it this way!  Talking with my girl, sharing together the joys and wonders of reading and making human and spiritual connections has been so satisfying.  Had I sent her off to do the work independently, we'd have missed some of our precious shared moments, though we still would have connected over the Book Talk, Sowing Seeds, and Book Club assignments.

There are also some drawing/artistic assignments that Little Princess has enjoyed to varying degrees:

Sarah, Anna, and Caleb meeting for the first time.

A comic strip illustrating a challenging experience that led to new knowledge/behavior.
Each module also has a grading rubric with a point system.  I'm not much a fan of grading my kids' work, but we gave it a try for the first module, and it was useful for helping us both see where Little Princess is strong and where she could use some improvement.  For modules 2 and 3, we didn't bother with the rubric, but then we discovered this in the appendix:

It took about 3 seconds for Little Princess to decide that she wanted to go back and count points so that she could get her award when she finished the curriculum.

So we went back through and assessed how many points were reasonable. :)

The Answer Key:

At first I didn't use it.  We were talking about really basic reading skills and opinions, so I didn't feel a need for it.  But then some of the questions started to be specific, and I felt that we were kind of skimming the surface with our conversations, so I turned to the Answer Key for a bit of guidance.  Reading the suggested answers helped me to guide our conversations to deeper levels without having to do any extra preparation.

I've come to appreciate having the Answer Key as a resource.

The Book Club component:

One interesting part of Readers in Residence is the recommendation to start a book club for developing reading skills.  Honestly, with my kids already participating in a Cousins' Book Club (we have homeschooling cousins reasonably near by) and a Teen Classics Book Club, the last thing I wanted to do was start another club. 

I was fully prepared to skip this part altogether.  It really is not necessary.

But then I saw the pages of suggestions for how to have a book club meeting for Sarah, Plain and Tall, and I was hooked. 

It only took a second to text my sister and request that our next Cousins' Book Club be devoted to this sweet, profound book.

Our meeting is scheduled for a few weeks out, but I'll tell you that we're going to have homemade bread and butter and lemonade; we're going to plant wildflower gardens in cups, and we're going to have great conversations--all ideas courtesy of Readers in Residence.

And Little Princess will be tickled pink when she gets an extra 50 points for her Sleuth's Log.

In Conclusion:

I've never, ever felt that reading comprehension questions or guided reading programs were worth my time or money before.  Our family is a reading family.  And we naturally talk about books together.

However, as Little Princess and I have sat down to study how to be a good reader and to have specific, one-on-one conversations with guidance from Readers in Residence, we've had greater depth of conversation, communication, and understanding.

I'm sold.

Check out what other crew members have to say about Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) here or by clicking on the banner below.


  1. Sounds like it was a lovely programme for Little Princess - and you.


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