The Essentials Reader

By Kimber Iverson
An optional reading comprehension supplement to Essentials
designed for older students struggling with reading

The Essentials Reader, designed to meet the intellectual needs of the older struggling reader while building confidence, reading fluency, and comprehension skills, is an optional reading comprehension add-on to Essentials. It provides high-interest readings for each Essentials lesson that have been controlled for phonograms and spelling rules students have been taught up through that point, so that they can truly read every word successfully without guessing or relying on sight words memorized by rote.

Now available in printed hardcover, as well as in digital format with Family and Classroom license PDF versions.

Strengthen new skills from Essentials with engaging reading texts!

The high-interest passages in the Essentials Reader provide effective, encouraging practice for struggling readers. Beginning with short quips and moving to poems, a recipe, short stories, and informational texts, students gain fluency and confidence by building upon their prior knowledge and applying the new language tools they are learning in each Essentials lesson. As students progress, the texts grow in length and complexity to match their developing skills.

Meeting the needs of the older struggling reader

These texts are designed with the older struggling reader in mind. They use more advanced vocabulary and sentence structure than early readers designed for younger students that often appear "babyish" for an older student. In addition, the Essentials Reader includes high-interest topics such as sports, science, technology, myths, history, and biographies that will engage older learners and provide appropriate levels of challenge while supporting them in developing fluency with the tools they are learning. Rather than discouraging older students, these texts provide the support they need while meeting their interests and intellectual needs, strengthening comprehension skills, and expanding their vocabularies.

Teacher's Guide and Student Activity Book

By Kimber Iverson, Christy Jones, and Denise Eide

Students may use The Essentials Reader in conjunction with Essentials simply by completing each Essentials lesson and then, in the Reader, practicing decoding the lesson's list of pre-reading words beforehand and reading the passage.

However, for those who desire to use the reader as a more complete reading comprehension and composition program, the optional Essentials Reader Teacher's Guide and Student Activity Book provide hundreds of ideas for pre-reading, comprehension, analysis, note-taking, vocabulary, composition, and extension activities with the Reader texts. Take your students on a journey of discovery as they develop their reading skills (and make lesson-planning a breeze)!


Q & A about The Essentials Reader

What age is The Essentials Reader recommended for?
The Essentials Reader is recommended for any student age eight or nine and above who is using Essentials to strengthen basic reading skills and learn how written English works. It may also be used as a reading comprehension and composition program for any student in 3rd to 5th grade.

Is The Essentials Reader an alternative to Essentials?
No. The Reader does not teach the phonograms and spelling rules, or how to read. It is designed as an optional add-on to the curriculum to provide meaningful reading practice with the powerful language tools taught in Essentials lessons.

Isn't Essentials a spelling curriculum?
Essentials is a complete course in the structure of written English, and the concepts it teaches enable students to both read and spell successfully. Students who already read well complete Essentials lessons with a primary focus on strengthening spelling, though they also continue to learn concepts that help with advanced vocabulary and reading comprehension. Students who struggle with reading can complete Essentials with the primary focus on learning the tools for reading; the spelling lessons serve to deepen and strengthen reading skills, while also laying a foundation for future spelling success.

Can The Essentials Reader be used with both the 1st and the 2nd editions of Essentials?
The Reader lessons are numbered to correlate with Essentials 2nd Edition. Those using the 1st edition can use the Reader as well after making some simple adjustments to accommodate for the difference in numbering between the two editions and a few changes in the sequence in which concepts are introduced. Consult Appendix A, at the back of the Reader, to see which phonograms and rules students need to have learned before reading each lesson's texts. The Reader may also be used, with care, by those teaching older struggling readers with with any other Orton-Gillingham-based program, by carefully comparing what phonograms and rules have been taught with the list in Appendix A of which ones are needed for each passage.

How should the Reader be incorporated into Essentials lessons?
With the first edition of Essentials, students can read each text at any time after they have completed the lessons in which the corresponding rules and phonograms are taught (see Appendix A of the Reader for a list). In some cases, students may benefit from staggering the Reader passages by an additional lesson, so that they do not read the text for each lesson until one lesson after they have learned all the necessary skills, in order to allow time to develop greater familiarity with the new concepts.

In Essentials 2nd edition, the Reader passage is scheduled as an optional activity in Day 4. That lesson's Reader passage may be read then or at any point after that. The Reader lesson numbers correlate with the Essentials lessons.

With both editions, if you are working with an older student who has significant difficulty with reading, especially if the student is discouraged or cynical, we recommend the following:

  • Complete Essentials lessons together, teaching the tools that unlock English words and providing practice using these skills through the Essentials activites and the reading passages in the Reader. Focus on developing mastery of the phonograms and rules; make this the top priority for language arts (or for all academic work) for a time.
  • Temporarily drop all requirement that the student read, except for Essentials actvities and the Essentials Reader texts. Allow the student to continue to build confidence and fluency applying the tools that he or she is learning in Essentials, and do not require completion of reading tasks for which you have not yet taught all the needed tools.
  • Use audio books, read aloud to the student, and watch documentaries to keep working on age-appropriate content and comprehension while you are strengthening basic reading skills.
  • Begin to incorporate other reading material that is not phonics controlled when the student begins to want to do so voluntarily. For many struggling readers, we find that this begins to happen somewhere between lessons 18 and 25 in Essentials 1st edition (lessons 16-22 of Essentials 2nd edition), though every student is different.

Are the Reader Teacher's Guide and Student Activity Book required to teach the Essentials Reader?
No, they are optional resources.

Purchasing Options

The Essentials Reader - Full color. 184 pages. Reusable student book.

Teacher's Guide: Companion to the Essentials Reader - Full color. 102 pages. Reusable teacher resource.

Student Activity Book: Companion to the Essentials Reader - Black and white. 202 pages. Student consumable.

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