Review: Reading A-Z.com
April 3, 2014 | 4:40 pm
By Joanna Cabot
My school recently purchased, at my request, a one-year subscription to the website Reading A-Z.com. The website offers hundreds of printable leveled reader books in a variety of languages (English, British English, French, Spanish), and I found it when I was looking for French resources I could use to enhance my program for a child who speaks French at home. I think this resource will be useful for other teachers in my school, and I am looking forward to seeing what people do with it.
I had thought initially that I could save the PDF files for use on my iPad. I can, but this is fiddly. They are formatted as mini books, with even the single-sided books printing two to a page, and are really meant to be printed, bound and read that way. I did later learn that there is a companion website which offers ebooks, but it costs extra money and is not quite what I was looking for (the ebooks are read online in a proprietary software, with accompanying interactive activities I am not sure our computer network can handle). There is a ‘projectable book’ option you can use to read them slide show style on a SMARTboard, but for the most part it’s pretty much print, chop in half, staple and go.
The books are all illustrated and formatted attractively, and include both fiction and non-fiction titles. Most of the books also offer supplementary worksheets and other printables of both useful and less useful varieties. This is solid stuff—it’s nothing earth-shatteringly genius, but the website more than compensates for that with sheer quantity: the different book types offered include the leveled books plus series fiction, alphabet books, high-frequency word books, sound & symbol books, vocabulary books, poetry and more; the leveled reader collection alone spans over 1200 titles at 27 different levels. When you factor in the multi-language options, most schools would find more than enough to make the $99 annual fee worthwhile.
We have a resource teacher who saw me working on this review and was absolutely thrilled by what she saw. Part of her job is putting leveling stickers on the print books we have in our school library; the sorting, organizing and actual label application occupies hours of time. The notion of simply logging in, picking a level and then printing it out on the spot appealed to her greatly. Books could even be sent home with students for homework, and another could be generated to take their place!
She also routinely encounters the frustration of finding the perfect book for a given reading group, only to find she has not got enough copies for all the students. Being able to just go in and make another one solves that problem neatly, and the site offers a conversion chart so that those who would like to integrate the site’s resources with another level system such as Lexile or Reading Recovery can do so. There are also books specially marked as benchmark books for that level, so that you can try a few out and see where they best fit.
I am overall happy with the site purchase. I felt that there was a bit too much advertising for the other pay sites these folks do, and I would have liked to see samples without having to fork over an email. And these would be somewhat better for me as iPad-readable straight PDFs. The whole print-and-cut thing is less useful for me. But I know other teachers here will use and love this site, and I will find more than enough on here for me to make the work I did setting this up worthwhile. I think that we’ll see more stuff like this in the future. Sorting and leveling and labeling paper books for this sort of work is extremely dull and tedious work. This website makes it a lot easier.