Monday, March 9

Using the Boxcar Children with Hi-Lo Readers {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
Our special needs son is in middle school, but still struggles quite a bit with reading comprehension.  He is what we'd call a Hi-Lo reader (High Interest-Low Level).  It can be quite difficult to find books that fit this type of child's needs, so when Albert Whitman & Company offered us a chance to read The Boxcar Children Early Reader Set, we were delighted to give them a go!

The Boxcar Children is a series that was originally published in the 1940s, and has been beloved by generations since.  They feature a tight-knit group of children who solves mysteries and has adventures together.  The storylines are fun and interesting to follow, but the books can be daunting for a struggling reader.  With The Boxcar Children Early Reader Set, children get the adventure, but with an adapted text.  

These books are designed for beginning readers, but are a great addition to any family library for high interest-low level readers. (A high interest-low level book (hi-lo book) is a chapter book of easier readability, but with characters that are older and topics that aren’t considered ‘babyish’ by the struggling reader) Three strategies that readers need to develop to become more confident are predicting, summarizing, and inferring.  Early readers can practice all of these skills in the pages of this set.  

Read the back of a book, see the cover, flip through illustrations, or skim the first few pages,and you can probably tell what’s going to happen, right? This is predicting, and it’s a critical first step. Unless you can predict what might happen, you are not invested in the text.

Summarizing is another task that will keep you invested in the text. I like to check in with my children every so often to be sure that they understand what is happening. This can be a difficult task for many struggling learners. So ask leading questions to help them remember details.

Finally, making inferences is a necessary skill, yet one that requires the development of abstract thought. This is your ‘reading between the lines’ skill, and is also where the majority of confusion comes in for struggling readers. The amount of inferring needed is what separates the basic from difficult texts at the upper grades level.  It is a skill that The Boxcar Children Early Reader Set does not assume your child has mastered.  This is a way the text differs from the original books, and one reason that we recommend this set for struggling readers.

This set includes four stories from the iconic series.  It is geared toward grades K-2, but can be used with any age beginning reader.  There are currently six books released, with two more coming in 2020.  This particular set includes:
  • The Boxcar Children - Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny are orphans. The only way they can stay together as a family is to make it on their own. So when the children find an abandoned boxcar in the woods, they decide to call it home—and become the Boxcar Children! 
  • Mystery Ranch - The Aldens head to their aunt’s ranch for the summer and make an amazing discovery!
  • Yellow House Mystery - Years ago, a man disappeared from the yellow house on Surprise Island. Why? The Aldens have found a clue to the mystery!
  • Surprise Island - The Aldens spend the summer on Grandfather’s island! Joe, the island’s friendly handyman, helps them with anything they need, but as the children continue to explore their summer home, they realize there is more to the island—and to their new friend—than meets the eye.
As we read through the books together - I like to have him read aloud beside me - we stopped regularly for comprehension checks.  It did not take us very long to read them, as he is a bit older than the intended audience, but we spent a lot of time practicing those three skills from above with each storyline.  He was interested in the plots, and the mysteries involved, but able to read and keep up all by himself.  Parents of struggling readers will know what a victory this truly is!

I would recommend these books to families who have children that might be "under the reading curve," and my son would recommend them to "anybody who wants to solve an adventure!"  

Find out more about Albert Whitman & Company at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
The Boxcar Children Early Reader Set {Albert Whitman & Company Reviews}

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