Questions about Literature, Reading and Vocabulary

What do "Spelling Power" and "Easy Grammar Plus" books consist of and do they work? What good literature, reading and vocabulary programs are out there that will help with comprehension?

Spelling Power is an excellent system for spelling.  It works well for children who have good memories, who can essentially memorize spelling words through writing them and working with them a few times.  It isn't organized by phonetic word families so it is not a spelling approach that works well with children who have weak memories.  It's draw back is the cost, but its good point is that you can have one spelling resource for all the children.

Easy Grammar Plus is by Wanda Phillips.  It is the same material that is in the Easy Grammar workbooks.  Easy Grammar Plus is more expensive because it contains all the material for all the grades in one book. It is organized by parts of speech.  There are worksheets for every topic. There is a student workbook that can be purchased to go along with it. The worksheet format may get a little tiresome after a while.

Grammar is very difficult to retain if it is not integrated into it's most useful format which is "writing". You never really "know" grammar until you become a writer and use it in real life.

If your child is really struggling with reading comprehension, just going over and over more comprehension material will not solve the problem. Reading a paragraph and then answering questions does not really teach comprehension. It tests comprehension. If you need to work with a child specifically on comprehension, I would suggest the LindaMood Bell kit titled Visualizing and Verbalizing. Look for it on the LindaMood Bell website. Another item that is often used in conjunction with this or alone is the Barnell Loft Comprehension Series. There are levels A-H and there is also a separate workbook for each detailed area.  When put together, each of these areas make up the definition of "comprehension". A few examples are: understanding the main idea and making deductions and inferences. You probably would not want to go through every single book, rather test the child and place him directly in the appropriate one for his level.

If you just want a literature section of about one page and then vocabulary from that section and about 4 exercises a week to go with it, I highly recommend Wordly Wise 3000.  This book is not Wordly Wise, which I do not recommend. You will find that the Wordly Wise 3000 books begin at about the sixth grade level and have an excellent literature selection in each unit. The positive aspect is that it is inexpensive, approximately $7, the negative aspect is that it is a workbook approach. But it is very well written.

EPS publishes quite a few styles of Vocabulary Workbooks.  The format is different for each style.  The words in each book are chosen according to different criteria.

For example: Vocabulary from the Classical Roots chooses words based on the Latin root.  It begins with roots such as unus and bi. Then you study words such as Universal, and Bicycle which relate back to the root.  This is a very good way to remember and relate vocabulary words and other words you had not previously encountered.

Wordly Wise 3000 is a literature based vocabulary book.  You read a literature selection and learn the vocabulary words from the context of the story. This is a very good method for children who not only need extra reading practice, but who are also helped by getting knowledge in context.

The heavy use of riddles, crossword puzzles and hidden messages makes Wordly Wise more difficult to use. Although Worldly Wise 3000 also has puzzles, I believe they have been used more judiciously. The way the words are presented in Wordly Wise is also a little less clear. The words are presented in multiple forms ie. as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. This makes it a little more difficult.  It's not that Wordly Wise is a "bad" vocabulary book, its just that it is not as user friendly and does not teach the words in as usable a format as does Vocabulary for the Classical Roots or Wordly Wise 3000. Think of Wordly Wise 3000 as the new and improved Wordly Wise.

Word lists may more clearly illustrate the point.  Below, I've detailed 3 lists from EPS vocabulary books. EPS also publishes other vocabulary books which we are not considering here.

  • Vocabulary from the Classical Roots: monarch, monogram, monolith, monologue, monopoly, unanimous, unilateral, duplex, duplicate, bisect, bilateral, bipartisan  (These word meanings are more easily remembered because they are tied together by their common roots of mono, unus, duo, and bi.)
  • Wordly Wise 3000:  affect, calculate, climate, column, decay, exceed, forbid, grove, limb, mammoth, mature, permit, resist, scorch, tower. (These words are more easily understood because they are tied together by a narrative selection about Redwood Trees)
  • Wordly Wise: assail, assimilate, charitable, deposit, emulate, fallow, foil, hogshead, mishap, morose, ostentatious, patriot, skein, spurn, touchy, tremor.  (These words do not tie together in any noticeable way, except they are vocabulary useful in a variety of verbal contexts.)

Hope this clarifies it.

Randi St. Denis is an educator, popular homeschool speaker, and a seasoned homeschooling mom. Randi works as a consultant to public, private, and homeschool families; providing teaching expertise and assistance for all types of children. You can visit her website at

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