“Reading is a conversation between a reader and an author.” This is a quote from the introduction to the Excellence in Literature reading program and I LOVE IT! As a reading teacher, I have always thought of reading as exactly that, and I am happy to find a reading program that supports this point of view!
You may be familiar with the IEW writing programs, but Excellence in Literature is a program aimed at helping kids to read and analyze literature. There is writing involved, but the main focus is reading! It is aimed at grades 8-12, and I will say, I consider it an advanced program. It digs deeper into the reading than other programs I have used.
The progam has both regular and honors options, (depending on which books you choose), and uses classic literature books and short stories, which you may (or may not) be familiar with. I already had a few of the books used in the program (Treasure Island, Jane Eyre, Animal Farm) but many of the books are available at your library or on the internet.
The program is designed to be self-directed, with week by week lesson plans. However, it could DEFINITELY be considered a college-prep program, and my 8th grade son, who used the Introduction to Literature program, needed a lot of support with this program at first. Not so much with the reading, but with the analyzing and writing parts of the program. So many times I have seen students “read” a book, and yes, they get the “gist” of what’s going on, and can even put together a good summary of the book, but, when you dig deeper and ask them questions that cause them to think CRITICALLY about what they have read, they just don’t get it!
The first unit starts off with short stories. Links for the stories were included, although some of them did not work. I was able to find most of the stories online however, so it wasn’t too much of a problem. My son had to write a compare and contrast essay for the short stories, and that wasn’t too much of a problem, as he had already done essays like that before.
The second unit involved reading Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea if you wanted to pursue the honors option). My son enjoyed this book, and the manual includes background info on the author as well as links to include poetry by Jules Verne, music related to books of his that have been made into movies, visual images etc. etc.
The manual instructed students to read the novel over a two-week time period, but we took a little longer to finish it! 🙂 My son had to write an author profile, which he didn’t have too much trouble with. The program gives you resources to find out more about the author, so that part wasn’t hard. However,when he was asked to write an essay responding to a specific question about the story, and to include specific examples from the story to support his opinion, that was a little more difficult. Since this was the first time he’d done this, we started with a discussion of his answer to the question, then together we brainstormed examples from the story to support his answer. I have to say, this was the best literary discussion we have ever had!!
He is currently reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and we are working through those assignments together as well. I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of Mark Twain, but this is a book I actually liked.
The Introduction to Literature includes eight units in all, and I suspect my son will need less and less support from me as time goes on. If we do the second part of the program next year (English II: Literature and Compostion), I think he will probably be okay to do the progam by himself with me available to answer questions as they come up.
Excellence in Literature includes English I, English II, American Lit, British Lit, and World Lit. I have looked at the upcoming programs and I think they look amazing! The selection of books alone is fantastic, and the manual comes with great instructions and clear examples of the types of papers students are expected to write.
If you are looking for a challenging, college-prep program for your middle schooler or high schooler, I would definitely recommend Excellence in Literature! The cost of Introduction to Literature is $29 plus $4.95 s/h for the print book, and $27 for the ebook, and the other individual programs are the same cost. Considering what a great program this is, I think that is worth it! You can also buy all 5 volumes for $139 plus s/h or $135 for the ebook. If you would like to learn more about this program, check out the website here:
**Disclaimer: I received this program free of charge for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.