Enter the Circle C Beginnings series from Kregel Publications. Now THIS, I can get happily on board with. The stories are geared toward the early reader, yet they are wholesome, moral stories with both an element of history and the truth of Jesus Christ as God and Savior.
We received the second book in the series, Andi's Indian Summer. The story follows Andi, a 6 year old girl living on the Circle C Ranch in California, in the late 1800's. Andi's friend Riley, an 8 year old boy, reads her a "dime book" story about Indians and Andi finds herself both curious and terrified. When Andi and Riley encounter real Indians (from the historically accurate Yokut tribe), they both discover that these Indians are nothing like those in the fictional story. The story teaches good lessons about fear, anger, making good choices and forgiveness.
The story is just the beginning. At the beginning of the book, there is a list of new words to help the reader understand some of the historical context that would otherwise be confusing. After the story ends, there's a note from the author about some of the history that may not make sense to a young child living in today's world. For instance, when Andi and Riley ride off and end up meeting the real Indians, they are very far from home. Most children can't imagine having the freedom at age 6 or 8 to not only ride away from home on a horse, but to go so far away from home that they'd lose their way or have to wait until the following morning to return. The book explains that children in the time period where the book is set would have much more freedom and responsibility at much younger ages than now.
Besides the rich content of the book, there's also the website. The entire Circle C Beginnings set is linked to the Andi and Taffy website. The website offers free coloring pages, puzzles (that can be played on the computer or printed out to cut out and put together) and an entire set of free activities to accompany each book. The activity set is full of word puzzles, geography studies, dot-to-dots, history studies, a "write your own story" section and much more! You can also purchase the other books on the site, as well as the resources to Lap Book through each book.
The books are available directly from the publisher for $4.99 each, or as a 4-pack for $15.96 (plus shipping). You can purchase them from the Andi and Taffy website, Amazon.com* or through Christianbook.com (offered in sets for $14.99 and up). There are currently four titles: Andi's Pony Trouble, Andi's Indian Summer, Andi's Fair Suprise and Andi's Scary School Days. There are two more titles due to be released at the beginning of August 2011 - Andi's Lonely Little Foal and Andi's Circle C Christmas. Check out the series' You Tube video:
This was a terrific story for my two new readers. Kaitlyn is 7 and Megan is 5, and they're both reading at about a 1st grade level right now. We used this book as a read-aloud with the girls and myself taking turns reading a paragraph. We stopped after each chapter to discuss what we'd read and check that they were adequately comprehending what they'd read. We also used several of the activities from the AndiandTaffy website. They loved the book, and are looking forward to reading the rest of the series. I also noticed my older son (11) both listening eagerly during our read-aloud times, AND picking up the book and reading it himself (something he rarely does with any books). I loved the history, adventure and Biblical lessons that these books bring to "easy" reading, and I'll be adding the rest of the series to our library.
Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Circle C Beginnings: Andi's Indian Summer in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.
*The Amazon link is an affiliate link. If you purchase the books through this link, I receive a small percentage of the sale.