Thursday, November 2, 2017

Improving Reading Skills with The Magic Stories {A TOS Review}

I absolutely love finding new resources to help my children improve their reading skills. So when I learned about The Magic Stories, I was intrigued. I was even more interested when I discovered that The Magic Stories was published by Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series. We actually reviewed The Reading Game a few years ago. Hannah used it then, and Harold is using it now. It was wonderful to receive these new stories for older children who are more advanced readers. 

We received the full set of six Magic Stories books in downloadable PDF format, along with the deck of Naughty Forty Words and pages of support exercises that go with each story. 

The stories we received are:
  • The Magic Hole
  • The Magic Ax
  • The Magic Joke
  • The Magic Hotdog
  • The Magic Boots
  • The Magic Box

Each story is between 16 and 24 pages in length. Additionally, the last page of each book contains the list of Naughty Forty words. 

These books are "optimized" for an iPad or computer screen, but can easily be printed on paper, which is what we did. I wanted to be able to cuddle up on the couch while Hannah read these stories to me, and as we don't have an iPad, this was the best way to go. Besides, I prefer physical books myself over a book on a screen. So, you can choose whichever format works best for your family. However, I did want to say, I printed on white paper, so there are no colors as shown in the images above. If I could have done so, I would have loved to have color coded them like that, as it reminds me of The Reading Game.

The Naughty Forty cards for each book are available in a separate file. There are four pages of cards, ten cards on each page. These words are more difficult words or ones that don't follow rules. Here is a page of the words from the first book, The Magic Hole:

These are arranged alphabetically. Along with the word, which is printed in bold font, there is a sentence using the word. 

I printed two copies of these cards out onto card stock to make them a bit sturdier as I knew we would be using them as flashcards and for a memory game. Just to clarify, it does not state that we are to print out two copies, but because we used The Reading Game, I really wanted to include this aspect to The Magic Stories. With The Reading Game, you are to play the memory card game to help the child learn the words, then they get to read the story cards and ultimately the books. 

In addition to the books and the Naughty Forty word decks, we received the Exercises that go with each book. There are seven pages in each file. 
  • Exercise 1: Maze
  • Exercise 2: Finish the Sentence (two pages)
  • Exercise 3: "Imagine!" or "Real & Imaginary"
  • Exercise 4: Finish or Write the Story
  • Running Record
  • Naughty Forty Word Assessment Worksheet
The maze is a wonderful and unique way for the child to review the story. 

The child is to read each sentence and decide whether it is true or false. Then the "T" or the "F" is followed to the next section. Correct answers move the child through the maze, while incorrect answers direct the child to check off one of the boxes at the top of the page and go back. If the child gets too many wrong they are supposed to reread the story. 

In exercise 2, Finish the Sentence, the child is to complete the sentence in their own words, sharing what they remember about the part of the story that the beginning of the sentence addresses.

Exercise 3 will be one of two different activities. In "Imagine!" the child is to imagine they are in different situations related to the story and write a sentence or two to answer the question. With "Real & Imaginary" the child is to think through different ways that things in the stories may really be able to happen versus what would be imaginary. They may have to circle/underline their answer or write out their own examples. 

Exercise 4 gives the child a chance to use their creative writing skills. Sometimes they are given a choice of two beginning paragraphs which begin a story somewhat related to the book they just read. Other times they are given ideas for a story to choose from. These stories are to be written on a separate piece of paper. 

In addition to these exercises these files contain the Reading Record and the Naughty Forty Word Assessment Worksheets. I used both of these sheets prior to Hannah reading the story and after we were done with the story. 

The Reading Record tests fluency, giving the child a 100 word excerpt from the story to read. I timed Hannah and marked the words she struggled with. It was quite encouraging to see her time and accuracy improve in the second reading. 

The Word Assessment Worksheet lists what are supposed to be the Naughty Forty words. It is used to determine if the child can read the word, understand what it means, and use it in a sentence. We did find that these words don't always match the words on the cards and the last page of the book. As I use the vocabulary cards to fill out the assessment sheet, I just added words or crossed them out when they didn't match up. Though it wasn't a huge deal, I would much prefer the assessment page to match with the actual Naughty Forty words. 


Though the files we received contained Word Assessment Worksheets with different words than the listed Naughty Forty, there are updated correct lists toward the bottom of the page on The Magic Stories website.

How did we use The Magic Stories?

As we were provided no instructions, I came up with my own plan. We are taking two weeks to go through each story plus it's exercises. Prior to reading the story, I would go through the flashcards with Hannah. I would mark whether she could read the word, plus make a separate mark to note whether she understood how to use it in a sentence. Sometimes she couldn't read the word, but once she knew what the word was she was able to use it in a sentence. Other times she was able to read the word, but didn't quite know what it meant. The majority of the time she surprised me by being able to read the word and use it in a sentence. 

It wasn't until we were done with the first story that I realized we were missing the memory matching game aspect that we loved with The Reading Game. So, for the second story, I printed out the second copy of the cards. I still used them as flashcards first, then we played the game, utilizing ten words at a time. 

Like in The Reading Game, she had to be able to read the word in order to collect it after she matched it. 

We didn't get through all the cards before she was begging to read the story. So, I let her read, as we had already reviewed all the words prior to playing the game. We move to the couch and she reads the entire story to me in one sitting. We did find that there were additional words in the stories that were tricky for her, not just the ones that were identified as a part of the "Naughty Forty." I admit, it did make me wonder why specific words were or weren't chosen to be added to this list. 

The introductory day of each story is mainly vocabulary with the cards, assessments and a reading through of the story. Then the second day I have her read the story and work on the maze. The third day we may work on the vocabulary cards again or just go straight into the story. This time she may read to daddy instead of me. She then begins on Exercise 2 where she has to complete the sentences. This exercise takes her two days, and may require her to reread portions of the story to help her finish the assignment, especially because we hadn't worked on it since the previous week. The fifth day we work on Exercise 4, which isn't as much comprehension of the story, but being able to use her imagination or think logically about aspects of the story. For the first story, I actually wrote her answers as she dictated them to me, because it was more writing than she is used to doing at a time, and I really didn't want to take another extra day. So far we have also skipped the fourth exercise which is composition. I figure once we get through all the stories, we will go back and do all the creative writing exercises. On the sixth and final day with the story I do the assessments again. 


I have been advised that you can now find the instructions on the Magic Stories website, in the free resources section toward the bottom of the page. I was happy to discover that we were using them the correct way. Though as homeschoolers, we have learned that it is okay to use products and curriculum in ways different than the instructions state. Ah, the beauty of the flexibility in homeschooling.

There are also Answer Keys for the first two exercises of each book.

What did we think of The Magic Stories?

Hannah is very excited to be working on these stories. She loves reading them and seeing the lesson that the main character learns. Additionally, she really enjoys working on the mazes.

I love that this has given us some fun "mommy/daughter" time. My husband and I have been quite impressed with her reading skills as she reads through these books. We were wondering if she was really reading some of the chapter books she said she was reading or if she was just skimming along, not understanding. Realizing all these "naughty" words that she actually recognizes and understands has been a big shock to us. Though of course there are some that I wasn't surprised she didn't know, such as "indignantly." That one seemed a bit advanced for a second grader. 

I love that these stories aren't just fun, but also include moral lessons. Though with the second story, The Magic Ax, I was a bit upset that the main character, Tom, never actually confessed to lying about cutting all the logs when it was the ax performing the work. Yes, he did learn the importance of doing the work because the ax lost its magic. And yes, he worked very hard and persevered (a word Hannah loves using), but he was working so hard to make sure his family didn't discover his secret, before he realized he enjoyed the work. 

The stories themselves are just about the right length for the grade they are intended for, 2nd-3rd grade. Hannah has been able to read them in one sitting without complaining. The font in the stories seems to be just about the right size and there is enough space between lines to make in not feel cluttered. 

Additionally, though there are quite a few pages, it is not all text, as you can see in the above picture. There are a decent amount of these black and white illustrations that help break up the text and help tell the story. 

The exercises do a wonderful job reviewing the story and digging into it. Though there were some times when Hannah would be in tears because she wasn't sure what she was supposed to write and she couldn't express what she wanted to. This is one of the reasons we take two days for Exercise 2. She gets stuck and frustrated and I can't get her to get her work done. This isn't anything against The Magic Stories, it just isn't something she is used to doing, so I back off and allow her to take longer to finish the work. 

All in all we are really enjoying The Magic Stories. Hannah is getting to practice her reading and is increasing her vocabulary and comprehension skills. I can definitely recommend this product. 

The Magic Stories would like to offer my readers a 25% discount should you choose to order The Magic Stories.  To receive the discount, enter “raisingreaders” in the coupon box upon checkout.

Also, if you would like to win the 6-book PDF set, you can stop by my giveaway for your chance to win. The giveaway ends 12/2. US only

If you would like to see what The Reading Game is all about, I invite you to read my review

You can find the company on their The Reading Game social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

You can click on the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about The Magic Stories.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
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