Monday, April 15, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Progeny Press Dragon's Hoard Book & Study Guide

By now you all know what a great reader Gess is.  Even though she has Down syndrome and struggles in math, she greatly excels in reading.  While she is a great reader she still struggles with comprehension.  She understands the story well enough to enjoy it but she does not always get every detail like most people would.  When I had the opportunity to review the literature guides Progeny Press had to offer I thought it would be a perfect time to start training Gess how to look beyond the text of the page.

For the purpose of our review we were given The Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard Book and Study Guide.



The Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard is geared towards students in 2nd through 4th grade.  With Gess' special needs I am always concerned about how easy the actual book will be for her to physically read.  While she can read and understand the words, sometimes the font is too small and crammed together and requires her to use tools such as a magnifying glass.  That was not the case with this book.  The book is 64 pages with 7 chapters and the print was a decent size making it pleasant on the eyes. This certainly did not require any tools for Gess to read. 

The Dragon's Hoard was actually the first book in the Hall of Doors series. The adventure begins when two siblings, Beth and Kennan, find this mysterious door they never noticed before in a dark corner of their barn.  When thy enter it they find inside an entire hall of doors. Upon inspection they decide to enter one of them. They chose the gold door with a red dragon flying over a mountain on it. As then enter they end up in another world, one of which they have read about before.

The Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard actually takes them to a world very similar to J.R.R Tolkien's book The Hobbit.  I am sad now that I have never read that to Gess as she would have gotten a lot more out of it knowing the parallels, but she certainly still enjoyed it anyway.  I don't want to give the adventure away but I can tell you that it captured Gess right away.  When we received the book in the mail I gave it to Gess to read on her own.  She sat down and didn't stop until the very end!  That's right, she read the entire book in one sitting!  She was also glad to read it again when it was time for us to read it together.  I could certainly see why she enjoyed it so much.  It had the adventure and suspense that really captivates you.


Now that we had read the book a time or two, or even more, we began to work in the The Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard Study Guide.  This was one of the reasons I really wanted to review this product.  The Study Guide is an interactive PDF that allows you type your answers right on the page.  I loved that since Gess really struggles with writing but can type rather quickly.  She still struggles with answering in full sentences and I don't always push that so much as long as she is addressing the questions properly.


The Study Guide gives a synopsis, background information, ideas for activities before reading the book, chapter segments for answering questions and thinking about what you read, an overview, activities for after you read and other resources.  That's quite a lot!  Each chapter segment covers 1 to 2 chapters at a time and is divided into these parts: Vocabulary, Questions, Thinking About the Story, Dig Deeper and Optional Activities.

The Vocabulary is self explanatory.  We also used these for our weekly spelling words.

The Questions are pretty much what they seem. These are the comprehension questions.  Did you understand and remember what happened in the story?

Thinking About the Story is where Gess needs the most help.  That is where kids with her special needs struggle; trying to grasp more than what is written on the page.  The underlying themes do not jump out at her.  When asked "What do you think makes a true hero?"  she said Kennan because in her context the answer had to be about the story.  She thought that is what I wanted.  When asking her why he was a hero she said, "because he rescued."  She knows that a hero rescues but doesn't seem to grasp they do that because of the underlying qualities that heros have such as bravery, commitment, duty, passion, etc.  I knew she would struggle with these questions but that is what I love about this study guide.  I think it is a great tool to help her start to think more deeply about what she reads.

I really love the Dig Deeper questions.  This is where it makes the child think about what Scripture teaches about the topics her book addresses.  We all know to do this when we read Christian literature, but we need to remember to view all things through the lens of Scripture.  I love that it teaches children to do that.  Since it brings up heroes it has the children look up Scriptures that teach us about bravery and sacrifice and of course read about the greatest self-sacrifice of all time, Jesus' sacrifice for us.

On that note I have to say that I absolutely love that Progeny Press is dedicated to "teaching good cultural literature examined from a Christian perspective." I was drawn to this company because of that commitment.  It's not just about what we can read and learn from a story but it is about examining what the bible says about those things.  I think they do an excellent job at doing both and I was very pleased with them.  This was my first experience with their curriculum and I was impressed.  I will certainly be using more of these in the future.

There really was not anything I did not like about this product.  I even loved it so much I ran to see if they had any other books in the Hall of Doors series completed yet and I found out they do.  The only thing that stopped me from ordering it was the shipping price.  It really does cost a lot to ship one item but sometimes you save quite a bit if you increase your order size which I was willing to do.  However that kept increasing my shipping cost pretty significantly so that did not help. While I do feel these are worth the price of the products themselves the shipping price is going to keep me from being able to purchase as many products as I would like to and since the study guide isn't ready for the next book yet anyway, I have decided to wait.

The Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard Book sells for $6.99 and The Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard Study Guide is $15.99 for the CD or Instant Download and $16.99 for the printed booklet.  I received the download and recommend it as there is no shipping charge for it.  To learn more about this book or many of the other wonderful literature guides from Progeny Press visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.  You will find they reviewed several other selections for both middle school and high school as well.

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