Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Barton Reading and Spelling System Stand Alone Books Review

I'm a believer in the Barton Reading and Spelling system, but I am not affiliated with them besides being a certified tutor.

They offer "Stand Alone Books" as part of their system. I've found these separate chapter books to be an integral part of teaching dyslexic people to read. They offer tons of word-attack opportunities at a reader's exact level.

Each Stand Alone series is written to mirror what has been taught in the Barton books. You will only find words that the student has memorized as a sight word or has been taught how to sound out.
However, one of Barton's main goals is to teach illiterate adults and adolescents. As such, some of these books were written with them in mind and are not child friendly.

Also, these books are not cheap, being $7.95 for each book. Not everyone can afford the whole library and might not know which books to buy.

Because of these factors, I've decided to offer a book review of each and every book that is included in the Barton system to date. I am a certified Barton Tutor. I'm also a certified dyslexic consultant. I'm also a mother. However, I am NOT an editor, or anything like unto to an editor, so take this book review with a grain of salt.

My Thoughts Over All:
I think that it's important to finish the recommended level before starting the Stand Alone books. Many children are reading on their own naturally after Barton level four, but this was not the case with my children, so I was grateful for the "after level 4" and "after level 5" series. My kids were not picking up material on their own until after level six. (But here's some encouragement for you: They won't put down books now! They are reading classics and contemporary books, and can't get enough!)

The "end of level 3" series is a little more awkward to read then the other series because the student has not been introduced to suffixes or multi syllables yet. You get phrases like "he did slip" and "he did pack" because "slipped" and "packed" haven't been introduced yet.

But students at the end of level three really need to practice reading books, so even though they can be awkward, I would strongly encourage you to use these Stand Alone books.

The Stand Alone books each have about 24 pages and around 6 or so chapters. However, the font size can vary, and the font size gets smaller with every series.

Fish, Fox, and Then Some (after level 3)


Like it's subtitle states, it is a collection of Aesop's Fables. It includes seven different fables.

First fable: A big fish is about to eat a small fish when they get caught in a net and the small fish goes free.
Second fable: A fox unsuccessfully tries to trick a hen to come to him.
Third fable: The sun and wind have a competition to get a man to take his quilt off.
Fourth fable: A dog won't get off the barn animals' straw.
Fifth fable: A fox tries to get a man to help him but then realizes it's just a mask.
Sixth fable: A bug gets a ride on the back of a bull.
Seventh fable: A colt tries to act like a puppy so he can live in his master's house.


My kids and I loved this book. It's nice that each chapter is its own story. I like that they are classic Aesop tales and even include a small "moral of the story" sentence at the end of each story.

They had to change the stories slightly to be words that fit within the system. For instance, I know that the sun and wind fable should have been about them trying to get a man to take off his coat. In this version, it is a quilt.
A Job for Jeff (after level 3)


Jeff wants to get a job at "Camp Cliff Top." After an involved interview, he gets the job. Jeff and his friend clean out some buildings, get their tent ready, and get food ready. As the campers start coming, Jeff and his friend know they're going to have a fun summer job.


A simple innocent story that is rather enjoyable. One of the buildings had been vandalized. The story flows nicely, and my kids liked it.

The Champ (after level 3)


A boy gets a pet dog named "Champ." Champ is little and gets picked on by the cat, gets stung and needs to go to the vet, gets lost in a suitcase, gets hurt on a trap, and almost gets shot by hunters.


Nicely written, but I do have some issues with it. There is a character named "Frank" who, quite frankly, is a jerk. He tries to hit Champ with a whip. He also teases the boy because Champ doesn't know any tricks.

The boy sticks up to Frank and yells at him for trying to hit Champ. He also teaches Champ a trick to show Frank up.

Overall I have no problem reading this with my kids, but we do talk about how Frank isn't a very good friend.

Pig, Pig, and Pig (after level 3)


Like it's subtitle says, it's the classic fable of the Three Little Pigs.

Three pigs leave home. One makes a grass house, one makes a stick house, and one makes a house out of brick.  The big bad "dog" comes and destroys the houses of grass and sticks, but can't destroy the house of bricks.


This is the book with the biggest font size. It's also a very recognizable story. Because of this, I like to have my kids read this book first.

They had to change the wording of the original tale. The big bad wolf is the big bad dog. The second pig makes a hut out of grass instead of a house out of straw. The dog will "bust" the hut in instead of blowing it in. And there is no "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin" because "hair" and "chinny" are not level friendly.

I find it funny how the dog goes home and eats ham out of a can. Oh the irony! LOL

The Tax Man (after level 3)


Rick, a tax man, buys a computer. He can't figure out how to set up his computer. His son comes over, and helps him. He shows Rick how to print things and go on the internet.


This is my least favourite "after level 3" book. It's incredibly boring for kids. It's obviously written for adults. I liked how Rick has trouble remembering which is his left and right hand, because that will help dyslexic adults feel relatable to this book.

The Quest (after level 3)


Gus is a stowaway on the ship The Quest. He gets found out and thrown overboard, but swims right back on deck which makes the captain like him. He works for the captain until he owns The Quest himself.

Gus grows up and has a son and grandkids. His son, Bob, is a truck driver but wants to be a potato farmer. Bob's wife has saved enough money to buy a potato farm.

Gus' grandson, Max, tells a story about how he won the baseball game.


The Quest is very disjointed. It switches from a ship, to buying a potato farm, to playing baseball? Really? I felt like the author had a list of words that were level friendly in front of her and made up chapters that went with the words instead of caring about the cohesiveness of her story.

But if it was three different stories, then it would be fine.
The Moth (after level 3)


The subtitle says: The Vietnamese Folktale "The Fly." Of course, the word "fly" is not level friendly, thus "moth" instead.  A little boy and his parents are renting one of the houses owned by a greedy rich man. The parents have paid part of their rent, but can't afford the rest, and the rich man is coming to kick them out.

The rich man asks the little boy where his parents are, and the boy answers with a riddle. The rich mans says he won't charge his parents rent if the boy tells him the meaning of the riddle. The boy tells him, but the rich man goes back on his word.

They go to the emperor to resolve the issue, and the rich man is revealed to be a liar.


This is one of my favourite "after level 3" books. (By the way, I'm Canadian, so I spell some things-like favourite-differently. I thought my Barton friends might notice! Lol) I like that it's a story that is a classic from a culture of a different country.

My kids love trying to figure out the riddle and seeing the boy outwit the rich man.
Jim and the Milk Truck (after level 3)


Jim is a pleasant man who drives a milk truck and likes his job. He and Jill, the girl that he likes, help out an older widow who is lonely. They take her to a dance and give her a hat. Jim finds out that Jill likes him back.


It's a cute story, and the characters are good people. There are no children in the book, however.
Quack (after level 3)


A boy gives money to an old man he passes on his way to fish. While fishing, he falls asleep. He has an involved dream in which there is a duck that is stuck in the mud that says nonsense words instead of quack.

The boy goes to a talking frog, a troll, and a witch who all volunteer to take the duck out of the mud, but the boy only cares about the duck not saying "quack." When he finally talks to a rat, he figures out his folly and goes back to the duck and takes him out of the mud. The duck finally says "quack."

The boy wakes up and goes to the old man he had given money to and offers his friendship instead.


This is a very "Alice in Wonderland" type of book, and just like the Alice books, you get the sense that the author might have been high when writing it. It has plenty of nonsense words, which is awesome for our kids, but frustrating for some.

I like that it has a moral.

This is my one son's favourite Stand Alone book and another son's least favourite.
The Small Child (after level 3)


The subtitle says it's an adaptation of a Bukowinaer fairy tale called The Hazelnut child. It is basically a sort of "Tom Thumb" or "Thumbelina" story.

A farmer couple is unable to have children. They wish for a child, and a tiny child the size of a fig arrives at their door. When Sid, the tiny child, is old enough to go to school, the boy who takes him bullies Sid and almost kills him. They don't send Sid to school again.

Sid is too small to clean house, too small to help in the yard, and too small to farm. Sid thinks of "ending it all" but then overhears two thieves who have just stolen gold.  Sid sees where they hide it and helps catch the thieves and return the money.

Sid now feels like he has his own identity because he can find things others can't.


Obviously, attempted murder (the school boy almost used Sid as bait while fishing) and suicidal thoughts are not very child friendly, but honestly it's pretty mild. I have no problem reading it with my kids. Maybe I read too many fables growing up, because feeding small people to fish seems to go in line with the rest of the old fairytales. 

Fletch  (after level 3)


Fletch is a dog that had been stung by a bee on his back the previous day. It's really irritating him so he tries to wake up his owners. He is unsuccessful so he goes to the tub, figures out how to turn it on, and gets wet. He then goes to the kitchen and gets ham from the garbage. 

All this ruckus wakes up his owners who put him in the shed as punishment. In the shed, a skunk sprays him. When the family takes Fletch to the vet to get rid of the skunk smell, the vet finds the welt from the sting, and gives him some medicine for it.


A simple story that's pretty innocent. However, the name "Fletch" is really hard for my kids to say and read for some reason. It's like a tongue twister for them. Weird name. Fletch.
What Luck? (after level 3)


A teenage boy, Rick, just passed his driver's licence test while driving his dad's "lucky" truck. He wants to help Ann, the girl he likes, move her dad's business, but first he has to bring lunch to his dad who's at work. When he's out of the truck, he slips and get mud all over.

He's worried what Ann will think of him, and doesn't think the truck is lucky.

He forgets to pay for his gas because he gets a big cut from the gas cap. A police woman pulls him over, and it's Ann's mom. The truck is definitely not lucky.

Then later that day, Ann comes over and asks him out to the dance. Maybe the truck is lucky.


I think it's a cute story but there are no kids in it.

A Chain of Gold (after level 4)


A Polish girl likes visiting her "Baba" (grandma) who has a locket with a golden chain. Her Baba tells her that family is like a chain because they are linked with love. One day near her Baba's house the little girl falls in ditch, and her family make a human chain to get her out.

When the WWII hit Poland, the girl knew that Hitler was not right about Jews. Her family prepared for the war buy taking their savings, buying golden chains, and hiding it by sewing it in rags that they braided in their hair.

The German army occupied her town, but the girl's jewish friend was safe, and her family secretly farmed their food. The school's nuns hid the jewish students. 

However, the girl and her mother were suddenly shipped off to work in German fields for the army's food. When the war was over, her mom had to sell one of the gold chains to get back to her father. 


I love this story! I teared up when my son first read it. It is full of hard subjects that might be too much for some young children to grasp, but it's done in a very gentle, hopeful way. Her dad gets beaten, and there is fear and war, but there is hope and love throughout. It's a true story.

The Kingdom of Nod (after level 4)


Queen Kathleen of the peaceful Kingdom of Nod is frustrated when a new ship sinks and there's a drought. She blames it on a raven she saw, but when she finds out it was a crow, she says she's sick of being queen and needs help.

Suiters for the queen come, but none of them are right. Then a local man decides he wants to win her hand and writes her a poem, and after meeting, they fall in love and get married.


The font size in this book is big for an "after level 4 book," so it's a nice one to start with. However, the vocabulary is a higher level than most of the stand alone books. You get the feeling that the author got a thesaurus, and when she wanted to say something, she used alternate unfamiliar words that were level 4 appropriate. It's a fun little story that's pretty innocent and interesting.

Justin and Tony (after level 4)


Justin is a shy boy who only has Tony for a friend, but Tony moves to sunny California. 

There's a bully in Justin's class who's mean to Justin, and Justin wants to get back at him.

Triplets move into Tony's house that are Justin's age, but they're girls, which is disappointing to Justin. He takes them to school and the bully starts teasing them. Justin hits the bully with his back pack, and now that he's a hero, he has friends.


Well, not the best plot ever for building character. Maybe I'm naive, but I feel like the way to handle a bully is to figure out why he's a bully and help him (instead of hitting him with a backpack.) Also, the idea that you can't be friends with someone because they're a girl isn't what I like to teach. Whatever. I still have my kids read it. Probably has the biggest font of the "after level 4" books.

Colleen (after level 4)


Andy was supposed to babysit his sister Colleen, but he wants to go hiking with his friend Lewis instead. They try to ditch Colleen as they hike. 

While hiking, Andy and Lewis find a cave and while exploring it, they fall off a ledge. Lewis is unconscious and Andy's leg is broken. Colleen finds them and goes for help. She gets a rescue team to them, helps them out of the cave, and is a hero.


The first three pages of this book are horrific. I had never read the book when I had my son start reading this. I made him stop on the first page, and I read ahead. In that chapter, the brother and his friend are very cruel to Colleen. We skipped that chapter, and the rest of the book was good. I can't stand my kids reading about kids bullying their own siblings.

Really, the rest of the book is exciting and good, so get it, but if you're like me, just skip the first chapter.
Ladybug (after level 4)


Daisy is a new girl in school. Judy bullies her, but Brit befriends her. Brit can tell Daisy doesn't have much food, so she starts giving her all her lunches. Brit invites Daisy over for a sleep over, and gives her all her old clothes because she can tell Daisy doesn't have much.

Daisy reveals that her dad is in jail and that her mom is having trouble finding a job because she can't read.

Later, when Brit is volunteering at a soup kitchen, Daisy and her mother walk in. They are very embarrassed that Brit finds out they can't afford food and admit they are homeless. However, this motivates them to reach out to Daisy's grandparents for help.

Daisy and her mom move to her grandparent's house and seem happy, and now Brit has a pen-pal.


Older-age subject matter, but still good. Brit is an excellent role model. Even though Judy really is a horrible bully, Brit thinks that the reason for this is because Judy's parents are never around, and Brit realizes that Judy must not be happy.

Brit treats Daisy so well, and is very empathetic.

I find it interesting that the author talks about the mom's illiteracy. Might spark discussions with our dyslexic kids.

The King of Pongo (after level 4)


A new family named the Lees move into a small town (which the book calls a hamlet because "town" is not level friendly) that is not inclusive to new comers.

Mr Lee say he got his Cadillac from the king of Pongo. Mrs Lee is involved in politics, and their son, Eddy, is shy and says he's on loan from the king of Pongo. 

One day Mr Lee finds a duffle bag full of cash. The rumour mill goes around the town. Then the Lees appear on TV where they are shown giving many sheep and goats to the king of Pongo. They spent all the money they found on animals for Pongo.

Soon Eddy tells the class that he has to go back home to his father, the king of Pongo.


Living in a small town right now makes this book funnier to me. It's entertaining and innocent. There is a part that in the rumours that says that the money must have come from drug sellers. I have a confession: after reading this book, I looked up "Pongo" to see if it was a real country-It isn't. Lol
The Legacy (after level 4)


A biography of Martin Luther King Jr's family. 

Jim and Del King are the first free-born people in their family, but things are not going well. The plantation owner has them in unfair contracts that keep the Kings in debt, and the land owner in power.

Their seven year old son, Mike, talks back to a Mill owner, and Mike comes home badly beaten. Del goes and repeatedly hits the Mill owner, and Jim threatens him with a gun. The mill owner brings a gang to take care of Jim, who runs away for a few months.

One harvest, the land owner cheats the Kings out of money. Mike points this out, and the land owner fires them. 

When he grows up, Mike moves to Atlanta and becomes a preacher. Mike Jr, his son knows the Jim Crow laws are not fair.

They change their names to Martin Luther King Senior and Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. protests peacefully and affects a lot of people but is shot.


Well, I guess true stories can be pretty sad and violent. I guess I figured that since it was true and an important part of history, the violence didn't stop me from having this book in our library.
Wilson Otis, P.I. (after level 4)


Wilson's employee, Molly, is involved in a hit-and-run accident. Her car is totalled, and she's in the hospital. She did not have comprehensive insurance. She asks Wilson to find her CD that she left in her car.

The tow lot won't give Wilson the CD.

Wilson figures out who had hit into Molly. It's Chang, an illegal immigrant from China who was afraid he would get sent back to China if he stayed at the scene of the accident. 

Chang's boss pays the insurance, and Chang is sent back to China but might come back when he marries his girlfriend who is American.

Molly gets back her CD.


Not really a child's story, but it's a mystery, so that's fun.

Crow, Cat and Beyond (after level 4)


The subtitle says it's a collection of Aesop's Fables. There are seven.

First fable: A thirsty crow fills a pail of milk with pebbles until she can reach the milk.
Second fable: A rat family comes up with a plan to put a bell on a pestering cat but realize that would be too hard.
Third fable: An oak tree brags to a reed that it's tall and stiff but then the oak falls in the wind.
Fourth fable: A girl plans what she will do when she sells her milk, but spills the milk instead.
Fifth fable: A pig freaks out every time a person comes close, and a goat and sheep don't understand why until the pig tells them about bacon.
Sixth fable: A hungry hen can only find an opal, which is useless to a hungry hen.
Seventh fable: A father and son are going to sell their pony, and on the way, the father keeps trying to appease the opinions of people passing by.


I love this book. It's written nicer than the last fable book because they can use more words in this series. I love the morals of the story at the end of each fable.
The Old Scroll (after level 4)


Twins Max and Beth have finished the level three Barton book, and their tutor gives them an old scroll and tell them it's a clue.

When they go home, they open the scroll, solve the puzzle, and get transported to another place. There's a puma cat there, and they have to kiss the cat and then solve the puzzle. Then they get transported to a bathroom where they have to solve the puzzle on the floss.

Then they get transported to the street where they solve the puzzle on the milk truck. Then they get transported to a pond where they have to fish to catch their lunch and solve another puzzle.


This is my favourite Barton Stand Alone book! I love that it's so relatable and yet magical. It's kind of like "Magic Tree House" books, but it's about the Barton system! The puzzles are all spelling mistakes that our kids are trained to be able to fix.

If you can only get one "after level 4" book, get this one.
The Tempest (after level 5)


There is a storm and a woman's children get so scared that the mom distracts them by telling them the story of their grandfather's boat. You soon realize the grandfather is Noah from the bible story. After the story of Noah and the Arc, the children go to sleep and wake up to a rainbow.


I thought this telling of the Noah and the Arc story was very clever. My kids loved it when they realized what was going on. If you are secular, I wouldn't shy away from it either. It isn't pushy religious.
Black Out (after level 5)


There's been a horrible storm for days. A mom has to get something from the store, so she leaves her two teenage boys with their little sister while she runs out.

While she's gone, the kids put on a scary movie. Suddenly there's a crash and the power goes out. The sixteen year old, Glen, goes outside to find a tree has fallen on their house. They go to the neighbours.

The mom returns later then she planned because part of the street had been washed away. When she gets home, a van in the street hits a man. The man is not dead but gets carried away on a stretcher.

The electricians tell the family it's safe to go back into their house.


The middle boy teases his sister using words like "wimp" and "crybaby." I think it's pretty mild though (the book Colleen was much worse.) Overall it's pretty interesting.
A Family for Jimmy (after level 5)


When Jimmy is two, his dad, Jack, looses his job. Jack starts drinking and abusing his mom who starts drinking as well. They start doing drugs and start neglecting Jimmy who goes hungry and has diaper rashes.

Jimmy stopped crying for help and starts talking to his toys, banging on his crib, and didn't trust his parents.

Jimmy starts fending for himself but is bolted in his room often. When he toddles out of his house, the neighbour finds him and calls the police. The police arrest Jimmy's parents and send Jimmy to a foster family.

The foster family is kind, and Jimmy starts to trust them. Jimmy's birth mom has a baby while in jail and this baby is affected by the drugs their mom took. The foster family takes in this baby as well.

The foster family decides to adopt Jimmy and his baby sister.


Very much an older-age subject matter. I would strongly urge you to read the book yourself before deciding if your child is old enough to handle the topics that are brought up. Honestly, it's heart wrenching and a bit disturbing.
Sally Snail (after level 5)


A boy has a school assignment to talk about an animal and whether or not that animal could live through global climate change. The boy chose snails because he has a snail and knows a lot about snails.

The book goes on to tell many facts about snails.

When the boy goes in to do his presentation, the boy before him also talks about snails. When the boy gets up, he does a good job, but when he tries to show the class Sally, she's not in his shoebox. He accidentally left her at home.


I know it sounds a bit boring, but this was my one son's favourite book (the one who didn't like "Quack.") In fact, this book started a sort of snail-unit for him. He researched more about snails and made a few snail habitats, but we couldn't find any land-snails for sale or in nature.

Thankfully, we went travelling. In the next year, we lived in a place that had snails that were a few inches long! There were tons of them, and (much to my chagrin) he loved it!
The Wedding Rings (after level 5)


Brent and Wendy are getting married. They've chosen a spot in a redwood forest with a small wedding party. Brent wants his dog to carry the wedding rings down the isle. Wendy is against it.

At the wedding rehearsal, Wendy and Brent get into a bit of a fight about the dog, but Wendy gives in to Brent.

On the wedding day, Toby, the dog, gets all muddy, but Brent has enough time to clean him up.

Everything goes wonderful until Toby goes down the isle. A bunny distracts him, and he goes running off after it. Wendy and Brent go running after Toby. They catch him and Wendy feels like the wedding is ruined until they all start laughing and realize it's a fun story to tell their grandkids.


A cute innocent story. There's no kids in it, but a mischievous dog is entertaining enough.

And there you have it!!! Now you know enough to have an educated opinion about the Barton Reading and Spelling Stand Alone Books. Now you can buy the books you want. I hope this helped!


  1. Wonderful! Thank you so much for this. I feel like I have a much better grasp on which books are appropriate for my kiddos.