Reading & Spelling Through Literature

The program formerly known as RLTL is getting an update! The new name is Reading & Spelling Through Literature–RSTL. Please be patient with me as we go through this process! RSTL books are/will be 8.5 x 11 in size. Currently you will find A MIXTURE of old and new books available. I’ll update the photo of the book when I update the links in the bookstore so that you can always see which title the book has on the cover! And see our FAQ for more information on how RSTL is changing.


See the sample package at

Links to all RLTL editions are in our bookstore.

Reading Lessons Through Literature is an Orton phonogram reading program, and like other Orton phonogram programs, it focuses on teaching reading through spelling, which makes it ideal for teaching either reading or spelling. This may sound odd if you’re not familiar with the process. Think of it like this: Other reading programs present new words to read in each lesson. With RLTL, children are not only presented new words to read, they also learn to write them down and analyze their spelling.

First children learn the basic phonograms; Reading Lessons Through Literature teaches 75 basic phonograms. After children have learned the first 26 phonograms (the letters of the alphabet), they begin writing spelling words, analyzing them, and reading them for practice. And finally, they begin to read stories which include the words they’ve learned.

  • In each level, the spelling lists are organized around stories in The Elson Readers and padded with additional words from the Ayres list–a list of 1,000 of the most common words in English. The four levels include a total of 2,410 words, including the entire Ayres list.
  • Each level includes instructional material, spelling lists, and one of The Elson Readers. Level 1 contains the Elson Readers Primer; Level 2 contains the Elson Readers Book 1; Level 3 contains the Elson Readers Book 2; and Level 4 contains the Elson Readers Book 3.
  • Children learn to decode words incrementally. In the Elson Readers Primer (Level 1), multi-letter phonograms are underlined and multi-syllable words are separated between syllables to help the beginning reader. In the Elson Readers Book 1 (Level 2), multi-syllable words are separated between syllables.
What’s different about Reading Lessons Through Literature?
  • RLTL is designed to be a pick-up-and-go program. There are about ten pages of introductory/explanatory material to read before beginning to teach.
  • The spelling lists are organized around the stories in The Elson Readers.
  • Since each level contains the complete text of one of The Elson Readers, there are no additional readers to purchase.
  • Since children are presented with a variety of words from the beginning, there are no fat rats sitting on mats.

Workbook and Copywork

RLTL has an optional workbook which doubles as handwriting instruction, integrating handwriting and reading instruction. The workbook is available in your choice of four handwriting fonts.*

In the workbook, children learn to read and write both the phonograms and Webster’s syllabary, which reinforces proper spelling, and the same pages can be used from year to year for additional practice in handwriting and spelling. The workbook teaches 75 phonograms, capital letters, Webster’s syllabary, and numbers. It also includes phonemic awareness exercises, built-in phonogram review and quizzes, and some spelling words from RLTL Level 1. These extra activities are geared toward the child just beginning to learn to read, though please keep in mind that the additional reading activities are not a necessary component to RLTL.

For older students who are using RLTL primarily for spelling, our Handwriting Lessons Through Literature can be used as a workbook while learning the phonograms in Reading Lessons Through Literature. HLTL covers the same material–phonograms and syllabary–as the RLTL Workbook but without the additional exercises intended for beginning readers. You can read about it here.

(UPDATED!) In addition to the workbook, we have copywork books for each level which contain 1-2 pages of copywork from each story of the corresponding Elson Reader. These copywork books are completely optional; they are not a necessary component of RLTL. Keep in mind that before beginning copywork, children should be able to at least sound out the words comfortably, so it would be best to add this copywork book after students have already started the readers. It would work beautifully as a first copywork book since the child would be familiar with both the words and the stories themselves.

* Our programs support five different handwriting choices, but since the RLTL workbook is intended solely as a child’s first handwriting book, it does not include italic cursive since italic writing begins with basic and transitions to cursive.