Using literature-rich curriculum with dyslexic and ADHD kids

literature-rich curriculum with dyslexia ADHD | Tapestry of Grace with special needs | classical homeschooling with learning struggles

I’ve made a lot of curriculum adjustments over the years, but one constant for us has been Tapestry of Grace, a classical, literature-rich curriculum. I love using a literature-rich curriculum in our homeschool—with busy, loud, active ADHD kids, one of which is also dyslexic! In our classically-inclined, charlotte-mason inspired homeschool, we use tons of books, lots and lots of them. Living books, classics, historical fiction, and engaging nonfiction books line my shelves, spill onto the floor, cover our dining room table, and sit by the door (in hopes that we’ll remember to return them to our library.) 

Using a literature-rich curriculum immerses my kids in a culture of reading. Reading is not a school subject. It’s not a checkbox on their assignment sheet. It’s our lifestyle. We read books together and on our own. We listen to books. We talk about books. We buy books. We borrow books. We make room for more books. Why choose a literature-rich curriculum like Tapestry of Grace for kids who are active and have language-struggles?

Three reasons to choose a literature-rich curriculum:


We currently don’t use a “textbook” for any subject. Instead, we learn history, science, literature, etc. from library books, lots of library books. Last year, each of my kids read about 50 books each. We are on par for at least that this year, and that’s just for school; that doesn’t include the “just for fun” books. Using a literature-rich curriculum allows my kids to be constantly exposed to books. They are surrounded by them, and reading is a normal part of life—not just school but life itself.

This constant exposure to language through stories (whether audio books, read-alouds, or books they read themselves) has tremendously helped my daughter especially. She’s a strong, confident reader in spite of her challenges. She knows she doesn’t read as quickly or as easily as others, but she loves stories. And the exposure through so many senses and with so much variety, strengthens her understanding and skill in an otherwise challenging area for her.

So what does this exposure look like practically? I select several books for each kid on our topic that we will be covering for 2-4 weeks. For my oldest, I’ll suggest a couple of titles that I’d like him to read each week, chapter books often taking 2-3 weeks. Then, I’ll “strew” the other books around the house to tempt him to read more on the subject. Because my daughter requires a different approach, I’ve recently just assigned all the books for the term and allowed her to work through them at her own pace. She’s using (and loving) this funschooling journal along with her reading. She gets to creatively draw a picture, write a sentence, or choose some copywork from her book of choice to record in her journal. 


Honestly, I don’t think my busy rambunctious kids would be readers if we had chosen a traditional curriculum with textbooks and readers. The key to engaging my ADHD kiddos is variety, and Tapestry of Grace provides such fantastic variety. My kids are exposed to classics, biographies, picture books, historical fiction, encyclopedias, and more. Although my kids love books in general, they don’t love every book and are sometimes skeptical of a book I’ve assigned. So, I’ve instituted the “five chapter” rule. For all fiction, they must read at least read five chapters before they can decide whether or not to finish the book. In nearly every case, by the time they got to chapter 5 they were totally engaged. In some cases, the book even turned out to be a favorite. For nonfiction books, I don’t require them to read every word. They read for information, to learn certain facts, or to discover facts that interest them. In both instances, the variety of books means that there are books that appeal to all of my children for one reason or another. It also means that my kids have often discovered they were interested in a book or subject that they didn’t think they’d like.

The variety also allows my kids to connect with the subject matter in their own way, to make their own connections based on what interests them. My daughter connects with art, beauty, nature, and animals of a culture. My son connects with wars and weapons and inventions. They remember different things about the different time periods we are studying together. This has been awesome because as we share as a family what they’ve been reading and learning, we get such a wide spectrum of information.

Shared Experience

Books create memories. My kids have favorites they love to re-read. They have favorites that Daddy alone can read to them. (Babaji is a favorite from when they were very little that they still love to have him read—in character.) They have books that we share together as read-alouds. Books makes those moments special for us. Books bond us together, all snuggled on the couch listening to a story, or side by side each with our own book as we wind down for bedtime. Tapestry of Grace allows for tons of great book selections to always be available at every reading level. I don’t insist that every book be “read.” We have fond memories of listening to Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The Railway Children as audio books. And I don’t insist on reading every read-aloud myself. My kids read-aloud, too. This year, we’ve read selected chapters from the Story of the World and Grandpa’s Box to go along with our ancient history studies. It allows me to give the input and emphasis of our study, to draw out the major themes we are studying, but it also allows them the opportunity to contribute as well.

I have very fond memories of reading aloud with my mom, chapter by chapter through multiple books all the way through college. Even now when we visit each other, we select a book to read aloud together. I love those memories with my mom, and I love those memories with my kids.

There are so many reasons for choosing a literature-rich curriculum, even with a household of ADHD and dyslexia. My kids read upside down on the couch, under tables, outside, in giant refrigerator cardboard boxes with flashlights, or in the most cock-eyed positions. And we still stay very active, with lots of hands-on projects to supplement all that reading. But the constant exposure, variety, and shared experiences from using a literature-rich curriculum have been treasures to my family and to my kids.

How do you know if a literature-rich curriculum is a good fit for you?

  • Don’t let reading or attention struggles rule this out for you.
  • Do consider how committed you are to reading as a lifestyle. If you look at a literature-rich curriculum as simply school assignments to get done in a week, you will probably both hate it.
  • Do consider access to a good library. Honestly, a good one is worth paying for if you aren’t local. A good library allows that maximum exposure and variety without breaking your budget. I could never afford to keep my kids in books without our local library (and that’s where we find our great audiobooks).
  • Don’t assume that a particular learning style will prevent a child from enjoying literature. Instead, use that learning style as a means to enjoy literature.

It would be easy to see all that energy and assume my kids would never sit down long enough to read. But that just hasn’t been true of our family at all. Books are a calming constant. It wouldn’t be home without them.

Want to know more about how we use Tapestry of Grace with ADHD/dyslexia? Check out these posts:

Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids

Celebrating progress with unit parties

Eeny Meeny Miny Mo: selecting books for Tapestry of Grace

Choosing books from my Tapestry of Grace plans has been somewhat of a challenge. There are so many fun options! And yet I know there’s no way we’ll truly enjoy this if I try to do it all. Then, too, there’s the issue of the budget. So, there were quite a few books to get nixed from the list.

With such a monumental task, I thought I’d share my strategy (so that I’ll remember next year when I have to do this all over again.)

Though many veteran TOG bloggers have suggested purchasing the books one unit at a time, I really didn’t see that working for me.  Planning the next unit’s lessons will be enough of a challenge; selecting and ordering books could put us very far behind. So for this year, I purchased them all up front. Next year, perhaps I’ll feel more confident to do it differently. However, there were several purchasing tips that I did keep in mind through the selection process.

some of the titles we'll get to read next year

The Budget

On my first trip to Bookshelf Central, I was a bit overwhelmed at the price of the total book list for the Lower Grammar (LG) books for Year 1. For the TOG plans and the books, the total would have been well over our entire homeschool budget without purchasing any math or phonics materials. Although I would have loved to purchase everything suggested, I knew that the limits of our budget could actually work in my favor.

After purchasing the Tapestry of Grace plans, I then deducted all of the other items we would need to purchase for the year. Next, I took a look at what we had left to spend—and did a lot of praying for wisdom. My remaining budget was less than half the cost for the books.

The Alternate Books

Tapestry of Grace has two booklists, primary sources and alternate sources. Though the alternate sources often do not have notebooking pages to accompany them, they do cover the material that needs to be covered. When I searched our public library, I looked at both lists. I also looked beyond our learning level. Tapestry of Grace is divided into learning levels rather than grades: we will be in the Lower Grammar (LG) learning level. But when I looked for books to substitute, I looked at the lists for both our learning level and the level just above it, the Upper Grammar (UG) books. These UG books would have to be read-alouds, but then many of the LG books would be as well, so it really made very little difference. And what I found out by doing this is that I really preferred some of the UG books to the LG choices.

I also checked the library for books within the subject itself. For instance,  for Unit 1 I searched in the juvenile section for books on ancient Egypt, or even more specifically the Nile or mummies. By comparing the book descriptions, I could tell if the general library books would cover the same information as the Tapestry books; and by checking the previews available on many of the books at, I could often tell if I liked the substitute book as well and could decide on favorites that were at the top of my list of books to use for the year.

Last of all, I looked for the resources that could be used for multiple units rather than just a single week of reading. For example, the Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World was listed as an Upper Grammar resource throughout the year in all units, whereas the Lower Grammar listed several different titles. Because I already own the Encyclopedia (and my kids love Usborne books), it made more sense to use this resource than to purchase additional books.

The Schedule

Creating a spreadsheet, I made lists of the books I could get at the library and the books I would need to purchase, organizing them by unit and week. This gave me an idea of how realistic it would be to actually read that many books within the time-frame. I could keep a check on my gluttonous appetite for books by taking a look at our schedule. I mean, how many read-alouds can you realistically tackle in one week? If a certain week looked too tight, I re-evaluated the book choices and rated them by priority: which books were my favorites and what information was most important? Was there any other resource where the same information could be found?

I also hung out at quite a bit, looking over the book previews and evaluating how each title would fit into our schedule. I looked at number of pages, the table of contents, and (when possible) a sample page to get an idea of the reading level.

Several more books were eliminated this way, or at least prioritized lower on the list of possibilities. And at this point, my list was fitting much better into our budget. But there was one more step to getting the most bang for our buck.

The Purchase

When I made my purchases, I used two different websites:, as I just mentioned, and Children’s Books Inc. I chose these sites because they carried the most titles at the cheapest prices for the least amount of shipping. But then on Amazon, I also chose only the books that were available for the free shipping. When a couple of titles were not available for the free shipping, I once again evaluated those books. Could I find the information from this title in any other resource? Could our schedule during that week use a little less reading? And in all of the cases, I found I really did not need the book that required the extra shipping (which in some cases would have been equal to the price of the book itself).

The result, by God’s grace, was that I was able to purchase the books we needed for even less than what was in the budget! (Also, I’ll be able to skip shopping at the homeschool book fair in May with a two month old in tow.)

The choices weren’t easy ones to make, but hopefully we’ll have the time to actually enjoy the books I’ve chosen. I can’t wait to share that journey with you!

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