Products I Used When I Began Teaching Reading

When I first became a Reading Recovery / Title One Reading Teacher back in ’93 I didn’t have to worry about what products I needed to buy to be a successful teacher. I didn’t need to research through pages and pages of products and read tons of online reviews. Luckily, I was given boxes and boxes of books, materials, and resources! It was a well-funded new program and there were 8 of us just starting out and going through the first training class together. Our materials were chosen for us and we all received the same high-quality packages!

Leveled Readers

Certainly, one of the best resources we received were the boxes and boxes of child-sized little books at every reading level! Many of those first books became friends that I purchased again and again when I moved to other states and other schools. Occasionally, I would find them at my new school and a smile would always come to my face just thinking about how great they had been for some of my beginning readers in the past. I still love the smell and sound of new books! I’ll tell you more about selecting books in another post. 

Magnetic Whiteboard Easel

Everyone also received an adorable child-sized primary colored easel that was double-sided with a magnetic whiteboard on one side and a magnetic chalkboard on the other. The board was removable and could be used by itself. I don’t know if they still make them because I haven’t found the exact same one. Here’s a picture of me when I first started teaching and this is the easel I used. Wow! I look so young!

Magnetic Letters

What’s a magnetic whiteboard without magnetic letters! These may be one of the most important resources when teaching the very first steps of reading. Magnetic letters were used in every single lesson I taught. I used Quercetti lowercase letters and stored a complete set of them on a pizza pan for each child. The extra letters were kept in a Plano Model 3730 compartment box sorted for easy reach. If you look on the table in the first picture you can see a picture of the first box that I had and it’s holding all my extra letters.

Office Supplies

There were several Office Supplies that I used frequently. Here’s a list of the most useful: 

  • Copy Paper for Daily Sentence Writing
  • Cover-Up Tape to Cover Writing Mistakes
  • Mini Sentence Strips for Segmenting the Daily Sentence.
  • Index Cards for Student-created Books, ABC Books, Important Words, etc – All Sizes
  • Hole Punch
  • Binder Rings or Brads
  • Scissors
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Colored Pens
  • Envelope Moisteners – Pen Type
  • Electronic Timer

Kitchen and Household Supplies

Some of these supplies that I used seem random but were exactly what I needed to allow for more kinesthetic tactile instruction. Those included the following: 

  • Jelly Roll Pan with Lid (I didn’t have a lid, but I would have loved one!)
  • Box of Morton’s Salt
  • Pizza Pan
  • Bingo Chips

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links.

First Resources You Should Buy To Teach Reading At Home


Magnetic Letters

First, let’s start with choosing some Magnetic Letters. You really only have to have the lowercase, but having both will be very useful. Also, you can never have too many! If you buy both the lowercase and the uppercase, your child can play some matching games while learning the alphabet. It’s also great to have the uppercase so you can teach them how to correctly spell everyone’s name. The more sets of letters that you have, the more activities you can do with them and the more words you can practice making later. I promise to go into examples of how to use Magnetic Letters in another post.



As I said before, I have used Quercetti letters for a long time. That’s the original brand that I was given. They are a bit thicker in size and come in nice bright colors. This set also includes special characters if you’re teaching Spanish. I don’t teach Spanish, so I just cut off the extra bits and make them look like regular letters so I have more usable letters! In my sets, all of the extra letters are purple. The lowercase letter “a” measures 1 inch tall and a lowercase “h” measures 1.5 inches tall. They are all 8mm thick. This set includes 40 letters with 2 of each letter, with the exception of u, v, w, x, y, z, which only have 1 each. They are made in Italy.


Educational Insights

Educational Insights Magnetic Letters are the same height dimensions but are only 6mm thick. The Letters & Numbers Set includes a complete set of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and math symbols at a great price. There are 214 Total magnetic pieces in each set: 52 uppercase letters, 106 lowercase letters, 40 numbers, and 16 math symbols. These would be my first choice if I were purchasing today. They are available in two different color options: red and blue or assorted colors. With the red and blue, it really reinforces the concept that every word has a vowel since all the vowels are red.


A Suggested Improvement 

Since I purchased a small multicolor set for review, I had to reference a customer’s image to see that “Y” only comes in blue. A valuable improvement would be to have “Y” in both colors since “Y” is a “sometimes” vowel. Another option would be to make it purple since it can be both a consonant and a vowel. Red and blue make purple! 🙂

Finally, all of these sets are designed so small rectangular pieces of magnet fit into molded shapes to make them magnetic. Occasionally, you may need to reinsert the magnet or glue it back into its spot. It all depends on how much you use them and how hard your child is on them. The letters are very durable. Keep in mind that these are not really strong enough to hold something else onto the fridge, but they don’t need to be. I will recommend a different product for that. 


My Recommendation for Magnetic Letters

In my opinion, the main differences that I can find in these two products are the color options, the thicknesses, and the price. I don’t feel that the thickness will have a negative impact, since its only a matter of 2mm. Educational Insights is the better value and will give you a lot more letters for the money. More letters mean more learning, less issues, and more fun! 

Magnetic Dry Erase Boards


The key to successfully using a Magnetic Dry Erase Board when teaching beginning reading is that the working height should match the student’s eye level. It shouldn’t be too low or too high. If the child is too tall for the board they need to use it sitting down. As I said before, I couldn’t find the exact Easel that I used, but I think I found a couple of great alternatives. My first choice would be the VIVREAL Magnetic Dry Erase Easel with Adjustable Height Stand.   The board measures 24 × 36 inches, but the stand can be easily adjusted from 34” to 63” high. This is an easel that will grow with your child and doesn’t look too babyish to be used when they are teenagers. It comes with 1 dry erase board, 3 erasers, 4 pens, and 12 magnets. 


The second easel, a Double-Sided Magnetic Whiteboard & Chalkboard by Arkmiido is similar to the one that my children had. Its board surface measures 21.7 x 21.7 inches and it can be adjusted from 30.7in to 52.4in high. That is a feature that I would have loved to have on the one my kids had. When they started to outgrow theirs they had to use it sitting down. This Easel also comes with 52 colorful foam magnetic letters, numbers, and shapes, 4 painting cups, and 4 magnets. The bottom tray has cut-outs to hold the painting cups. An advantage to this board is the Chalkboard surface. With this one, you could also practice Magic Disappearing Words! I’ll tell you more about that in another post. 

Navy Penguin

The third Magnetic Dry Erase Board by Navy Penguin can be hung on the wall. This could be an advantage if you have limited space or if you have different sized children. You could install hooks at different heights so everyone could use it. This board also includes 1 blue magnetic dry eraser, 2 magnetic black markers, and 2 magnets. Its a highly rated board and also comes in portrait orientation if that works better for your space. 

Master of Boards

In the second row, you will see a similar board to the one from Navy Penguin. I included this one in case you have more room and would like a larger board. This Magnetic Dry Erase Board from Master of Boards comes in 4 sizes. This is an Amazon’s Choice product and #1 seller in Europe. It can be installed either landscape or portrait orientation and screws to the wall and looks like a professional Whiteboard. 

Dowling Magnets

The last two boards are lapboards or personal boards and measure approximately 8.5 x 11. The middle Magnetic Dry Erase Board by Dowling Magnets is made of masonite and is double-sided. It has primary writing lines on the back as a guide. This is a set of 5 boards. These last two types of boards are more “picky” about allowing the ink to dry completely before wiping it off. It the child writes and immediately tries to erase, it will smear. 

U Brands Contempo

That brings us to the last board I selected. Its an economy version and is made with a plastic frame with a cardboard backing. This U Brands Contempo Magnetic Dry Erase Board includes an attached Dry Erase Marker with an eraser end and a Pin-It cork magnet. I believe this brand is also available at Target. 

My Recommendation

As you can see, there is a version for every price point. I would recommend the 1st two easels as my number 1 and 2. If you don’t have room for an easel, you might want to consider the hanging versions. The most important thing to consider is that your child can work at their eye level as the letters will look different to them if they are looking down on them or up to them. That’s why when they use a small personal board they usually pick it up so they can see it better.

Magnetic Letters Are More Concrete

When they first start learning the alphabet, each letter looks like a shape to kids. Magnetic Letters are the most concrete version of the alphabet which is why we start teaching with them. When kids try to write the letters, they are actually just drawing the shapes the way they look to them – much like they draw a picture of a house or a sun. More on how to help with writing letters in another post.

Idea List On Amazon

I have created an Idea List for you on Amazon. Its called the Best Products To Teach Beginning Reading. I’ve tried to think of all the great things that I love to use while teaching reading and also tried to find you the best rated, best quality versions if I couldn’t find the exact item that I personally use. There will be additional posts coming soon that will go into detail on how I use these items, why they are important, and what I do with them. Check out this list and see if you agree with me! 

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