New Montessori Phonics Book Series: "Monarch Readers"

New Montessori phonics book series: "Monarch Readers"

Shared vision, collaboration, and the desire to create representative reading resources fueled Stacie Schultz, Yolanda Romanelli, and Sara Cotner in the creation of their leveled phonics books, Monarch Readers.

What started as a purposeful pandemic project turned into a representative, diverse reader series that fosters students’ success and guides caregivers during the early stages of reading.

Creating Monarch Readers

Two Montessori educators based in Austin, TX, Stacie and Yolanda, entered 2020 partnering with Montessori for All on Kindergarten curriculum development. Part of their work focused on reading growth—with the goal to instill both success and enjoyment in future readers. The phonics readers they used were helpful, and at the same time, they wanted resources that were perfectly aligned with their goals and their students’ needs.

Cue March of 2020, (we all know what happened in March of 2020*) the pair found some time—each stuck at home. First toying around with the idea of creating their carefully aligned phonics readers, Stacie and Yolanda decided to turn their dreams into a reality. They began writing. Exclusively meeting over Hangouts and Zoom, the pair developed Monarch Readers from the idea, overall premise to the text and the illustration design, “which were then created by [their] talented illustrator!”

Knowing they needed support in getting their resources to the public, they enlisted Sara’s help. As executive director of Montessori for All, Sara acted as the publishing house for Monarch Readers. She took care of the administrative details such as hiring the illustrator, weighing in on creative direction, and getting the books printed.

Sara explains how the readers are designed to “help children feel success as readers.” Reflecting on the creation of Monarch Readers, Yolanda, Sara, and Stacie humbly offer them as an addition to the great work and methods that already exist:

“Teachers and caregivers can use all of the regular Montessori lessons—sandpaper letters, moveable alphabet, phonograms, etc.—to work on encoding before decoding. Our hope is that teachers and caregivers will help children learn the phonograms and sight words featured in a book before the child actually sits down to read it.” - Sara

A Look Into Monarch Readers and Their Impact

Monarch Readers are a helpful addition to the available resources that already exist. Yolanda, Sara, and Stacie know that children, especially those who delight in reading, go through books incredibly quickly. They wanted to create another series for young readers to enjoy, find success in, and feel represented by. Currently, Levels 1 – 5 are available with each level focusing on the following skills:

  • Level 1: Letter sounds and CVC words
  • Level 2: Blends
  • Level 3: The Introduction of 1 Montessori phonogram per book with the addition of 3 new sight words
  • Level 4: Continued introduction of most key phonograms
  • Level 5: Syllables and inflectional endings

Stacie explains that “these books can help all children learn to read but were designed for Kindergarten and first-grade students (and their teachers, parents, and caregivers). The careful crafting of Monarch Readers offers wonderful, thoughtful features such as:

  • Genuine representation of race and culture
  • Realistic, relatable, and engaging storylines
  • Embedded social and emotional learning skills
  • Guided comprehension questions (meant for the adults to help)
  • Commonly used sight words
  • Information about sight words
  • â…“ of profits go to support public Montessori schools

During the final revision process, Stacie brought versions of Monarch Readers into her classroom and asked her students to be her final copy editors. They made sure the stories made sense, each page lined up, and the punctuation marks were on point. The sweetest success, however, happened before publishing when one of Stacie’s students suggested a much-needed punctuation mark switch from a period to an exclamation point! If Stacie and Yolanda wrote a book exciting enough for a child to suggest an exclamation point switch, they had made it.

Shortly after publication, they offered their readers at the The Montessori Event’s Exhibit Hall. Stacie recalls The Event, “We had such a great response and felt like it was an excellent way to launch the series into the world. The feedback from shoppers was overwhelmingly positive, with an appreciation for the beauty, diversity, and intentionality that the readers offer. A few shoppers had tears in their eyes when they saw themselves or their children represented in the stories.”

Monarch Readers are available at www.monarchreaders.com and Amazon. If you’re based in Austin, they offer local pick-up when you email hello@montessoriforall.org. They’re also active on Instagram @monarchreaders!

*The COVID-19 Pandemic

Additional Reading

Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books, by Louise Derman-Sparks. Teaching for Change

About the Author


Kat St. Pierre Montessori Life Blog Author

Kat St.Pierre (she/her) is a former 8th grade English teacher turned freelance content/copywriter. Passionate about being kind to others, the planet, and herself, she loves using her voice to amplify important conversations and educate with empathy. Contact her at copykatstpierre@gmail.com or www.katstpierre.com.

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