I am going to be homeschooling my daughter for first grade next year. After looking over several readers, I decided on this one for several reasons.
1) The pages are in color and are well laid out. The language in the story is very good for choral reading with a student and are easy to read.
2) I like the short activities included in the book after each selection. There are also comprehension questions in the book--you don't have to have the teacher's guide for these.
3) I love the variety of different types of stories (realistic fiction, animal stories, fantasy, biography, etc.) as well as the good balance between fiction and non-fiction selections.
I have also purchased 4 of the 5 teacher's guides used. After looking them over, I am going to use them for the morning introduction, the comprehension questions for the stories, and integrate the practice pages from the accompanying practice workbooks. The teacher's guides all have a good spelling list for each week and a weekly lesson planner. I do like them, but they aren't a must. It is a very integrated and well balanced program, but there's a lot to do if you are going to do everything in the teacher's guide.
My plans are to use: The Harcourt Trophies Gr. 1 for reading selections and teaching comprehension, First Language Lessons for Grammar, Write One program for writing, and Explode the Code for phonics.
One really, really great thing about Harcourt books is that if you own a copy of the student text and a practice book, the publisher gives permission to the classroom teacher to make copies of the practice book for their classroom use. That makes buying these books and their workbooks a great value, because I will be able to copy the practice books and use this set with each of my children when they are in first grade and not have to make any more purchases (I'll just make copies of the workbook pages).