Let me introduce you to a new friend of ours. My son named him Nate. This friendly owl is helping teach my kids to read and write, and doing a pretty good job of it, I might add.
Through Reading Kingdom, my 5, 7, and 9 year olds are interacting with letters and sounds in a brand new way. This program tackles more than just learning to read. It identifies six skills required for successful reading. The six skills are: sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension. So, it doesn’t start with sounds, it starts with learning sequences. Kids also learn to type in the process since it is a computer based program and they must be able to type to interact with it.
Reading Kingdom focuses on whole word recognition and alternating between clicking correct words and then typing them out to reinforce the word. This is a great integration of learning styles and keeps the kids as active participants in the learning process. Great for active learners and for kids who might also struggle with reversals. The word-focus is clear and builds one step at a time.
Product: Reading Kingdom
Details: An online program that helps 4-10 year olds learn to read through a third grade level.
Price: $19.99 per month or $199.99 for a year. Additional children are $9.99 each per month
What we loved . . .
- Game based, but solidly educational. While Reading Kingdom involves games and game type graphics, it is all about learning the skills needed to read. Children interact with helpful cartoon characters to begin building their reading vocabulary.
- Rechecks learning. The program naturally includes quite a bit of review and retesting. This helps them to confirm mastery of the topics and skills. It is brief, so I did not find it boring to my kids, but it did make sure that they were ready to move on.
- Teaches the little words. One of the foundational principles for Reading Kingdom is that much of our language is made up of those little words that hold the sentences together, but early readers often miss. So, they focus on them and drill them, and repeat them, and make sure that the kids notice them, read them, and understand them. I think this is a great component of the program.
- Short sessions. Because reading does involve some tedious exercises, they break it down into very small lessons. If the kids are having fun and want to continue they can easily do more. But, they are not pressed to continue for 45 minutes or more on repetitive lessons that are helpful, but sometimes not very exciting. My son would do one lesson in a sitting, my daughter would sit for three or four. It was nice to have that flexibility and not feel like they were leaving in the middle of something.
- Excellent program for kids that rush or struggle with letter order. My 9 year old has a tendency to rush. Although she can read, she likes to skip things, filling in the mental gaps as she goes. This program won’t allow that. She has to click what they tell her to. She has to type the letters they ask for. She has to spend the time to slowly make the progress and show what she knows. In order to do well she needs to make sure that she gets letters in the right order and at the right time to move on successfully.
Some considerations . . .
- Program can be touchy at times. This is my biggest beef with a program that we really liked overall. My 7 year old daughter was getting really frustrated and bored stuck in the training part of the program (Letter Land and Sequences) and she is already a good beginner reader, so I figure I would help her out. **Ahem** I know, I should let them learn and not step in, but I knew she knew this stuff, she just kept making little mistakes in the way she entered the letters. So, I stepped in to save the day. Well, after a few minutes, I realized she was better off without me. 😉 On one screen I would type too fast and it would not register my typing. Another page I would try typing instead of clicking the letters and would get it wrong. I was taking her backwards instead of forwards. After a session of failure I did start to have it figured out and began to improve. A few more sessions and I got her out of Letter Land. She is now much more happily and successfully living in the land of Reading and Writing Level 1. And, we both learned a bit in the process.
- Sometimes I didn’t know where they were going. They have some interesting exercises. They show a sequence of letters and then kids need to pick it out of a longer sequence of letters. They teach apostrophes and quotation marks. And, while I’m sure they have a purpose, sometimes they just seemed cumbersome to the kids. I understand why the sequences are important, but they just seem to need an awful lot of repetition to get their point across.
- NOT phonics based. In fact, the author is quite clearly against phonics instruction. She makes some claims that I disagree with regarding phonics, but I guess she is entitled to her professional opinion. I can see the benefit to combing whole language and phonics, but I have worked with too many kids to discredit phonics based programs entirely. I do agree that there are bad phonics programs out there, and many of her criticisms would hold true in those, but there are also great phonics programs that her criticism would not hold up against. To hear all of the differences between this and other reading programs, check out this document.
- Would be nice if it repeated words at times. This is just a personal preference I suppose. But, there were times when my child would be celebrating a right answer and miss the instructions for the next screen, or would not hear the word they were supposed to type. There was no way to go back and hear it again and so they were left to guess what they were supposed to do.
This was an interesting program, definitely different than other reading program that we have used in the past. Some things we loved, some things that left me sour. You can see for yourself if this program is a great fit for your kids with their free trial. It would definitely be worth giving it a try, and if you have a struggling reader in your home, this could be the key that unlocks the world of reading for them. I would definitely encourage a melding of this with a phonics program, but it can give kids a confidence boost to get them on their way.
For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.
Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Reading Kingdom as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.