Disclosure: I’ve been asked to write a review on BrillKids Little Reader and I have a copy of the software plus Semester 1 to give away to one reader for free. Details on the giveaway are at the end of this post. This is my honest opinion on the software – what I liked and didn’t like about it – and how I feel it has benefited our family.
I first heard about Little Reader in October 2008 and I trialled the software with Gavin who was 21 months then (just slightly younger than Gareth now). Although I saw the potential in the program, I was not interested in purchasing the software because I found it too tedious and time consuming to set up my own lessons. Being a busy mother, I wanted something that was ready-made and ready to go with minimal work on my part.
It wasn’t until BrillKids packaged their software with two semesters (1 year’s worth) of lessons that I decided to buy it. Instead of being a software I had to figure out and then create my own lessons, I was now ready to go with the click of a button. Everything was done for us:
- each day, the appropriate flashcards were shuffled and ready for us.
- there was a tracking system to show us which lesson we were up to and what we had already completed.
- we had word flashcards, flashcards with pictures, and multimedia to add a multisensory approach to our reading lessons (which we did not have with flashcards alone).
- our flashcards had variety because each subject had different pictures and different fonts to depict each word and its meaning, for instance, dog might be shown as “dog”, “DOG”, or “Dog”, while the image might be a poodle, a dalmatian, or a labrador.
- the program taught “whole word recognition” as well as “phonics” so children can learn to read quickly and be able to apply what they have learned with new words they have never seen before.
- the lessons included simple stories to reinforce budding reading skills.
- finally, we could personalise the flashcards so that the picture of “Mum” is me, the picture of “Dad” is my husband, the picture of a kitchen is of the kitchen in our house, etc.
This was a lot better than my Doman flashcards which:
- only contained words with no accompanying pictures to identify what that word might mean (which was fine for an older child who already knew what a “rocket” was but meaningless to an infant who had never heard of or seen a rocket). I started the Doman flashcard reading program with Gareth when he was 3 months old but I found his interest dwindling until I introduced images with the flashcards to help him understand what all those words meant.
- I had to shuffle the cards to get them ready for lessons; mark the flashcards so I knew how many times I’d shown a particular word and when it needed to be retired.
My only gripe then was that Little Reader was a completely computer-based learning program, but since I had the physical flashcards from my Doman kit, I wasn’t too fussed. After a while, BrillKids, came out with Little Reader Deluxe which included physical flashcards, books, phonics cards, lesson planners, and sticker labels for labelling objects around the house. At this point, I was hard pressed to find another flashcard reading system that could top this. Little Reader Deluxe was truly a complete reading program for young children.
What about support?
With any software program, there are always faults and problems cropping up from time to time so how was the BrillKids’ after-purchase service like? Well, I haven’t had too many problems with the software but I have found the responses to my issues to be prompt and helpful. Additionally, for advice on progress and other non-software related issues, BrillKids has a forum to connect users with other like-minded parents who share their feedback on how they navigated through their personal issues, such as, “my baby has become very mobile and won’t sit still through a lesson, what can I do?”
They also have videos on Youtube that demonstrate how to operate all the different features on Little Reader so you have step-by-step instructions.
Little Reader has also won numerous awards:
- 2011 Media of the Year – Creative Child Magazine’s Creative Toy Awards
- PTPA Seal of Approval – Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) Media Awards
- Summer 2011 Tillywig Brain Child Award – Tillywig Toy Awards
- Mom’s Best Award Fantastic Products 2011 – Mom’s Best Award
- Fall 2011 TNPC Seal of Approval – The National Parenting Center
- 10 BEST Educational Products & 100 BEST Children’s Products – Dr. Toy Awards
Does it work?
What’s the point of a software program if it can’t deliver? Little Reader has numerous testimonials and success stories from parents. Watch them:
I know this is my review and it should be my kids on video. Unfortunately, I have never recorded their progress on video until recently when I entered a BrillKids video competition where I recorded Gavin reading. I haven’t recorded Gareth either because he likes to nurse while we read – whether it is a book or a Little Reader lesson. That and because I recently decided to reduce my children’s digital footprint after receiving disturbing emails regarding my children’s photos.
At this point Gavin (4 years and 8 months) is well beyond the curriculum of Little Reader. We still use Little Reader for our own dinosaur flashcards and linking memory stories for Gavin, and Gareth is still progressing through the curriculum.
Because Doman has always stressed the importance of resisting the urge to “test” your children, I have avoided doing so. However, recently, while hubby and I were at the bookstore, we asked Gavin to read a few random books from Ladybird’s Peter and Jane series. We got up to 10a before Gavin protested that he didn’t want to do this any more and was saved by the friend we were meeting. He could read the entire first page of 10a without any problems so we know he is reading at least at that level.
Now here’s the problem and reason why I have tried not to test him – once I start, I can’t stop. When I got home, I looked up some quick and easy online reading assessments to further identify what level Gavin was reading at and I *gasp!* tested him some more! (I know, I know! Bad Mummy!) As if that wasn’t bad enough – to get his cooperation, I bribed him! Okay, I promise, no more after this. Anyway, in both of the tests that we did, he could read up to Grade 4 level.
What is he reading on his own? Recently, he finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. He’s also reading my phone messages, emails and anything I write on the computer, so maybe it’s time to start changing his name in my blog posts. We’ve always joked that he was Aristotle and his brother was Hercules so maybe that’s what I’ll use from now on…
- Hercules, age 5, (aka G2) is also able to read Level 10 Peter and Jane books without difficulty
- Download the accessory Little Reader flashcards we made
The Giveaway – ENDED
I have one copy of Little Reader complete with Semester 1 lessons to giveaway. How can you participate? Get one entry in the draw for doing each of the following:
- Sign up for my newsletter
- Like Figur8 on Facebook
- Like BrillKids on Facebook
- Follow BrillKids on Twitter
If you have already done these, you automatically qualify for an entry, but don’t forget to leave a comment to tell me. Leave a comment for each of these that you’ve done. I’ll put all the entries into an online random selector and announce the winner on Monday 10 October 2011. Good luck!
Visit BrillKids for more information on Little Reader, early literacy, and early childhood education.
Buy Little Reader from the BrillKids online store, and get 10% off your purchase with the following code: BKAFF36716.