This is a review and a giveaway (scroll down to the end to for details on how you can win a 3 month subscription to Reading Kingdom worth $60).
Recently we were asked to trial an online reading program called Reading Kingdom. It is designed for children ages 4 to 10 years old so I tested it on Aristotle. So for the past month, Aristotle has been steadily working his way through the program. Some days he does a few lessons and other days he skips. I have also tried the program myself so I could see how it worked and how the lessons progressed. Here’s what we know about it followed by our thoughts about it…
Reading Kingdom is an online program designed to teach children from ages 4 to 10 years old the following up to the level of 3rd Grade:
The program uses a series of activities that progress in difficulty in a step by step format. Prior to commencing, the children are given an “assessment” to test their level to determine where they should begin. The program is customised so that it follows each individual child’s level allowing them to progress to more challenging lessons once mastery has been attained in the current level, and giving them more practice if areas of weakness are detected.
It can be used as an independent program, complete within itself; or it may be used to supplement other programs. The curriculum covers reading preparation for preschoolers right up to grade 3 reading level. It is suitable for readers of all levels – early readers, accelerated readers and struggling readers. Children with learning disabilities, children with dyslexia, and children with ADD (attention deficit disorder) can all benefit from the Reading Kingdom program.
What’s Unique About Reading Kingdom
Reading Kingdom has a unique approach to reading that fills in the gaps and simplifies the current methodologies for learning to read.
Current reading education typically teaches a phonics approach, a whole language approach, or a combination of the two. But the simple fact is that the vast majority of words in the English language cannot be sounded out. This is true even in a classic phonics book such as Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” which begins with:
The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.
In this text only 8 of 23 words (the bolded words) can be sounded out. The other 15 (or 65% of the total) cannot. In order to overcome the problems inherent in sounding out, phonics relies on children memorizing almost 600 rules, such as the “silent e” rule, the double vowel rule, the consonant combination rule and on and on. Remembering nearly 600 rules is impossible for a child – or even an adult for that matter. What’s worse is that the rules themselves are riddled with exceptions. For better or worse, in English, irregularity is the rule. To put it simply, if phonics worked as advertised to teach a child to read it would be spelled “foniks”.
Whole language has had even poorer results. It provides very little structure for learning and as a result, children are overwhelmed with unfamiliar words and sentence structures – and reading failure often ensues.
Reading Kingdom teaches 6 essential skills that are required for reading and writing success:
- motor skills
Reading Kingdom is designed for children to use the program on their own. After a few guided lessons with parents observing and providing mouse assistance only where required, the children can continue their lessons on their own. Parents can monitor their child’s progress through emailed reports and online reports.
Dr Marion Blank is the creator of Reading Kingdom. She is the Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University and one of the world’s top experts in reading with over 40 years of experience.
How Much Does Reading Kingdom Cost?
For parents and homeschoolers:
- $19.99/month (with no monthly minimum), or
- $199.99 per year (20% off)
- Additional children in your account get 50% off ($9.99/month or $99.99/year)
For educators and schools, there are volume discounts available. Just contact Reading Kingdom for more information.
“At the end of first grade, Emily, our 7-year old daughter, was placed in a special education class and we were told to have low expectations of her ability. Within three months of starting this reading program, Emily made her first real progress in reading and writing. Her confidence soared and she actively participated in class activities.” — Lynne and Ron Rosario, parents
“I have personally used Reading Kingdom with a wide range of students. It provides the most complete method for teaching reading and writing that I have seen in the eleven years that I have been teaching primary students. Thank you for this outstanding program.” — Catherine Smith, elementary school teacher
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly both boys have learned to write a variety of words and sentences. I like the email updates and online progress reports. I recommend The Reading Kingdom for parents who want a comprehensive, engaging, and well-researched reading program for their kids.” — Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC
Our Experience with Reading Kingdom
Although Aristotle reads well for a 5 year old, I have long wanted a program that would help him work on his spelling and comprehension. So when we were asked to trial Reading Kingdom, I was very excited. It seemed like just the program we needed.
Admittedly, I was probably more excited about it than he was and he humoured me by taking first skills survey to see where he should begin. The first section is the introduction to reading and writing and contains two parts:
- Seeing Sequences
Seeing sequences checks whether a child can follow letter sequences. Letterland is more on keyboarding skills – recognising where specific letters are on the keyboard. With Aristotle’s experience in using the computer, I thought he would be able to skip ahead to the second section, but he got stuck in Letterland which he found tedious because it was repetitive and “too easy”. Unfortunately, I could not advance him so he had to go through all the lessons which were more than he had the patience for.
I thought he might have gotten stuck in Letterland because he was goofing around in the skills survey, but when I tried it myself, I, too, had to go through Letterland after taking the first skills survey. As far as I can recall, I had only made one typing error in the skills survey. Letterland might be interesting and fun for a child who is still learning his way around the keyboard and practicing how to use the mouse, but for a child who has these skills, it was mundane. Perhaps there should be a function that allows parents to override and skip these lessons.
Even though the program advises parents not to assist, I confess I helped Aristotle to skip past Letterland so he could get onto the reading and writing lessons. I didn’t want him to get put off the program before it had really begun.
There is also a skills survey for part 2. There is a total of 5 reading and writing levels and 30 books in all. Aristotle enjoyed part 2 a lot more and was willingly taking his lessons without the nagging from me. He main frustration was with typos. There doesn’t appear to be a function to delete a typo which means the answer is wrong even if it was accidental and your child knows the answer. Even being as familiar as I am with the keyboard, I also experienced the occasional typo from time to time that I couldn’t correct which was annoying. These are just some minor things I think could be improved upon.
What I do like about Reading Kingdom is that it helps children build a solid foundation in reading, spelling, and writing composition. They learn how sentences should be structured; the use of words like “a”, “and”, “it”, “the”, etc.; and punctuation. It also covers the gaps in the phonics reading program, which I personally struggle with myself. I have tried to teach Aristotle phonics previously so that he can learn to recognise words he is unfamiliar with. It was working well until we came to the “exceptions to the rules” of which there seems to be a lot of. For a while, I couldn’t make sense of what they meant by the long and short vowel sounds.
Reading Kingdom provides a comprehensive reading program that fills in the gaps. Phonics and whole language are great programs to start with to introduce a child to reading, but eventually, you will need to supplement them with further instruction and I believe that Reading Kingdom provides that. It is the first educational program I have seen that not only teaches children to read, but spelling, comprehension, grammar, and punctuation. Children who successfully complete the program are capable of reading and writing (composition) to a level of Grade 3.
Try Reading Kingdom for Yourself
- Become a fan of Reading Kingdom on Facebook (get 1 entry)
- Subscribe to the Reading Kingdom newsletter (get 1 entry)
- Link to Reading Kingdom on your blog or website (get 1 entry)
Leave a comment for each of the above that you have done. This giveaway is open for one week. Last day for entry is Sunday 10 June 2012. The winner will be announced on Monday 11 June 2012 (barring any unforseen circumstances like our internet going down).
Update: Due to our website downtime, this giveaway has been extended until Sunday 17 June 2012. The winner will be announced Monday 18 June 2012. Thanks for your support and understanding!