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Friday, September 7, 2012

Reading Kingdom Review


Reading Kingdom is an online site that is designed to teach children ages 4-10 to read.  It also teaches writing skills.  So, what makes Reading Kingdom different from the plethora of other online reading sites out there?  Reading Kingdom does not take a purely phonics or purely whole language approach.  Instead, they blend the two along with 4 other skills, as shown in the chart below, to create a unique teaching approach.


Students begin by taking an assessment, and parents are admonished over and over again to NOT help your child other than providing hand support for younger children who may not have much computer mouse experience.  From there, the program determines where your child starts.  Before the actual "reading" lessons, there are some lessons that simply teaches keyboard and mouse awareness and also a module that focuses on sequencing (reading left to right) and letter awareness as it relates to a letter's location on the keyboard.  No emphasis is given to typing with the correct finger-it's not a typing program- but rather knowing where the letters are will help the student to complete their later activities in a timely manner.

After your child completes the activities above, or if they test out of them on their skills test, they begin with the Reading and Writing Levels 1-5 (starting at level one if they are moving up from the pre-reading stuff or if they test into level one, or in a higher level depending on the results of the skills test).  Each level contains 6 books that the children learn to read.  Each level introduces new words and their variants (play, playing, played, etc.).  You can see the break down of how many new words per level in the chart below:
Students are taught how to spell, type, and read each word and each sentence before they read the actual book, so they are assured of success when the time to read the book comes.  Below are a few examples of activities:

Here, they choose the correct word from several that look and sound similar.
Here, they choose the correct letters sequentially to spell the word above.

Here, the word is spoken and they must type it correctly.
Reading Kingdom is completely tailored to the individual child's abilities based on how they answer the skills summaries and based on how they do within each lesson.  If you want to know more about how the program works, you can read this summary of how long it takes to move through the program (which also does a succinct job of explaining the program).

The pros:  The lessons are short-no more than 15 minutes each, and maybe even as fast as about 5 minutes depending on the child.  Mastery must be attained or the child does not progress, but as I'd watch my daughter stumble from time to time, I was impressed that the route to mastery is not daunting, and is done so sequentially that even when she had to spend a little longer learning a word, my daughter never got discouraged.  There are enough "frills" that my 7 year old thought it was fun, but not so many that the program becomes a just another reading game.  My daughter is very delayed in reading, and I really appreciated the lack of any reference to grade levels.  My daughter has no idea that she tested at the beginning of the program when a "normal" child her age would have tested higher, and as a mom, that means a lot to me.  It is very interesting to watch the program adapt to your child's responses-giving them more activities with a word that is causing them trouble, and moving more quickly with words that they have good mastery of. I also really, really like that the students learn to type each word, and to type words in sentences.  They must capitalize the letter that starts the sentence, and they must use correct punctuation within the sentence, including putting a space after a comma.  I think it's brilliant that they are teaching the children how to type sentences correctly in addition to just reading them.  Oh, and reports are e-mailed to parents each week about your child's progress, plus parents can log in and see how their child is doing.  Here's a sample report for my daughter:

The cons:  Sometimes, my daughter wasn't sure exactly what the program wanted.  For example, the program showed her a sentence that said, "Birds fly, birds eat, birds rest."  Then the words disappeared and it prompted her aurally to "type birds".  She would forget that it was the beginning of the sentence and she needed to capitalize it.  So she knew how to spell "birds" but it was incorrect because it should be "Birds".  I love that they are teaching this skill, but she just doesn't always "get" that she has to type the word as it would appear in the sentence.  She also got tripped up on the commas.  A yellow highlighted space indicated she should do something there, but she just pressed the space bar each time.  Then the program would prompt her "type a comma" and show her what one looked like, and she would do that and move on.  I think this relates more to HER, and her apparent challenges retaining information than to the program, but it definitely caused her to get some things incorrect that she really knew.  I suspect this will improve with time though. 

The bottom line:  Reading Kingdom has become part of "school" for my daughter.  She does it every day, and will continue to this whole year.  I have seen an improvement in her reading outside of the program, and I'm also seeing a desire on her part to read some "real books".  I don't know how much of that is just developmental advancement, and how much is Reading Kingdom, but either way, we are sticking with it!

You can get a free, 30 day trial of Reading Kingdom by signing up on their website.  That's probably the best way to know if Reading Kingdom is right for you.  After your free trial, Reading Kingdom costs $19.99 a month or $199.99 for a year.  If you'd like to see what other members of the Crew had to say, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the Crew, I received a year's access for one student to Reading Kingdom for the purpose of being able to provide my honest review.  All opinions are my own.
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The Brown Family said...

Just found this review and had a question for you. Can you give any insight into the CONTENT of the program? I'm concerned that there may be lots of magic and witches and other things that our family wants to avoid...and since I thought we might share similar values (ie the Bible!) I thought you might be able to help! Thanks so much!!

oneblessedmamma said...

Hi Brown Family! I wish I could. It's been so long since I looked at the program, I don't remember the specific content. I know if there was something profoundly objectionable, I would have mentioned it in the review, because those things are important to me, but we also only used it for that year, and so I am not sure up and down the spectrum what you would encounter. I would suggest the 30 day trial, assuming they still have it, and just sit with your child to check it out. Sorry I can't be more help!