Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: Reading Kingdom

We are starting the road to reading with our youngest so I was very excited to get the opportunity to review an online reading program called Reading Kingdom.

About Reading Kingdom

The Reading Kingdom is a fun, easy-to-use online program that teaches children 4-10 years old how to read and write at a third grade level.

  • Most kids can use the program on their own after just a few lessons.
  • It's fun so children think they're playing a game and want to practice.
  • It was created by Dr. Marion Blank, Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University and one of the world's top experts in reading.
  • It works with any other curriculum a child may be using.
  • It's the only program to offer customized online reading instruction for each child.
  • And, it's the only system that teaches all 6 skills needed for reading & writing success!

Our Experience

The first thing students are asked to do in Reading Kingdom is to take the skills assessment test. They were checking to see if she understood the left to right sequence used in reading and whether or not she could match letters from the screen with letters on the keyboard. Being that she's only four, she clearly did not have any keyboarding skills so it wasn't a surprise when they placed her in the lowest level.

Unfortunately for Kayleigh, Letter Land and Seeing Sequences was just a repeat of the skills test. For more than two weeks she had to endure the same dry typing exercises over and over. And the way they repeated the same directions between every exercise dragged out the lessons even more.

Letter land was essentially teaching typing skills. The would show a letter/number/punctuation mark on the screen and she would have to type it on the keyboard. You also had the option of using an onscreen keyboard with the mouse. The mouse was easier for Kayleigh as she's been using that for years.

I was very surprised that there was so much focus on learning the keyboard required for a learn to read program. Generally, small children learning to read do not have knowledge of the keyboard, let alone the fine motor skills. And since you are given a time limit for completing each question, the fact that beginning readers do not have these the necessary motor skills for this created a lot of frustration. I did discover that you could increase the amount of time for each exercise but this did little to relieve her frustration.

And though the program claims to customized to the child, I didn't find this to be exactly true. After the first couple of days she pretty much got mastered the sequencing exercises, yet it didn't move her to the next level. You do have the option of contacting the company and they will move your child's level behind the scenes but I don't think of that as being truly customized. She had to complete another two weeks of this and it was not pleasant for either of us. Honestly, she was in tears every time we used the program. I kept telling her that once she finished this level that she would be playing some fun reading games and I wound up forcing her to complete the lessons so that she could get to the fun part.

Finally the day arrived where she completed these levels and advanced to Reading/Writing Level 1. I was so happy. We sat down that day eager to try out the much anticipated games and start learning to read.

Right off the bat, she was asked to type the word kid. The directions are given verbally so she didn't see the word at all. They just expected a four year, who can read a hand full of sight words, to spell a word she had no prior reading knowledge of. She just typed in whatever, I think she got 'k' right, and eventually they showed the correct spelling. Next they had her find the word among a few other words  and eventually she was able to recognize it in a group. Finally they gave you the target word and several similar words with missing letters. She had to click on the word that could be the target word and then type in the missing letters. Then it started all over again with a new target word. Sadly, these activities did nothing to alleviate her frustration or add to her enjoyment of the program. I was very disappointed that there still wasn't a game-like feel to the activities.

In the end, I would not recommend this as a learn to read program. The amount of keyboard knowledge excepted of the learner is way too much for the average beginning reader. I don't know any 4, 5, or 6 year olds who have the keyboard skills required of this program. And the drill like nature of the activities in not engaging enough for the average young child.

I did find the graphics to be colorful and friendly.  Occasionally my daughter would giggle at some of the onscreen antics through her tears. I also liked that they sent email updates each week so I could keep up with her progress.

If you have a young child who has adequate keyboard skills, then I would suggest you take a look at this program. An older child who struggles with reading might also do well. Their philosophy is an interesting one, as they put a slightly different twist on phonics and whole language. You can read a more detailed account how How Reading Kingdom is Different from Other Programs to see if it's right for your child.



Age Range: 4-10

Cost: $19.99/month of $199.99/year  They also offer a free 30-day trial and a scholarship program.


Disclaimer: I received a free subscription to this site for review purposes. All opinions are my own or those of my family.


Mean Mama Bear said...

Poor little poppet! I hope you are buying her something nice for making her endure all that.

Brittney said...

Except for the fact that I reviewed this with a 5 year old boy, I could have written your review word for word. It was not a fit for us, but I suppose it would work for different learning styles.


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