Monday, March 7, 2011

The Reading Kingdom! TOS Review

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The Reading Kingdom is a complete online reading program that says it will take your child to a 3rd grade reading level when complete. It is for children ages 4-10! After signing your child up they are taken through an online assessment that places them appropriately into the program. Parents are encouraged to not aid or help their children during the assessment, so the results will be accurate. If your child is young and not familiar with the keyboard they have an intro practice area as well. Sweetpea took the placement and was placed into Seeing Sequence, and Letter Land. In Seeing Sequence screens like this were displayed, and she was asked to recall the letter in the right order. 

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In Letter Land she practiced clicking letters in the right order on the screen, and then typing them in the same order. Children are timed and if they do not answer in the time limit the answer is demonstrated, and they are given another chance to respond.
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The whole program is directed to the student, and can be done fairly independently depending on the child's skill. This program really focuses on sequencing, so it can take many weeks to move out of Seeing Sequence, and Letter Land. Sweetpea is still practicing those skills. The Reading Kingdom automatically moves children up a level when they meet a certain level of mastery.
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Once they move into the actual reading segment of the program words are taught by sight, sound, and spelling. From what I have seen or read, there is no explicit phonics instruction. If you go to The Reading Kingdom's page and search under why it works you will find that the creator is anti Phonics. Here is a direct quote "The dominant method of reading instruction - phonics, or sounding out - does not work!" 
  I personally do not agree with this at all, and have a hard time feeling like this program will really work for our family. One other thing I found frustrating with The Reading Kingdom was that I went ahead and had Buster take the placement hoping that I could see more of the reading aspect. Strangely it placed him into Letter Land. I found that very odd considering he can read at a 3rd-4th grade level, and has had typing experience. For young children fine motor skills often do not develop at the same rate as reading ability, and I do not like them to be tied together for reading instruction.

In this picture you can see how parents can keep track and monitor progress. A chart like this is displayed for each student, and shows whether a skill is mastered or still in progress.
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The Reading Kingdom offers a free 30 day trial, and then after that you pay $19.99 a month or $199.99 per year. It is $9.99 a month for each additional child. They also say that they have a scholarship program, but I'm not sure how that works. Both Sweetpea, and Buster enjoyed the program, and I found the letter sequencing to be helpful for Sweetpea, because she does tend to see things backwards at times. I also want to say that their customer service is top rate, and they responded to all my questions very promptly. If you want to learn more visit The Reading Kingdom for yourself. There you can watch videos, read testimonials, and sign up for a free trial.

Pros:
Great customer service
Fun.
Colorful.
Fairly independent.
Teaches typing, and mouse skills.

Cons:
Very Pricey.
Sight word oriented.
Requires a lot of fine motor skills.

The Reading Kingdom was given to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.

Be sure and visit the Homeschool Crew blog to see what everyone else has to say!

3 comments:

Jennifer said...

I agree, I am not sure the placement tests work correctly. My son is also reading chapter books and was placed in Letter Land!?? Very frustrating to say the least.

Reading Kingdom said...

Thank you for taking the time to review our Reading Kingdom program...I would just like to clarify that the Reading Kingdom program does teach the sounds of letters and letter blends (phonics), but it does so in the context of the other skills required for reading mastery. The Reading Kingdom teaches 6 skills that Dr. Marion Blank, the Director of the Light on Literacy program at Columbia University and the creator of the Reading Kingdom, has determined are required for reading and writing success. These skills are visual sequencing, motor skills for writing, phonics (sounds), syntax (grammar), semantics (meaning) and comprehension (text).

Another clarification that should be made is that clearly phonics, the dominant form of reading education, does not work for a substantial percentage of the children, which is why our nation has a 40% rate of reading failure.

Your point about the Letter Land (keyboard skills) format is a good one. While it is not essential to reading, the ability to smoothly use the keyboard is essential to using any online program that requires writing - which the Reading Kingdom does. That's why, even if a child has reading skills, the first assessment may determine that they should use the Letter Land format. However, once they complete that format the child will receive another assessment that will determine where in the reading/writing formats they should begin.

Thanks again!

Abbie said...

Thanks for stopping by, and posting your comment. My daughter finally made it past letter land and was excited to learn some words. I just want to add that your comments about 40% reading failure do not mean much to me. All of the public schools that I have experience with do not teach explicit phonics. In fact they focus heavily on sight reading, and that is why 40% of students are failing reading. Anyways we will just have to agree to disagree on this topic. Thank you again for the chance to try your product.