Friday, September 7, 2012

Reading Kingdom (Review)


World renowned reading expert and Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University, Dr. Marion Blank, has created an online program designed to teach 4-10 year olds how to read and write to a third grade level.  Reading Kingdom immediately appealed to my son because it was computer-based, easy for him to use, and the lessons/games were interactive.  In this tech savvy generation, anything that can be taught via computer/video game method seems to be a hit... especially with the boys at my house.  This is one time I'm not complaining about screen time because while he is having fun, I know he is learning.  His enthusiasm to practice is great from this Teacher/Mom's standpoint. 

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Even though my 8 year stint in the public school system was in an elementary music classroom, I was around long enough to see methodology cycle and change.  A great debate in primary school classrooms always lies between whether or not to use the phonics or whole language approach exclusively when teaching children to read.  Reading Kingdom is unique in that it incorporates elements of both phonics and whole language while teaching additional skills needed to achieve reading and writing success. Rather than requiring kids to learn numerous complicated rules, it utilizes the six skills method for reading which teaches the rules implicitly.  It focuses on sequencing, motor skills, phonemic awareness, meaning, grammar, and reading comprehension.  Because of this special model, the online program works with and supports any curriculum and is actually being successfully used in homeschools, preschool - 3rd grade classrooms, ESL programs, and special education classes.  Jeremiah is a struggling reader, and this program was definitely beneficial to him. 


When beginning the Reading Kingdom program, parents are given the direction to allow the kids to complete this program on their own.  With the exception of keyboard questions and mouse control, the parents are to take a backseat.  This direction is hard for a Momma like me who tends to hover when the kids are online.  However, this site is completely safe.  There are no ads or things to be concerned about the children encountering.  While I still made sure I was close by, my son had a lot of autonomy with this program - which he enjoyed! 

An assessment is given at the program's onset to allow for customization based upon the child's skill level.  From that point the program is designed to minimize error.  If and when error occurs, specific techniques are offered to overcome the problem.  The child's progress is continually monitored, and the parent is always able to log in to see a report. 

Each lesson is approximately 15-30 minutes in duration.  It is easy to pause or stop the program if need be and you are able to return where you left off.  This was good for a sometimes fleeting attention span.  Even still, if a child works consistently and completes 4 to 5 lessons per week, the entire program can be finished in a 12-15 month time span.  Of course, there is never a rush and children should be allowed to progress naturally at their own pace. 

One aspect of Reading Kingdom that I found somewhat unexpected was the emphasis on typing.  Knowledge of and familiarity with the order of letters on the keyboard, the space bar, punctuation marks, CAPS LOCK, and the shift function were all gained.  Actually, the program itself places a strong emphasis on accurate spelling, punctuation, and writing in general.  This is a plus considering the program itself is reading based. 

One other feature I want to call your attention to is the Resources tab.  In this section, you will find videos, tutorials, and answers to your questions.  Holiday-themed worksheets, interactive games to practice comprehension, sight-word study, activities, and recommended books are all included.  There are even weekly learning tips available.  You'll definitely want to utilize this section in addition to the program. 

PhotobucketA risk-free Reading Kingdom account can be created and used free of charge for 30 days.  As always, I suggest you start with FREE before investing any money.  You want to make sure the program is a good fit for you child.  Afterwards, a subscription can be purchased for $19.99/mo or $199.99/yr for your first reader.  Additional readers are $9.99/mo or $99.99/yr.  You can also purchase books, kits, and other supporting resources in the Reading Kingdom Store

While personally, I find the price prohibitive for the whole family to use, I do plan to continue with the program through our trial period.  At that time if my son has continued to progress and completes the program as I anticipate, I may consider starting my daughter on it. I do see the value in this teaching method. One child's subscription would be much easier to swing than our whole family.  Why don't you click the button below and see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members are saying about this program?

Disclaimer:  I was provided a complimentary subscription in exchange for my honest review.

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