Reading Kingdom is an online program designed to teach children ages 4-10 to read and write to a third-grade level. The program was created by Dr. Marion Blank, author of The Reading Remedy and the Phonics Plus Five Reading Program. Reading Kingdom actually follows the Phonics plus five approach, addressing the “6 skills needed for reading and writing success”.
The idea behind this approach is that phonics by itself is not enough to teach a child to read, largely because there are so many “rules” and often, the rules can change from word to word, which can be very confusing for someone who is just learning how to read. The Reading Kingdom website has a great PDF detailing how this program is different from other reading programs, and I would definitely suggest looking it over if you want to know more:
I have to admit, as a reading teacher, I’ve never been completely sold on a “whole-language” approach to reading. However, I have a 4th grade son who still struggles in this area, and phonics alone has not be enough for him, so I really wanted to give this a try.
We started with the skills survey, which took my son about two sessions to complete (he probably could have done it in one, but reading frustrates him, so I try to keep lessons short and sweet). This survey helps to customize the Reading Kingdom program to your child’s unique ability. After completing the survey, your child is placed at the appropriate level to begin the program. The first level is sequencing, but my son actually began at the next level up, Letter Land.
At this level, children practice finding letters on the keyboard, and also practice typing both upper and lowercase letters. This skill is important for the rest of the program, as children will be expected to type, as well as click on, answers.
We spent about two weeks in Letter Land, and from what I understand, the time spent at each level really depends on the child. In general, sessions are designed to be about 15-30 minutes, which was good for us, because with that amount of time on the computer, plus an additional 30 minutes reading with me later, it gave my son about an hour of reading practice daily.Since it was broken up into smaller “sessions” it was easier for him to handle and less frustrating for the both of us! 🙂
While your child is going through the program (and by the way, the “host” of the program is an Owl, which my son loved :)), you can keep track of how they are doing by clicking on the section they are on from the menu, and scrolling to the bottom of the page. Here you will see a graphic detailing their progress:
This made it easy for me to keep track of how he was doing. I tried to spend as much time as possible in the room while he was working, but I found it difficult not to jump in and “help” when he was working on a question, so now I try to listen from outside the room where it’s not so tempting to answer questions for him!! The instructions are very clear that parents are NOT supposed to help their child answer questions, because this makes it harder to truly customize the program to the child’s level. After completing Letter Land, there is another skills survey and then your child will move onto the reading levels.
We have most recently moved on to Reading Level 1, and so far, it is going well. The program can be repetitive, which my son finds boring once and while, however, he enjoys the computer animation and since the sessions are short, it doesn’t bother him too much. So far, he’s had practice reading and spelling basic words (i.e. boys, kids, pet, some etc). Usually he will be shown a picture, and will be given a verbal prompt to click on or spell a word. Other times, he will be given a word and have to fill in missing letters.
At first, my son didn’t pay close attention to the letters (much like he doesn’t in his reading) but after missing quite a few questions, he has learned to look at ALL the letters in the word before answering. This is important for his reading, because my son often makes the mistake of looking at the first few letters and then just saying a word, which is often incorrect (example: misreads “these” for “then” or “there”). I have frequently tried to get him to slow down when we are reading together, and have even made him point to a word letter by letter to really make him look at it, but that usually ends with both of us being angry. I can say that after using Reading Kingdom for a while, I am noticing that during his oral reading, he is paying more attention to the words, which is a big improvement!!
We are hoping to move through Reading Level 1 soon, and then go on to Level 2, and I will likely update this post once we complete the full program. For now, I will say that it is going well and seems to be working. Reading still may not be my son’s favorite part of the day, but this program doesn’t reduce him to tears, and I feel like he is getting some valuable practice out of it. For a parent with a struggling reader who hates to read but still needs to practice, I would recommend Reading Kingdom.
The website offers a free 30-day trial, which you can use to check out the program. After that, a subscription will cost $19.99/month (with no monthly minimum) or $199.99/year. They do offer a scholarship program for families in need, and you can get that info on the website too. Check it out here:
****Note: I was given free access to this program as a member of the TOS Crew for the purpose of writing this review. The opinions represented are my own. ****