Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CREW Review- Reading Kingdom

Kindergarten- The Year of reading.  Or at least, trying to!
For the past month we have had the privilege of reviewing the Reading Kingdom website with our 5 year old.
We were currently "doing" another reading program, but this is the one CJ began to ask to use daily and so, on, CJ!
Reading Kingdom is an online program geared for grades K-3rd to teach reading, comprehension, and writing. Developed by Dr. Marion Blank, author of the book The Reading Remedy and director of the Light on Learning program at Columbia University, Reading Kingdom uses parts of phonics and whole language learning and adds sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning and comprehension to teach reading and writing.
When you first begin Reading Kingdom your child will take a skills test which places them in the appropriate level.  There are 5 levels with 6 books in each level.  Before a child reads a book, he or she is taught all of the words they will need to know to be able to read that book.  Instant success = happy, confident child.  After each level there is a progress check.  If your child shows mastery, they move on to the next level.  If there is an area of weakness, your child will continue at that level with more review.  There are tons of other details that you can check out by going to Reading Kingdom's website Parents tab!
OK, enough of the parent details.  I want to share with your our experience.
We started, of course, with the skills survey.  It was painful- for both of us.  BUT, we did it in bite size chunks and with a lot of encouragement plowed through it.  CJ's frustration was that he did not get everything right.  Well, surprise son, you can't really read yet!  Because he has just turned five and is just starting out, he was placed in the Seeing Sequence and Letter Land level.  Sequencing is just that- seeing a sequence and typing it in.  I was worried he would not be able to remember them (on the example below the word dog would disappear and then he would type it), but he did fine.
Letter Land is simply familiarizing the child with the keyboard.  I was worried he couldn't do that either- he did.  I have heard from several people using this program that their frustration with it was that their child "tested" into a lower reading/skill level because of issues with the keyboard.  I can see that happening, but I would encourage you to think of it as a whole, not just for one specific skill.  With this day and age, even our young children need to become well versed with a keyboard.  If learning that side by side with reading works, then all the better, as far as I am concerned.  Once past that level we finally got to learning words.  (hey, no one said learning to read was a fast process!)
The first words he learned:  kid(s), boy(s), girl(s), some, more.
Yep!  That was it.  Not your ordinary first word experience.  I admit, I was surprised by the choice of words, but quite frankly it did not faze him at all.  It would start by asking if you could type the word some.  He would type s and press Enter, the program would assume he needed help and then proceed to teach him to spell some with a series of activities.  Once he got all the words, he got to the first book!  We cheered.  Then he actually read it and we cheered again!
Finding the space where the word SOME would fit.
Did I mention I love this program?
Let me break down a few more details I think you should know.
*Reading Kingdom is repetitive with the skills, but presented in several different ways.  It changed activities and characters enough to keep CJ interested, once we passed the skills test.
*The voice behind the directions, a cute little owl, is clear and easy to understand.
*The animation is simple and cute without being annoying.
*If your child does place into a level you are not happy with, you can easily contact customer support and they will move your child forward or backward, per your request!
*You can go back and repeat lessons as many times as you want if your child needs more review.
*Your child accumulates points while they work which in turn "opens" a passport at specific point levels to reveal an animated scene.  More points mean more animation.  Maybe silly, but CJ loved it and would often do another level just to get to open his passport.
*Level 1 teaches 36 new words and 63 new words and variants, just in six books!
*By the time your child reads a book they have been taught the words they need to know to do so.  I do remember saying "some, more, kids.., really?  What happened to a, the, and it?" But I am telling you, when CJ read the phrase Some more kids, his face lit up!
*The book was animated.  After reading the sentence and pushing the arrow key, the pictures come to life with simple animation.  Not your average, boring reader.  You also have the option to have the story read to you. 
 *You can receive progress reports by email or online.
*There are two keyboard options.  You can use the mouse with an online keyboard or you can choose to use your physical keyboard.  At first we started with the one on screen, but CJ asked me to switch and that has worked better for him.
*There are game like activities, but this is not really game based.  I like that.  I want my kids to be challenged sometimes and not to expect that everything has to be fun and entertaining to be worthwhile.
*What I loved most- that CJ asks daily to use this program.  When we took some time off to travel, he asked when we could get home to start again.  It is not always easy for him, there are definitely some challenging aspects, but he is learning to read and gaining confidence.

*The skills test- but hey, it is a necessary evil.  I recommend you up the mommy encouragement factor and promise there is more fun ahead.  Good things come to those that keep working, or something like that!  ;)
*Once the activities became more challenging CJ would occasionally not type in a response fast enough and the computer would give him help, assuming he did not know the answer.  Since beginning, though, I have found you can increase the wait time under the parent options, so really, this is no longer a thing I don't like!
Our bottom line,  LOVE IT!  (did I say that already?)  We have since shelved the other reading program for a while and will continue to work with Reading Kingdom for the rest of the year.  If he is learning to read and enjoying it all at the same time, how can we go wrong?
You can begin Reading Kingdom with a free 30 day trial.  After that is it $19.99 a month or $199.99 a year.
Check out what fellow CREW members had to say about Reading Kingdom by clicking on the banner below. 
Disclaimer- I received a free one year subscription to Reading Kingdom in exchange for my honest review of this product.  The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by the company in any way.

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