Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading Kingdom - A New TOS Review!

Our family has been reviewing another product for the TOS Homeschool Crew called Reading Kingdom

Reading Kingdom is a computer based reading program that teaches your child how to read by using a system created by Dr. Marion Blank.  Dr. Blank believes that there are six crucial skills necessary for a child to be able to read.  Those six skills are Sequencing, Motor Skills, Sounds, Meaning, Grammar and Comprehension.  Dr. Blank states that most of the English language does not rely on phonics so it should not be solely used to teach how to read.  To learn more, please read about their approach and watch the video below.
Stephen Colbert on the dreaded "soft c" from cjcj on Vimeo.

The Product:
This computer based program has several components that build upon each other.  The first and what seems like the most important is the keyboard and mouse training.  Since this program is designed for children ages 4-10 (or Pre-K - ~3rd grade), we can assume that most will not have a strong keyboarding background.

This part of the program helps to ensure that the child knows how to use the mouse and where to readily find the letters on the keyboard.  However, it does not require the 10-finger placement.  In other words, the child can hunt and peck with one or two fingers.

In order to teach this portion of the program Reading Kingdom uses a series of sequencing exercises that are both fun and entertaining.  The first thing the program does is give a set of letters and then asks the child to find a specific few and they have to be chosen in the correct order.  See the picture below.

So then they are able to move on to Letter Land.  In Letter Land they need to click with their mouse on a keyboard on the screen a letter they see and then the next step has them type the same letter on the actual keyboard.  The lessons here start with single letters then multiple letters which include Capitals, spaces and punctuation.  All of which help the child get more comfortable with the keyboard and the mouse.  This beginning section is very important so be sure not to skip ahead or else it will cause problems with placing your child properly later.
These two sections of the program could take 4-6 weeks each, but they can be done simultaneously if the computer deems that necessary.  Both Seeing Sequencing and Letter Land have 4 levels and each level takes anywhere from 6-12 sessions or lessons to complete.
After these sections have been completed the real "reading" begins. They start off with a Skills Survey to see what the child already knows and then places them in the appropriate level (1-5).  Each level also comes with 6 books that the child can attain once they have learned ALL the words contained in the book.  When they teach a new word like "girl", they also teach the variant of the word like "girls."  Each session is about 15 minutes in length and taught in a fun game-like atmosphere.

At the end of each Reading Level there is a Progress Check to ensure mastery of the material the child has just learned.  If they show mastery they will progress to the next level.  If not, they will then head to a Review portion which will last about 1-3 weeks.

The parent can check the child's progress after each session at any level and see how they did.

All in all this program can be completed in as little as three to six months if they already have reading skills.  If not this program should take twelve to fifteen months.  The price of the program is $19.99 per month with no minimum or you could choose to pay $199.99 for an entire year.  You can have multiple children using the program for an additional $9.99 per child.  They also have scholarships available if the cost of the program is out of your reach, but you feel that this program is exactly what you have been looking for.  And remember to try out the 30 day FREE Trial membership first!

If you would like a more detailed explanation of the length of the program or how the program progresses, please click the links.  You can also read through their FAQ's if you have further questions that I may not have covered.

Our Experience:
At first I started only with Audrie, my non-reader.  And because of all the sequencing and finding the letters in letter land she got board very fast.  I had to make sure I was right there with her to help with the timing of clicking the mouse and typing and keeping her on track, but she got used to it.  She did ask me several times if she had to keep doing it and I kept promising her that she was getting close to the 'learning to read' part.  Finally we arrived, and she was very excited.  Audrie really does want to read.  She just doesn't sit still long enough to nor does she have the patience.

Now that we are into the reading portion of the program (she is still in the Reading Level 1) she has been "taught" how to read about 4 words:  kid, girl, some and a. She has yet to pick any of these words out in any of our books or see it on the screen in some other part of the program and say "Hey, I know that word it's ...!"  I also can't even get her to spell them right after the lesson.

I ended up setting Arianna up too, knowing that she would probably place out of the program.  As of yet she has not, but she hasn't had much trouble.  She does not work with the program every day, like her sister, but she does seem to like it.  I think for her she is getting more out of the spelling then 'learning to read.'

My Thoughts:
At the beginning the program seems way slow.  Then there's some weird timing issues with how long a child is given to find a letter on the keyboard or to navigate the mouse properly.  Even for me at times it seemed a bit fast and I am a very fast typer!

And I know for us, the Letter Land portion of the program seemed to take forever, but make sure you hang in there.  It will progress your child.  It does come to an end. You can do more then one lesson per day (which we did) but you must exit through the door and then re-enter.  If you just go and click on the hot air balloon all that does is give your child more practice, not really progression.

The program does offer a lot of positive reinforcement while the child is working.  And the animations are cute, friendly and colorful.  But I don't know if I really am sold on this product.

I am definitely a proponent for teaching with phonics.  Reading Kingdom takes a whole word approach, which is a way to teach, but not a way I can agree with ... at least not yet.  The jury is still out on this one.  I believe in phonics and I personally have seen how phonics is used for remediation, as well as initially teach children to read.

I also do not think the amount of feedback for the parent is enough.  The little progression chart you can see at the end of the session tells you your child needs work or that they are doing great or excellent.  What it doesn't tell you is where you child needs help and why.  In the last lesson that I did with Audrie, the computer wasn't recognizing her typing and I was watching her.  She was doing them all correctly.  After her lesson was over it told me (when I checked) that she might need additional help.  I knew that wasn't true. 

All in all I don't think personally I would lean toward purchasing this program.  I do see where some could benefit from the way this program approaches teaching reading.  It can also be used as a great help with spelling.  I do plan on continuing to use the program with Audrie and hope to update you in the future with her progress.  However, I am also still teaching her with our tried and true phonics program.

I hope you take some time and check out what other Crew members thought about Reading Kingdom.

*** I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of money for any of my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I receive.***

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