Friday, August 31, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: The Reading Kingdom

Since my daughter has special needs I am always eager to try out new reading programs so I was pleased to have the opportunity to review The Reading Kingdom. While most programs use phonics or focus on whole language learning this program takes a unique approach by integrating the best part of those methods into their 6 skill model of reading instruction.  Developed by Dr. Marion Blank, the director of the Light on Learning program at Columbia University, The Reading Kingdom is a common core approach that requires no memorization of rules.  Below is the chart showing the comparison between this program and the approaches most commonly used to teach reading. 

When the program starts they are very clear that you do not give your child any instructions as it really needs to evaluate what your child does or does not know.  Of course, having a daughter with special needs, I soon found out that I still needed to assist her to make sure she understood the instructions.  It begins by having them take a placement test.  Unfortunately Gess tested at the earliest level, even though she is a great reader.  I am not sure why that was.  It may be because of the typing required.  Gess is a great typist too, don't get me wrong, however when she made a mistake that she was aware of she hit the back space.  That unfortunately moved the cursor to the next word.  Before Gess noticed she was still trying to type the word she originally got wrong.  This put her into a frenzy and by the time I intervened the entire sentence was wrong.  Anyway, I later discovered that you can email them to get your child moved ahead, so about halfway through the lessons I did just that.  They were pretty quick to respond and had her moved within a few hours!

I did like how the evaluation process worked.  I also like that the program immediately addresses any mistakes your child makes.  If the child does not understand or misses a word or other problem they go straight into teaching it before moving on.  They have several activities to teach and test your child.  This was one of my favorites, maybe because it is one I had not seen before.  The child has to spell the word by finding it (in order) among random letters. 

Here are a few other activities your child gets to do.

Gess did seem to enjoy the activities and books that she read.  Here is Gess playing one of the reviews where birds fly and you have to figure out which one will properly spell your word or phrase.

For incentives you are working on making your own Reading Kingdom Book.

 After you complete each activity you earn points.  When you reach a certain amount of points you get a passport to open up a new page in the book.  Each milestone makes the page do another interactive activity.  Once that level is completed you move on to a new page.  Here is one that Gess completed.

Since they have your child work alone they do have reports fort he parents so that you can know how your child is doing.  They email them to you weekly and can be accessed anytime online.  You can see how your child is doing overall and then as you click on each section it will break it down even further.  Here is the main page of our report so you can see what it looks like.

 I confirmed that writing really was the area holding Gess back because when I viewed the breakdown of each activity she always had a "Needs Attention" icon for the "Write In To Read" section while she usually got an "Excellent" or at least "Very Good" for the other sections.

All of the activities Gess did were pretty easy for her.  I probably should have had them jump her ahead a few more levels but because she needed to learn the typing/writing section I did not.  In fact, Gess was still struggling with writing issues and often kept forgetting to capitalize words in a sentences.  There were times when the instructions seemed somewhat vague to me so the child had to know from what was on the screen what was expected of them.  For example this would be on the screen.

The audible instructions would simply say, "type Am" however the cursor was in the first word of the sentence and was flashing.  So while visually a child should understand that they were typing the first word in the sentence the only instruction they received orally was, "type Am."  Typical kids probably understand that this means to type the word with a capital letter but kids with special needs do not necessarily get that. Gess certainly didn't which meant she usually got it wrong the first time unless I was sitting there and saying, "Ok, look at the sentence and type the first word Am" (or something like that.).  I think if they would start that screen by saying "OK, now we are going to write the sentence.  I will tell you each word to write.  Type Am" it might have made more sense to Gess.  They also started having her place commas in the sentences and she didn't always get that she was supposed to do that either because the blank for it was the same color as the space bar blank.

Other than the writing aspect of it, so far the program is still under Gesserine's reading ability, however that usually is not a problem.  She still has some favorite preschool games she plays which I think is because she enjoys being able to get things right without a struggle.  We all want to be successful from time to time.  Unfortunately she really did not care for this program much at all.  I think part of that was due to how sluggish it seemed.  I realize this was for younger kids so they might have wanted to keep the pace slow, but this just seemed to drag on and on.  It wasn't that they did too many repetitive problems or that they weren't fun, but it seemed to take too long to move from one screen to the next.  At the end of each activity there were reward screens where something fun happened, but it moved way too slow for us.  Something fun would pop up, then you would wait, then a button would finally pop up that you would click on, and then you would wait, and then you would finally get the arrow to move on to the next activity which you would push, and then you would wait as the next lesson loaded.  We have very fast machines that run some of the most powerful games, so it was not because my computer couldn't handle it, so it appeared that they made it to work that way.  It just seemed to kill the flow of the activities and while trying to make it fun I think it frustrated both of us.

Still, I do love how the program works and it might have been better for us if we were starting at the beginning and if Gess did not have special needs.  I love the concept of the program and how it covers the materials from so many different angles.  I think the system has great potential to lead to success for many students.  I just think they need to speed up the movement of the game to keep the flow of learning moving and maybe be a bit more clear on the instructions.  The activities themselves were enjoyable and easy to learn from and once I got Gess started she did enjoy the activities she got to do.  If you are looking for a reading program to start with I would recommend giving it a try as they offer a 30 day free trial which is a great way to test to see if it works for your family!

After your 30 day FREE trial Reading Kingdom subscriptions are $19.99 a month or $199.99 per year and additional children are $9.99 per month (or 50% off the annual rate).  They are also currently offering a special for homeschoolers.  If you sign up right now you will save 25%.  To learn more about The Reading Kingdom visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a a one year license for an individual reader account to The Reading Kingdom for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change.


Mama said...

What grades do Reading Kingdom and Samson's go up to?

Lori said...

Reading Kingdom says up to about the 3rd grade and Samson's is K-5.


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