It is no secret that my eight year old has had some difficulty in learning to read. She wants to read, but she just hasn’t put together the words in a way that allows her to read fluently yet.
Over the past two or three years we’ve tried an amazing number of programs, looking for something (anything) that will help her read and not make her miserable while she’s working on reading. So, when we received the opportunity to do a review of Reading Kingdom Online for Reading Kingdom, we were both excited and hopeful that this would be the program that would be the right curriculum for her.
About Reading Kingdom
Usually children are taught to read in our country by one or two methods. The first, popular among classic reading instructors and many homeschooling parents, is phonics. Using this method of instruction, children are taught to blend the letters together and to use a sight-blending technique to read by “sounding out” words.
This is a great technique in theory, but eventually you realize that you’re constantly creating and learning new rules for sounding out words because there are more words that break the basic rules for phonics than words that obey them. This has caused no small sense of frustration and failure for Rose as she attempts to “sound out” a word proudly only to find out that once again, she’s wrong because that word is word that breaks the rules.
The other method of instruction is the method that I was taught in my teacher training classes–whole language instruction. In this method, using games, word walls, etc. your child, by osmosis and exposure to the words builds his/her vocabulary by using strategies to memorize the words that they’re exposed too. This actually makes more sense to Rose’s learning style. However, it’s a very slow and cumbersome method of getting a learner into reading, and is often not as effective as phonics for beginning reading.
Reading Kingdom, however, is not based solely on phonics or on whole language instruction. Instead, Reading Kingdom uses a six skill method to teach words to children. Children are required to use sequencing, writing, phonics sounds, word meanings, grammar and reading comprehension to decode words and learn them. Once your child learns a word on Reading Kingdom, they can read it, spell it, use it in a grammatically correction constructions, sound it out if they need to, and understand what it means.
How We Used Reading Kingdom
Reading Kingdom is split into several levels for play. Children begin with a placement test to determine where to start Reading Kingdom. I received memberships for both my five year old and my eight year old, and so I had them both complete testing. Both ended up not being able to start with the reading portion of the program, but needing to work through parts of the pre-reading portion of the program.
The pre-reading reading portion of the curriculum is split into two parts. They are:
- Seeing Sequences–Here children are asked to select letters from a list to create the words in the sequence by reading them from left to right, teaching your child to read from left to right. This is the portion that Monkey needed to start with, and he loved the game like atmosphere and the animations involved in the game.
- Letter Land–Children develop typing skills and learn to use the shift keys as they pop bubbles and shoot at spaceships. Both Monkey and Rose spent a great deal of time on this, learning to type quickly enough to be able to meet the timed responses that they would need to make in the reading portion of the program.
You can change the amount of time that a child has in making responses to the program. However, Monkey had extensive trouble in connecting the capital letters on our keyboard with the lowercase letters he was seeing on the screen, and after consulting with the customer support at Reading Kingdom, I decided that Monkey just wasn’t developmentally ready enough for the program yet. He just needs more time to learn and get ready.
However, once Rose finished Letter Land, she was ready to take a reading assessment test to see which level of Reading Kingdom that she needed to start with. Reading Kingdom is divided into five different levels of readers. Each level has six books that your child will learn to read, write and spell all the words to before they move onto the next level. The books and levels build on each other, and your child will complete assessments at the end of each level of readers before they will be allowed to move on to the next level of readers.
Rose ended up having to begin Reading Kingdom at the very first level and first reader. As she encounters each new word that the readers contain, she is asked to write the word, and if she knows the word well enough to successfully write it, then she can skip that lesson. Otherwise, she goes through all of the steps contained in the lesson, and by the end of the lesson, she really knows the word that the lesson is over.
My Opinion on Reading Kingdom
I think that Reading Kingdom is an awesome reading program. It’s completely on the computer, and you’ll need a good internet connection to use it. It’s meant for the student to do completely independently, with the parent just providing a little hand support to those children who have not completely mastered mouse and typing skills. I love that I’m able to just hand my laptop to Rose and allow her to interact with the program.
She also loves using the program. Some of the activities are like games. Others are harder work, but they are all more fun and less burdensome than completing worksheets, phonics drills and spelling tests. It’s the first reading program that she hasn’t complained about and it’s the first that has not caused tears. Having a tear-free little girl is priceless to me, and is proof to me that this program meshes very well with Rose’s learning style.
I can also see great growth and self-confidence in Rose’s spelling and reading after just a few weeks on this program. Although she’s only on the fifth reader of the first level, and she’s only actually been introduced to 25 different words so far on the program, she’s taking more chances and trying to sound out more words in her other schoolwork. She’s also already trying to spell more outside of the program, and her invented spelling guesses are not that bad. I’m happy to see how much this program has added to her self-confidence.
At first glance, the program seemed to move very slowly to me, but then I realized that once she knows words on the program, she really knows them. She can read them, write them, spell them and tell me what they mean. Even if she’s only learning one new word a day, over time those words are really adding up and building a very confident reader. I plan to continue to use it for as long as she needs it to become a fluent reader or until she finishes the program.