Tornado Boy and I have been evaluating an online program called “The Reading Kingdom” for the past six weeks or so. I had expressed interest in being a reviewer for this product through the TOS Crew because I was curious how the program would evaluate Tornado Boy as a reader. The program states that it customizes itself to the child and it adapts to their particular strengths and weaknesses. I will be honest, a lot of our experience with the program was a real struggle. The first part of the program is an assessment/skills survey. What I found was that it seemed like they really penalized the child if they didn’t type quickly enough. Tornado Boy was placed in a pre-reader sequencing section of the program that was incredibly repetitive. The program wanted him to select specific letters from a group, and in order. The section was supposed to take FOUR to SIX weeks to complete and we were both ready to pull out our hair when TB finally worked his way through it. We did multiple lessons (that required exiting the program and going back in to actually advance) in order to complete the section.
The next section of the program was supposed to be “Letter Land” but according to the chart, TB had tested out of that section of the program due to his skills assessment. Except that the program put him in Letter Land anyway, but it wouldn’t advance, it just kept doing the same lesson over and over again. I contacted Colby from the Reading Kingdom and she was able to put me in touch with their technical support team in order to fix our problem. I found their support to be very courteous and helpful. They resolved our problem within a day. We were moved into the Reading/Writing Level 1 section of the program. The downside to this was that Tornado Boy bypassed a second assessment that should have placed him at his natural reading level within the program. For review purposes, this wasn’t a big deal, but I would have preferred that he actually do the assessment.
Once we got to the Reading/Writing section, I really started to see that value that The Reading Kingdom can offer. I was a bit disillusioned up to that point because the program seemed far too focused on typing and that can be very difficult for really young children. It is very helpful to have a basic idea of Marion Blank’s beliefs on reading development in children when you are using the program. The program is very different from any other reading program that we have used so far. Ms. Blank’s book The Reading Remedy describes what she believes is the best process for teaching children to read. She is not a proponent of phonics. The Reading Kingdom uses a multi-faceted approach that is designed to teach an integrated reading and writing program based on word recognition. The following graphic shows the key aspects of the Reading Kingdom program:
We have a year to use the Reading Kingdom program and I really wish that we’d had another month or so to use it before this review was due. So far, I really can’t evaluate how it is as a reading program, but it is definitely one heck of a spelling program. The games that the program uses are really well developed. One of my favorite is a pattern recognition game where the child has to pick out the pattern that can become the target word:
The games really reinforce the spellings of the target word. Later the child has to pick the word out of paragraphs. This is one area where I’m really not sure if the program expects the child to be able to read the entire paragraph or just the target word. One of the things that concerns me about the program is the lack of instruction offered to the child. It often expects the child to just “know” to capitalize a word or use specific punctuation without really introducing it or explaining the rules for it.
My biggest concern about the program is one of security – there is a “parent” link in the left column of the online program. If you click on that link, your password is displayed and there is no security on the link. I DO NOT want my child having access to my password. He is far too curious as it is and this is a real problem as far as I’m concerned.
The Reading Kingdom is a subscription-based online reading program. To get your subscription sign up for a 30 day free trial. After you’ve created an account you can purchase a subscription. Subscriptions to Reading Kingdom are $19.99/month with no monthly minimum, or $199.99 if you purchase a 12 month subscription. If you have multiple children using the program, the cost per each additional child in your family is $9.99/month.
Overall, I feel sort of neutral about The Reading Kingdom. I can definitely see the positive impact on Tornado Boy’s spelling skills, especially with irregular words and I’m happy about that. I wish that we could have bypassed the introductory sequencing section. One of the reasons that I homeschool is because it allows me a great deal of flexibility in how I teach my son. This program does not allow for any flexibility. You are forced to follow their exact sequence. If I had the ability to select what my son was working on, I’d like it better.
If you’d like to see what other TOS Review Crew members think of The Reading Kingdom, you can visit our Crew blog.
Thanks so much for reading!
Disclaimer: I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew for 2010-2011 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 cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I have received.