Happy March everyone! As spring approaches, I've been finding myself evaluating our school year; where we are in our studies, what we still need to accomplish, what is working, and what we'll do differently next year. Our reading program is no exception.
Actually, that is one area where we face the least amount of challenges, in both of our children. They both took to the subject easily, and usually breeze through the work with little problems.
Having said that, we still have days where we find we need a challenge, or at the very least, a break from what can be the monotony of a typical phonics program.
Enter The Reading Kingdom. The what? Well, over the past few months, our family was given a subscription to the online program The Reading Kingdom to use with our children.
Created for children aged 4-10 years old, this system is set up to teach reading up to a third grade level. It also is unique in that it focuses on six skills needed to learn to read.
2.) Motor Skills
The Reading Kingdom uses colorful characters and fun sound effects throughout the lessons that help keep your child engaged in learning the material.
How it works:
One of the greatest selling points of this program is that it is customized to your childs level.
The starting point is assessing the student's skills and then placing him/her in the appropriate level. Allow me to stop here for just a moment.
You'll find that as you begin the program that your child is actually starting with computer skills, including keyboard and mouse training. I admit that I was a little confused about this part. It seemed to me that we were in this section for an awfully long time. What in the world does typing on the computer have to do with reading and writing?
But, as I thought about it and sat alongside as the kids worked through the skills assessment, it made a lot more sense. In this day and age, every child needs basic computer knowledge to function, and it all worked together in the reading process. It is also good to know that your child will be in a particular section sometimes for several weeks. This is okay! The program is recording your childs knowledge, checking where there is mastery, and where there are weak areas, and adjusts accordingly. It all comes together, really it does.
Back to the main point...
The skills assessment is vital in the program. As the child works through this first level, the program sees where she has grasped the material and where she needs further help. This allows her to get to the best place in the program. Thus, you can call this a kid-customized program. What an advantage over what you might experience in a large classroom. In that setting, it's doubtful that you'll find that individual attention to a child's ability.
It is really important at this part (and really for the entire program) for the parent to resist the urge to "help" their child. The computer records all of the information, including mistakes, and it is potentially frustrating for the child to be placed in a level beyond their ability. So... no cheating ;)
Okay, you've made it through the keyboarding and skills assessment section, now comes the beginning of the reading and writing aspects of the program.
Sequencing and Letter Land:
In these sections series of letters are introduced and it is the child's job to type out the same letters underneath, using the mouse to click on each specific letter and then typing it out. Other exercises include the online instructor hiding the letters after a few seconds, and the student then tries to remember the letters and their sequence as he types them.
What happens when a mistake is made?
When this happens, the narrator "steps in" and reminds the child what the correct answer is. Then the child is given another chance at the answer. If the answer still is incorrect, the instructor completes the problem and highlights it at the same time, and moves on to the next problem.
At this point, I need to mention that this was the area that posed some frustration for my kids (and myself too). There were times where my daughters knew the answer, but either typed the wrong letter accidentally, or didn't tap the letter key firmly enough, or were not given enough time to respond, and then got the answer wrong. At that point, it could be hard to get back on track, as the pace at which the instructor was moving was faster or slower than my daughters pace. However, as we became accustomed to the style and pace of the program, which was probably about a few weeks in, this was less and less of an issue.
Another quick item I want to mention...
When we began this program, we only had access to a little netbook laptop. As a result, the program ran very slowly, and significantly increased the lesson time. Most days this proved frustrating to my girls, and subsequently, took them longer to get to the next level. Fortunately, my wonderful husband purchased a bigger- and much faster computer, which turned everything around for us. Once we were able to get through at the appropriate speed, it made all of the difference in all of our enjoyment. So, I would highly recommend the right computer for this product. High speed is the way to go.
So, just to say again, you can expect to be in each level for a few weeks. Each lesson lasts somewhere in the vicinity of fifteen minutes. At the close of each lesson is the opportunity to practice a few more skills if the interest is there. Somewhere towards the middle of the sequencing section for us, my girls would do a new lesson immediately after the completion of the first. This wasn't everyday, but as the girls had the desire. So, we ended up in that level for a shorter period of time. But we finally moved on to...
Level 1 :
Now to talk about where my kids presently are in the program. The big time. Level one! ;)
Once you're child makes it to this section, you'll find that they are able to work through it independently, most of the time anyway.
You've done the prep work, been assessed, now it's time to begin the reading process. They will be introduced to various sight words- nouns, verbs, and helping words. Some of the activites include the child clicking on the correct word that matches its corresponding picture, and typing up those words independently, testing those spelling skills. Each section has its own set of words to learn. Once the words are mastered, the reward is a book to be read, which contains those same words.
This has been the best section for my kids. The first part seemed to be the most challenging for them, but as their familiarity with the keyboard has progressed, the material has come easier. I do need to mention though, that, prior to beginning The Reading Kingdom, my girls had already been reading, so we did have a head start. But certainly, this program has greatly aided in reinforcing what they have learned and provides excellent practice in reading, writing and spelling.
The Reading Kingdom contains five levels to go through, each one building upon the previous, teaching new nouns and verbs, tenses, cause and effect, and more.
Are you wondering how to check your childs progress? Throughout the lessons, their work is checked to test for understanding and mastery of the material. If there are areas that seem to need some help, the program automatically provides review lessons until there is improvement. At any time, you may take a look at where your student is at by clicking on the section headers that are on the member login page. Next to each section you'll find one of several icons that let you know if your child is doing poorly, good, very good, excellent, etc.. A little table at the bottom of the page lets you know what the icons mean.
Now, what does our family think of The Reading Kingdom? Well, I think that this is a resource that most families would really benefit from. Although I was skeptical about the necessity of the keyboarding aspect of it, at the end of the day, the skills it provided was well worth it. Having come into the program with children that were already reading, I can't say for sure how well the program does in teaching the actual reading itself based on the sight words. Our family is coming from a phonics based approach. However, it has certainly helped to improve the fluency of their reading, and was wonderful practice for all of the other skills.
As I wrap things up here, let me mention the pricing. The Reading Kingdom offers a free 30 day trial. If you find that this program works for your family, you may subscribe monthly for $19.95. The other option is to purchase a yearly subscription for $199.00. You may cancel your subscription at any time.
I like the program a LOT! This is one of those resources that my children request every day, and that reveals a lot right there. I will be continuing to use this within our homeschool, and I hope that after reading this, you'll be inspired to try it out too. Happy reading :)
** I received a free one year subscription to The Reading Kingdom in exchange for my honest opinion of it, with no additional compensation.
The Reading Kingdom
Price: $19.95 per month, $199.00 per year, cancel anytime
Age: 4-10 years old