I had heard of Reading Kingdom earlier this year and checked it out. I wondered how it might work for my almost 4 year old who LOVES LOVES LOVES computer games and is anxious to read so we were excited to have the opportunity to give it try in this review.
What is Reading Kingdom?
Reading Kingdom is a fun, online program that teaches reading and writing skills for children ages 4 through 10. Set up in a game format, the online program is easy for the child to use on his own, usually after a few lessons of introduction with parental assistance, especially in the case of a younger child. The program uses 6 skill methods to develop a well-rounded approach to reading. The six skill methods are:
- Motor Skills
Reading Kingdom was developed by Dr. Marion Blank, a world renowned expert on literacy and the Director of the Light on Learning Institute at Columbia University, who feels that teaching these six skills to master reading and writing by combining the best of phonics and whole word learning without emphasizing complicated grammar rules. Reading Kingdom believes that the issues with struggling readers stems from emphasizing only phonics or only whole word learning and not combining them. Reading Kingdom combines them.
How We Used It
We were given a subscription to Reading Kingdom to review. Both my children, my 3 year old (preschooler, almost 4 years old, not reading yet but solid understanding of alphabet and letter sounds) and my 8 year old (3rd grader and good reader), used the program for the trial period.
The first step to using Reading Kingdom is the assessment/placement test which they call a Skills Survey. The Skills Survey took my preschooler almost 30 minutes to complete. This was a little long for my preschooler but he got through it. You have the choice to use the on-screen keyboard or the actual physical keyboard when doing the lessons and Skills Survey. You can change this in your settings at any time. We chose the physical keyboard as he has been working with the keyboard for a while. I had to help him a little with mouse control but, overall, he did a good job. Though I monitored the entire Skills Survey, I did not help him and had to do very little assisting with the mouse and keyboard.
My 8-year old completed the Skills Survey in about 20 minutes. This was definitely acceptable for her. The skills survey worked on spelling, sight words, sentences, keyboard recognition and several other skills. I did not help her with the survey. She stated that she thought it was easy to move through and enjoyed the games.
Once they complete the Skills Survey the program places the child on the right level to begin the program. Reading Kingdom placed my preschooler at Seeing Sequences and Letter Land. It placed my 3rd grader at Reading/Writing Level 1.
The lessons for my preschooler were definitely shorter than the Skills Survey, which was good. He really didn’t want to do another one the next day but when I promised it was shorter he was ok with doing it. He moved through most of it without complaint; however, began to lose interest about 5 minutes before it was over.
My daughter enjoyed the lessons and did two the second day. However, she said they were easy. This did not surprise me as I felt that it placed her below her level. I was surprised that she was assigned Level 1 but we pursued it. After the 4th lesson she said she was bored; however, I wanted to see what the first level ended with. We continued to move forward. As we have completed the first level, I do believe she may need to skip a level. There is an option to do this by contacting Reading Kingdom directly. However, we plan to do a few lessons in Level 2 and then decide if it’s still too easy.
On the parent management screen there are helpful tutorials about how to skip or repeat a level by contacting Reading Kingdom directly as well as changing the response time on a level. We have decided to do this with my preschool student as he takes a little longer to locate the keys on the keyboard and needs a little more time to respond. He was beginning to get frustrated because the program would give him the answer about the time he found the key he wanted to push. I am glad there is an option to change the response time.
Both kids continued to move through the lessons; however, depending upon the day, I let my preschool child take a break in a lesson if he was growing disinterested as I’m sure he’s no longer learning when he is fighting me to stay and finish. My 8 year old was fine with getting through at least one lesson each time.
Every so often the child is rewarded with stars in a passport. The kids liked this and my daughter enjoyed sharing her accomplishments. The only issue this posed for us was then my preschool son was not happy that he not received any yet since we were moving at a much slower pace. However, once he began to receive them he felt he had something to work for and enjoyed the lessons a little more.
The Parent Section
There is a great deal of explanation and tutorial in the parent section. I like that Reading Kingdom explains so thoroughly why they set up the lessons the way they do. You can read about their theory, their studies, why they support repetition, why they teach sequencing and keyboard recognition, and how the levels are planned and the expectations of each level. It was very easy to refer to and therefore understand the makeup of the lessons. This was helpful to me to be able to follow along with what each child was studying.
The Reader Report was nice and easy to understand showing the progress each child is making on their programs. With colorful icons with a legend at the bottom to understand what the icons mean, it was easy to see what they had completed, what skills they were mastering, and where they need additional work and focus.
There are even training exercises to help children that are not familiar with a keyboard and/or mouse to work on it outside the program, which I thought was great. We tried that out with our preschool son and he enjoyed those games as well. I believe they were helpful in familiarizing with mouse control and the keyboard.
Overall the kids seemed to enjoy the program. It is very colorful and interesting and the rewards are fun for the kids. My daughter seemed to enjoy the program more than my son. I think that had to do with the pace. The pace was a little slow for him, he likes a little more action. However, most screens had some online reward like a nodding animal or a sound effect of praise. He did like these. They both liked the exploding confetti and birthday candles the most, which I thought was a little amusing.
The program seems to work at a non-aggressive pace, which is good for most students. We will continue to use the program to supplement our reading programs and see how this helps build keyboard application and recognition along with reading. I like that these are built in together. Additionally, the sequencing practices touch on critical thinking in my opinion and therefore is also a nice addition to the program.
You can check out the full program on the Reading Kingdom website and even sign up for a “risk free trial.” Offering reading and writing development for Pre-K through 3rd grade, the program is an excellent, self-paced, customizable program that will help every reader, including the struggling reader, improve his or her skills.
Reading Kingdom website: www.readingkingdom.com
Price: When you sign up for the Reading Kingdom, you receive a free 30 day trial. After that, subscriptions to Reading Kingdom are $19.99/month (with no monthly minimum), or $199.99 per year (20% off). Additional children in your account get 50% off ($9.99/month or $99.99/year). You can cancel your subscriptions at any time.
Ages: Pre-K through 3rd grade (ages 3 or 4 years old through approximately 10 years old)
Be sure to check out the review from other TOS Review Crew members here.