Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reading Kingdom (one more time! :D)

I have had the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom with my youngest 3 separate times now. Review #1 was when he was 3.5 years old (Just a little under the recommended starting age), Review # 2 was last summer when he was five, and now he is six, and an official first grader, and we have been given the opportunity to review it one more time.

I will repeat some of the more salient points from my previous reviews here, in case you don't have time to go read them. :)

First, it is important to know that The Reading Kingdom is based on work and research by Dr. Marion Blank, the director of the Light on Literacy program at Columbia University in New York. She is considered by her peers as one of the leading experts in literacy. You may want to read this 6 page pdf file that discusses how The Reading Kingdom differs from other reading programs on the market. In a brief nutshell, it focuses on:
  • Sequencing
  • Motor Skills
  • Sounds
  • Meaning
  • Comprehension
  • Grammar

The Reading Kingdom is NOT a phonics based program and indeed Dr. Blank does not appear in the least to espouse learning to read via phonics at all. If that is your inclination this is probably not a program for you. HOWEVER, you aren't learning to read, your child is, and what works for one may not work for another. I should certainly mention that my two oldest children learned to read with phonics instruction and they have not had too much trouble~ in fact they are very good spellers. However, they would not be able to recite back to you many of the phonics "rules". They are just "intuitive spellers"~ I would say that I am a firm believer in phonics instruction given MY experience, but I grant that others' experiences may be very different from mine. 

For a little more insight into the levels of The Reading Kingdom, I recommend reading this 9 page graphic overview of how The Reading Kingdom is organized.

This video gives a very good overview of The Reading Program ~ with many of the points that I included in my first two reviews, so it is definitely worth taking the 4 minutes-ish to watch if you are in the market for a reading program.

Repeating this information from my 2nd review, as it still pretty much applies, Youngest is just one year older:

So, here's how it's working for us so far~ (playing a game of "That's bad!" "That's Good!" this time around...not wanting to emphasize the bad, but the good definitely follows in each instance )
The Bad: I don't often "Force" my children (Particularly those under the age of 6) to do any seriously structured school work. However, in this case, because it was a review item, and because I *did* want him to apply himself a bit, I did require him to do Reading Kingdom  (perhaps with less regularity than I would an older child, during the school year vs a new 5 year old during the summer...). This led to a few tears once or twice, and "I don't want to do Reading Kingdom today" on a regular basis. 
The Good: I thought it was interesting that almost invariably AFTER he completed a lesson he would turn to me with either a casual "That wasn't so bad, Mom" or excitement when he reached a particular goal~ so it wasn't as bad as he thought.... over and over and over! (Silly boy!)

The Bad: He hasn't reached the "I want to do more" stage with this program, and I'm not sure he ever will. There aren't many bells and whistles (not always necessary), and the timing issues could still be worked on some more, which might help with the outside distractions.
The Good: Nevertheless, it is a steady little program that really doesn't take that much time, but encourages progress.

The Bad(?): I do want to take a second and reiterate that this is NOT a phonics based program, so if that doesn't jive with your teaching philosophy, then Reading Kingdom may not be a great fit. 
The Good: On the other hand, if phonics just isn't working with your child, and you don't trust "whole language" then Reading Kingdom may be right up your child's alley!

In spite of my son's love/hate relationship with Reading Kingdom, when this screen showed up he was extremely excited! He completed a passport! Yeah! 

In my update, this time around, I have to mention that my son has completed level 1, and is well on his way to finishing level 2.

He still doesn't *ask* to do Reading Kingdom, but when he is engaged in the program, he *does* want me to take screenshots on a regular basis.

I like this activity, because it randomizes which letters are missing~ they really *do* have to be able to identify how to spell the target words they are given.

Youngest likes some of the pictures, and was particularly enamored with these birds, which explains this set...

This screenshot shows some of the more advanced pages he is completing, along with a couple of my notes added in:

The screen on the left was originally all yellow blanks, and green spaces. He is typing by dictation. Even when Youngest is not able to remember how to spell a specific word, the keyboard shows up to give him a hint.

The screen on the left was a little easier ~ because almost all of the words are shown on the bottom, but when he clicks on the correct word, it disappears in its little white box, so that he has to remember what letters are missing.

As you can tell by these pages, although *he* is not enamored with the Reading Kingdom, I can generally manage to get 10-15 minutes of work out of him at a time (one lesson~ within a Charlotte Mason recommended time-frame!) and he has clearly made progress~ the skills have become more difficult, and he is able to read the words in the activities (However, some of his decoding abilities *do* stem from phonics work that we have done~ just figure I need to mention that here).

I still feel that The Reading Kingdom is a solid little program that would be great as a stand-alone reading program for some children, and a great supplement for others.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company/ Product: Reading Kingdom
  • Ages:  4-10 
  • Price: 30 day free trial. 30 day subscriptions for $19.99/month or $199/year. Additional children in a family get 50% off ($9.99/month) Subscription can be cancelled at any time. 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


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