Sometimes we end up with products to review that I wasn’t very excited about. Reading Kingdom was one of those; my hesitation was because it is an online program, and I don’t like my younger children to have a lot of screen time. We were assigned to this review, however, so I had Mr. Sweetie and Mr. Imagination use it every day as part of their schoolwork. I’m still not sure what I think of it!
Reading Kingdom claims to teach reading by immersion, the way young children learn to talk. Rather than only teaching sounds, as phonics does, Reading Kingdom also teaches sequencing, writing, meaning, grammar and comprehension. The course is made up of a series of stories. Each story is introduced by first teaching each word. A variety of methods are used to teach the word, including showing several words with blanks and the child has to choose which one can turn into the desired word. After all the words in the story have been mastered, both on its own and in a sentence, the child gets to read a book on the screen. Here is an example of one activity, this one teaching the word “they.” Also on this screenshot you can see a couple of other features that enhance the program. The number in the yellow box is the number of points earned so far; each 20,000 points advances the child to the next level. The reward isn’t much, but they enjoy seeing what happens next when they open their passport. 2/15 indicates how many parts they have done out of the total in the session; this session has 15 parts, and he is on the second one.
Children are supposed to use this program four days a week or more for best results. My boys have averaged 3.6 days and 4.4 times a week—yes, they have those numbers on the dashboard where we go every day to access the lessons! It is recommended to only do one or two sessions per day (in the lower levels, only one word is taught in a session), but there is a way to override this if you want your child to do more. A couple of times, I allowed my boys to do up to four sessions, with breaks in between, but most of the time they did just one or two, depending on time. They did enjoy this; I don’t very often let them play games on the computer, so this was a game they were allowed to do and that made it fun. One problem Mr. Imagination had was that the screen moved on too fast for him, but after I got into the settings and changed it to move slower, he could handle the lessons much better. The default speed was just right for Mr. Sweetie.
I have thought of some pros and cons for Reading Kingdom:
Pros: Children can do this program with very little input from an adult. It is set up so that they can do it completely independently. Using this program helps children learn to spell and use the keyboard at the same time they are learning to read.
Cons: Children are expected to figure out without being told when to use a capital letter to begin a sentence, and when to use the correct punctuation. The punctuation wasn’t too hard for my boys to pick up, but the capitalization was a major frustration for them. Many times I had to rescue someone who was crying because he kept hitting the right key and it wasn’t accepted! Also, teaching reading by immersion, while it works for some children, will not work for others. I have had children who could only learn something if it was specifically told to them—they could not figure things out from context clues.
I asked the little boys what they think of it. Mr. Imagination said, “I like every single bit of it except the aliens.” These “aliens” are pictures that appear every so often. I’m guessing they are included to appeal to children who play a lot of video games, but I could sure do without them! Most of the pictures are alright, though. Mr. Sweetie said, “I have learned to spell a few words, but didn’t learn much about reading.”
I really haven’t decided yet whether Reading Kingdom will help my boys or not. I had Mr. Sweetie use a reading fluency test when he began using the course and again after five weeks of using it, and there was really no difference in the two tests. They are enjoying it, however, so I will let them continue doing it. It’s better than most computer games I’ve seen!
The same company has also developed a program called ASD Reading, which is for children on the autism spectrum. If you have a child like that, you may want to look into this program.