My 6 year old, Peyton, is often jealous of her big siblings’ computer schoolwork. So, she could not wait to help review Reading Kingdom, an online program that helps children ages 4 to 10 years old learn to read and write to a 3rd grade level. Finally, she felt big like her older siblings with her very own ‘computer school!’
In teaching 4 children to read, I’ve always chosen a straight phonics approach to teaching reading, so Reading Kingdom is nothing like the programs I’ve taught with. Phonics relies on teaching sounds and sounding out as the only method to learn to read, while Reading Kingdom teaches all 6 skills used in reading- sequencing, writing, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension. After using this program with my daughter I would definitely consider it a whole language program, beginning with words and sentences very similar to the ones used at our public school. While our usual phonics program spends weeks or even months reading small snippets of letters, then lists of words, Reading Kingdom had my daughter reading words and even short sentences in the first week of use. Also, even though I staunchly think phonics is important, I’ve found after teaching 4 children to read, that no child learns the same. Some kids just need a whole word approach, and I’m finding that most kids benefit from a balance of whole word and phonics. Peyton is one of those kids who had/has difficulty hearing the difference in sounds and also recalling what sound letters make. I have two options with her. (1) Drop formal phonics, work on phonemic awareness, and pick phonics back up when her brain is ready a la the ‘better late than early’ approach. (2) Switch to whole language, while also touching on phonics but moving very slowly in that area. For us, option 2 seems right. Peyton is eager to do school, even if she isn’t quite ready for (more advanced) phonics. Thanks to Reading Kingdom, that approach is fun and easy!
The program is meant to be used as either a stand alone reading curriculum or as a supplement. I definitely think many children could use this alone for reading, but I choose to use it has a supplement. I still prefer a phonics based approach, but I see the benefits of also learning (more) sight words alongside phonics. Lets face it, phonics is easily boring and often frustrating for little ones. Reading Kingdom with its adorable owl and graphics, interactive nature, and nearly instant gratification of reading ‘real’ sentences and stories makes reading fun and engaging.
Overall, Peyton and I had a positive experience with Reading Kingdom. I would say that if your child hasn’t had any computer experience there may be some frustration at first, learning to find letters on the keyboard (or screen, since this can also be used with a touch screen device). Peyton asked to give up in the first week, solely from being frustrated with that aspect, but with persistence and practice she got the hang of it. Also, while the curriculum may be started at 4, I would not start my child until he or she can consistently recognize the alphabet and also has the physical coordination to use the keyboard. I had the option of using this program with my 4-year-old also, since she is just beginning to learn her letters, and has no experience with a keyboard I chose to wait.
I think this program would be wonderful for any child who is frustrated with or bored of traditional phonics and/or worksheets. It’s definitely perfect for a child who is ready to begin reading, while not quite ready to physically write letters.
Want to hear more about Reading Kingdom? Check out the opinions of other Review Crew members: