As someone who has read books about reading theory in a somewhat compulsive manner, I will say her theory immediately made sense to me. One of the things that drives me nuts about reading theory books is their tendency to devolve into a phonetics vs. whole words debate. I always thought it made more sense that we may actually need to learn both skills in order to be fluent readers. Blank is an expert in the field and has isolated 6 skills that are needed for your child to become a good reader. Reading Kingdom was created as a program that would cover all six of these skills.
Inside the lesson there is a pause button in the upper right-hand corner is your child needs to stop, this helps the program know that they are not there, versus just not answering the question because they don’t know the answer. Also in the upper right-hand corner is a measure of progress through the lesson. It helps my boys to be able to see how far through the lesson they are, this keeps them from getting frustrated if they are getting tired, they can see they are on part 10 out of 13 of the lesson and know they are almost done.
The program also allows for customizing the time allowed per question. If your child does not answer quickly enough, the program will queue them. For example, if your child needs to type in a word and takes too long, the program will tell them the letters they need, if they are still taking too long the program will then pull up an on-screen keyboard and highlight the letters they need to type. So, if your child is working on the answer and the program keeps interrupting them with these queues, you can go into the program settings and slow the response time down. There are several different settings you can choose from, I just increased it 25% and that seemed to be enough. I didn’t want to give them too much time to answer, because if a little boy thinks they have time to get distracted they WILL get distracted:)
Okay, child number 5 has vision problems. He has been diagnosed with accommodative infacility (which means his eyes are not adjusting between distance and close-up vision correctly) and some slight tracking issues. So first I want to add the disclaimer that he was also doing eye therapy for these conditions while using this program, this can make it hard to tell which program was helping him the most. He is 8 years-old and tested at the beginning of level 1 of the program. This did not surprise me because, although he has been reading for two years, he really struggles when he reads. He would read a book such as Frog and Toad, but his reading was still slow and choppy and painful, for all parties involved. He really could not read for more than 10 minutes without getting a headache from the strain of effort required. Starting at the beginning, he is now 70% through with level 1 and has moved up from Frog and Toad to reading short chapter books which are Shakespeare stories retold, for reference I am including a picture of a page of text from Frog and Toad and a page of text from the book he is currently reading. To me, the real test of a reading program is how it carries out into the rest of their schoolwork, including which books they choose for free reading. I am really floored by his progress and excited to see how far he gets through the summer as I will have him continue to use Reading Kingdom through the summer.
Child number 6 also would often pick Frog and Toad level books for free reading time. He also has been reading for about two years, although he is only 7, a year younger than his brother (well, technically 14 months). He has never struggled to pick up on reading concepts and was reading much more fluidly than his brother. He has no vision problems of any kind. He tested into level one, but not at the beginning, his profile showed he was around 60% through level 1 when he started. I was reading the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud to my boys during April. My youngest started reading the book himself about 2 weeks ago and reads a few pages every day for his free reading. He has asked that I not read the last several chapters of the story to him because he wants to find out for himself how it ends. He is very competitive. The kind of kid that will try the hardest thing, just to prove to everyone that he can do it. Below are comparison pages of what he was reading before the program and after only 3 weeks into the program.
I can’t say enough good things about this program. It fills in the gaps that other reading programs do not. If your child is a brand-new reader I would not expect to see such rapid progress because my boys already had a large store and long-term practice in reading. This program just filled in some missing pieces making their progress rapid. Usually, I do see rapid progress in my kids reading at a certain point, but historically it doesn’t come until between age 10-12. To find a program that can actually pull that rapid progress up by years, I guess I just want you to understand that this isn’t just a great program, it is a break-through level program.
The last thing I want to say is that it is hard work. Your kid will not likely feel like they are playing a game. Mine did not particularly enjoy the time doing the program, but they have enjoyed immensely the books that it has allowed them to read. Reading is hard work on the brain, and I always like to remind my kids of that. A simple, “Yes, it is hard, but I know you can do it.” Goes a long way on the road of encouraging your students to a good attitude towards their learning.
The company that has developed the Reading Kingdom also has another program specifically for students on the autistic spectrum called ASD Reading. Reviews of ASD are included on the Homeschool Review Crew Blog. I also encourage you to check out more reviews if you have a child new to reading you may want to find a few reviews where the program was used with new readers.