Reading Kingdom is an online program for grades Preschool through 3rd grade that teaches kids how to read and write. The system was developed by Dr. Marion Blank, a world-renowned expert on literacy, and incorporates elements of phonics and whole language, teaching six basic steps toward reading: sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, reading, and comprehension.
I used this program with Middlest, who is entering K4. She has a great grasp of letters and their sounds and is about half way through blend work, beginning to put together three letter words. The approach to this program, I felt, was based largely on the “write to read” style of teaching reading, with the exception being that the “writing” is actually typing. Because of that, a huge part of the program is learning to use a keyboard to find letters. Lots of attention is also spent on sequencing and spelling skills.
The concept of the program is that the child learns the words that will appear in each story so that when the child first reads, he reads with success. Perhaps because of this approach, the order of words learned is a little odd. For instance, when Middlest moved into the second level (which took about 3 weeks), she had to learn to spell kid, girl, kids, girls, and some. Because sounding out is not really taught, she was supposed to memorize the word by spelling it or by sequencing the letters.
Skills tests allow you to place a child correctly. There is also the option to reassess if you feel your child wasn’t assessed correctly the first time. The program provides lots of drill, rehearsing the same concepts over and over again as the child accumulates points and earns different passports and elements within the passport. The graphics are colorful and appealing, and many of the icons that popped up after my daughter answered correctly had her laughing hysterically.
This program would probably be ideal for struggling readers or for a child that needs a slower pace. Though Middlest said she really enjoyed the program, I was personally frustrated with the rate of progress for each lesson. It took roughly 5 seconds for each new question to load. Directions were repeated for each question, even though the directions were the exact same as the last 5 or 6 questions. Though this repetition might be necessary for some students, it added to the delay since my daughter could not answer a question until the directions were finished. I had to sit with her and help her to refocus when it was her turn to answer.
Another feature of the program is that helps are automatic if the student delays or answers incorrectly. I can definitely see how this would prevent a student from becoming discouraged, but I also saw my daughter manipulate this and wait for an answer that I knew she could have gotten on her own. Or, if it took her too long to refocus after the delay, she’d already been given hints for the answer when I knew she could have gotten it on her own (though I did notice that you can now adjust the delay time). Because of these factors, I did not feel it was wise to let her do this independently. I worked closely with her through each lesson, reminding her each time when it was her turn to answer and making sure she didn’t wait for the answers to be given to her.
As I mentioned, none of these problems bothered my daughter. She is very hands-on and loves computer work. She progressed well through the program and, apart from the skills test, never gave me any complaint about the program. As a matter of fact, she often asked if she could do “the owl lessons.” She also learned to find all of her letters on the keyboard and was able to practice quite a bit of spelling.
Though I will probably allow her to continue with this program as a supplemental activity, I would not replace our current phonics program.
As an alternative to the phonics or whole reading approach, this program is a fun option. It’s also an engaging complement to a “write to read” approach. Reading Kingdom may be used as a supplement or as a primary reading curriculum. Subscriptions are $19.99/month for the first child and $9.99/month for additional children. Sign up for a free 30 day trial, or read how others used the program at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.