Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reading Kingdom Review!

Reading Kingdom is an online based learning site created by Dr. Marion Blank for children that are just learning how to read.
It is a program that customizes itself to your child and it adapts to their particular strengths and weaknesses. I will be honest, a lot of our experience with the program was a real struggle. The first part of the program is an assessment/skills survey, which was the biggest challenge. It is so repetitive and redundant, I don't see any ones child really getting through it. It will put the letters on the screen, and you have to type them. This goes on for 6 weeks. There is no engagement with the child, the videos leading up to the assessment are engaging, but if my child does not have the patience to sit through it, I don't see any-ones child not getting frustrated with it. Reading Kingdom is a web-based program to teach reading to children ages 4 to 10. It promises improvement in your child’s reading abilities by focusing on the five main keys to reading (sequencing, motor skills, letter sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension). While reading the FAQs they were quick to point out that phonics alone will never teach a child to read and that theirs is not a phonics program (an FYI for those who are more of the phonics bent to teaching a child to read.)
Giana is extremely intelligent, and already knew how to read, so I assumed we would improving upon that. Ehhh wrong answer.. Maybe if your child did not associate games with computers (as mine does) they might like it. And maybe if they didn't know how to type and read, it might not be as boring for them as it is for her. But I was forcing her to get on it and play for the review. It didn't feel right. This is the same child who begs to play on the computer and has played on it since she was 2. She has been installing programs and googling things since she could recognize letters (a LONG time ago) Well, lets pause and let you catch up to me, and where we are at with her....

(They did score some points for the Mascot though. We <3 owls!)

First off, let me back up *beep* *beep* we do not even own a gaming system, and I will only let her play educational games. Oops, we do own a V-Tech motion .. but I do not really count that, and she never plays it anyway. She begs to play on the computer, daily, she plays all kinds of sites. She always has. She seriously was popping kids games discs in our computer at a VERY early age, say... three years old? And installing them! By herself. She has googled her toys even before she knew how to read, by typing the tags letters off the bottom of stuffed animals/dolls - like their names, such as "Wizard of Oz" (actually her birthday party theme Saturday and her favorite movie) into the search bar. Bratz, things like that. Matching up the keys to the letters printed on the toy. She will find games, articles, and images plus she can probably navigate a computer better that her grandmother. (My mother.) She corrects my typos over the shoulder as I write these reviews! She learned her letters and sounds since she was 2. She started reading well at age four. She is now 6 (Saturday, actually is her birthday) and reads chapter books.

But being that she loves games and begs to play the computer (I try to limit it somewhat) I figured she probably was up for a challenge and could stand a different platform. Keep her fresh and sharp while school is out for the summer. I actually wrote to Reading Kingdom and told them, look, she knows how to type... she is a little advanced, and I am begging her to log in everyday. She was literally in tears not wanting to do it. This is a first! I have never witnessed her crying (In this review this lady's child cried too.) because I am making her play on the computer, usually because I won't let her! So I told them so. I have never heard of a game making children cry from frustration. Their response? They emailed me a questionnaire type list. It had 7 or 8 sentences that I was to not show to her, only to read aloud and have her write the first 5. I was to check them for grammar, spelling and punctuation, and if she had less than 5 mistakes total for all five, I could ask the final three, which were significantly harder. Well, needless to say- she passed it with flying colors. It was not perfect ... but she missed less than five. That's pretty darn impressive, and seeing as I have seen her correct 8 year old's reading aloud on simple word such as naive. She tickles me. So they write me back and say they moved her up a level manually to skip all that practice , but still the game is quite simply not for us. It is basically still the same thing. Just repetitive typing over and over and spelling words. Simple words.

I just think it was probably not a good idea for us to review it, with her being so smart, I couldn't fairly say if it was helping her or not. In fact, this lady's review states that she had a similar problem of it not letting her advance and having to be moved manually as well here. Like she says, "The program seems more about typing" If it isn't- who could get past the typing part to find out? Why is it so dead set on a child being able to hit the keys in a timely manner, that's not what reading is about, that is what typing is about. Maybe it should be called Typing Kingdom. Not that that is not a valuable skill, it is!!! But I hardly see what a child typing three letters in a timely fashion by the program sessions has anything to do with reading. Three letter words are SAM book words, which we are so far past, and most kids are. That's for a very beginning readers like, five year olds. And why were we tested and "advanced" but the work not get any harder? I am a little baffled by the whole thing, I am not going to lie.

I would say try this out, if your child is a VERY early reader, and let it grow with them, not start a middle level reader on it. Also if you want your child to learn how to type, and they have little experience on the computer. I am really not trying to bash Reading Kingdom, I was kind of dreading this review. I hate it when we come across something I either didn't like, the kids didn't like, came from a rude company (*ahem* Shutterfly, .. just saying!) or just from something that is not a fit for us, like this. Its not that I do not think the program is exceptional. But as a blogger, I am supposed to honest, my readers expect me to be, and there are guidelines that are enforced upon us. We are always supposed to disclose payment for a sponsored post, and non-payment as well as be entirely honest. SO we are not supposed to fib. Omission is fibbing. I do not want to scare other prospective companies off from working with me, yet I have to be honest. Its a very fine line to walk. I try to do it constructively, so I hope in this case it is not misconstrued. My honest opinion.. there it is. But it is kind-of expensive, so you should know if you are going to pop that kind of money .. It is 19.99 per month OR 199.99 a year -what its all about!

Here's a snapshot of Reading & writing level two. They actually do get into some spelling. WHO knows? If I could convince her to keep playing, she might actually learn something from it. But I feel like this would involve me contacting them (Again) and that's too much hassle. My constructive criticism is the parent should be able to move the child with a master password. My daughter got "manually moved" over a weekend and it took 3 days. Even at reading and writing level 2. This spelling and pattern recognition is far too babyish for Giana. They would have to set her age level at 8 to even be on par with her.
Other bloggers do multi-part reviews and check ins on this. But I just can't force my child to play something she doesn't want to play- nor do I have any desire to. Computer games should make learning fun, she is frustrated because it is just too simple for her. I would really recommend that they change its design so parents can advance children without having to email, respond, fax a questionnaire back, wait to technical response to manually move them. That is way too much hassle that is simply unnecessary.

MY grade for this program?

The good news is: You can sign up for a 30 day free trial, to see if its right for you.

I received this product free of charge for review purposes. I promise to be honest and fair in my reviews, and I received no other compensation in exchange for my review.


Heidi said...

Thanks for the honest review! I have been on the search for some kind of learning to read program and I was looking at this one...don't think I will be using it.

That Bald Chick said...

Love it when I read an honest review. Perhaps you're little one is too advanced for this program, and it may be of help to others whose children are not quite as computer able!

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