Monday, September 3, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Reading Kingdom

Is your child struggling with reading or literacy skills?  Do you want a supplemental reading program to use in conjunction with your current curriculum?  Would you be interested in an online subscription that claims children will be reading at a third grade level upon completion?


Reading is a priority in our homeschool and key to all knowledge. It is, by far, the MOST important subject to teach your child ... but that's just my opinion. The ability to read is vital in today's literate society and necessary for success in our world. Children must value the importance of reading in their personal daily life and have positive experiences and attitudes while learning how to read. Everything we do revolves around reading whether it be reading advertisements, labels, and lists while grocery shopping, understanding road signs as we travel, or just reading a book for pure entertainment. Reading will enable a child to be successful in ALL other subjects.

I have been searching for a reading curriculum or even a supplement that would help challenge my daughter in this area. Reading Kingdom came highly recommended by others, because it customizes to a child's needs. I was given the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom through the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I was thrilled and hoped for the best! I truly desire to have a reading program or curriculum that will meet my daughter's needs.  

Product Description
Reading Kingdom is an interactive, online reading and writing subscription suitable for children in preschool through third grade between the ages of 4-10. The company claims to have a child reading and writing up to 3rd grade level. It is an award-winning reading and writing system developed by the renowned literacy expert, Dr. Marion Blank. She is the Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University. Click on the link to read about Reading Kingdom's approach and beliefs with regards to learning how to read and write. This article should be read in order to familiarize yourself with their approach. Although, my perspectives and approaches about reading and writing differ from this program ... I still strongly believe that the program has a lot to offer all readers. This program can be used as a standalone curriculum for some individuals, but I personally would use it strictly as a supplement to complement our reading and phonics curricula. Six essential skills are targeted throughout the Reading Kingdom program. They are sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension. Here is a helpful article that explains the patented six skills covered in depth. Additionally, typing is a strong skill needed and practiced throughout the use of this program.


While using Reading Kingdom, your child will be taught the following Language Arts skills or subjects:
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation and Grammar
  • Comprehension
Reading Kingdom consists of five reading levels and each level contains six books. That's 30 books your child will read independently by the end of this program! The child graduates from very simple books and words to more advanced books and words over time. Each level teaches the child to recognize, type, spell, understand, and read 100-150 plus words and their variants using a minimum of four "game" formats. Please take the time to read their wonderfully detailed explanations for the different reading levels of the Reading Kingdom program and to view "game" format samples on their website. This article was extremely helpful and informative! It is definitely a must read if you are considering this program. What are the requirements to use Reading Kingdom?  Click here to read an article discussing the requirements necessary for using Reading Kingdom and how to get started. 

Lingo, the animated colorful owl, will guide your child through the leveled program. The colorful game animations, graphics, and sound effect engage a child in the learning process. Alyssa adored him and knew that when he was on the screen it was time to focus on her reading and writing lessons for the day.

A subscription to Reading Kingdom costs $19.99 per month or $199.99 for a 12-month subscription. If you would like to add multiple children to your subscription, then the cost would be an additional $9.99 a month or $99.99 for a yearly subscription. Check out the Reading Kingdom Store for more products related to the program including leveled books, a handwriting program, a phonics kit, and Dr. Marion's Reading remedy book. Sign-up for a 30-Day Free Trial to see whether this program will meet the needs of your child. You can also sign-up for Reading Kingdom Subscription Scholarship Here after the 30-Day trial. Please be sure to read the stipulations here first.

How We Used It 
I read through several of the informative and helpful tutorial articles to familiarize myself with the program before getting Alyssa started. I used our online subscription to Reading Kingdom with Alyssa, my 4 1/2 year old daughter, as a summer reading curriculum supplement to complement her reading and phonics curriculum. Alyssa also completed keyboarding lessons throughout the duration of this review in order to gain more efficient touch typing skills. Alyssa used Reading Kingdom 4-5 times per week and she "played" on the website for a minimum of 15-30 minutes which often was equivalent to two or three sessions. You'll be able to decide which keyboard option fits your child best. You can choose to use either the on screen keyboard or the actual keyboard. We chose the on screen keyboard in which the mouse is required for clicking on letters.  

Our Initial Reaction and Experiences
One thing that I always appreciate in reading programs is when it contains assessments prior to teaching lessons. The Reading Kingdom's Skills Survey or pre-assessment is meant determined where any child would be placed in the program. The program claims to evaluate and place the child at the correct reading level. I was curious where the assessment would place Alyssa since she is an avid, fluent reader of chapter books. Here are a few screenshots for a few of the game formats used during the skill survey assessments she took on the very first day.
Seeing Sequences: The child clicks on the letters underneath to spell the word "go" in left to right order.
This was a bit confusing at first. It looked like the letter "l" was already there and the directions were vague.  The child was supposed to type the missing letter in the blank space. The directions were "Type this one."
After completing both of the skill assessment surveys, Alyssa was placed at Reading and Writing Level 1. I am not sure if she was placed accurately or not, because I felt strongly that she was penalized for not typing quick enough. Letter Land and Seeing Sequences were not required for her to complete based on her performance, therefore I can't tell you much about those aspects of the program. Be sure to read the articles mentioned above for more information regarding levels. Most likely, there are also several individuals that reviewed Reading Kingdom and will be able to share their experiences with Letter Land and Seeing Sequences. Alyssa also breezed through the first level in less than a week when each level takes approximately 10-15 weeks; this of course depends on your child's progress through the lessons, how long the session will be, and how often the child will work at the computer. I read on the Reading Kingdom's website, that the entire program could take a child 12-15 months to complete depending on a child's reading ability and comprehension. If a child already has proficient reading skills, then they may complete the program in less than 3-6 months with consistent and frequent use. Here are several screen shots of the "game" formats Alyssa worked on after incorrectly typing and missing one of the words during the Reading and Writing Level 1 activities.
This game format works on word recognition skills. The computer says the word "girl." Alyssa needs to click on the word "girl." Notice most of the word is given on the coat hanger. 
A picture of the girls appears and then she must type the word "girls" without seeing it.
Click on the word that can become"girls."
I am thankful that the program assesses each word prior to teaching all words using a minimum of four game formats. Alyssa was able to skip over certain word lessons and move to the next word eliminating the need for her to work on mastered skills and preventing boredom or frustration in the long run. However, I did notice on several different occasions that she spelled a word correctly and the program still required her to practice the word. I couldn't figure out why this was the case, except that there must be a glitch in the program. There is always the possibility that she didn't type fast enough. Alyssa said, "I spelled that word correctly mom ... why do I have to practice it." This let me know that she also figured out that she only needed to work on misspelled words while using the program. She worked harder spelling the word correctly during the first presentation. Below you will see a few action shots of her working in the very beginning.
In this activity she was supposed to click on the letters in order to make the word "bag."
Applauding her efforts and obviously enjoying the program! There was more excitement in the beginning. I did notice her attention span and interest decreased over time due to the slow pace.

Here is a screenshot of her completing a more advanced activity in which she must click on the word first and then type the missing letters of the word in the paragraph. 

Alyssa enjoyed Reading Kingdom and it captured her attention most of the time even though there are a few flaws to be mentioned in my possible con list. Setting up our account was extremely easy and quick. I did download the recommended FireFox browser and noticed that it loaded a little faster when using this browser, however we still came across slow loading issues at times even though we have one of the fastest internet connection speeds available. We were able to access all other online programs that day quickly so it must not be related to our speed connections. She did get a bit frustrated at first having to wait before moving on to the next activity. She said it was "Slow and she had to wait." She asked me "Why won't it move on" ... her words ... and I agreed wholeheartedly with her reaction.

  1. The child's level is determined based on the results of a thorough skills survey. You may need to break up the session during the assessment. Give the child a short break in between assessment sessions if needed. When you click on the pause button, you can pause a session for a maximum of 12 minutes before you will be required to resume use of the program. Otherwise, the skills survey may be too frustrating and long for some children. The length of the skills survey did not seem to bother Alyssa nor did she need a break. I read in one of Reading Kingdom's articles that the length of the skills survey depends on your child's abilities and needs. It could take 5-10 minutes for a child not yet reading, however it could take up to 40 minutes for an advanced child to complete the skills surveys.
  2. The program customizes or adapts to your child's specific needs and abilities creating a successful learning environment unique to that child.
  3. The teaching sessions are short with the ability to pause or stop a session if necessary. 
  4. The child plays fun, well developed, entertaining games while learning the reading and writing process. The games are lead by an adorable animated owl character named Lingo as seen above. 
  5. Any information that is collected remains private and secure.
  6. There were no distracting ads interrupting the child's use of the program.
  7. The program teaches six patented skills necessary for a successful reading and writing program.
  8. The company graciously offers a 30-Day Free Trial.  I would create an account and take advantage of this offer if I were you. See if it works for your child and if you can afford the subscription, then continue using it afterwards. Subscription is RISK FREE - You can cancel subscriptions at any time!
  9. Children can work on this program independently after only a few monitored sessions. They ask that parents do NOT assist the child during the lessons. I would always look over Alyssa's shoulder for the sake of the review; no assistance was ever given. This is clearly noted in the program. Click to enlarge photo. 
  10. This program can be used with any other existing reading and phonics curricula as a standalone or as an ideal supplement to your existing curricula.
  11. The website was organized and easy to navigate in order to find information about the program features. 
  12. I loved the progress checks after each level! The child completes a variety of activities to see if they have mastered the appropriate content and can move on to the next level. If not, the child must complete review activities for several weeks. After completing her first progress check, Alyssa moved on to the next level (Level 2) and did not need to review any material. 
  13. Parents have the ability to track their child's progress using simplified picture icons that even a child can understand. Alyssa brought me to the computer, checked her progress, and explained her progress to me on several occasions. The picture icons indicate a child's progress and performance level.  The summarized and convenient session reports and results are also e-mailed to the parent on a regular basis. Click on the screenshot below to enlarge.  You can see the picture icons at the bottom of the screen. Each section opens up further and further until you can view which game formats were used for each word in a leveled book. 

Possible Cons
  1. The progress reports were greatly appreciated, however I noticed that the reports offer no suggestions for parents on how to help the struggling reader nor do they give hands-on activities to do at home to reinforce the learning concepts from the program. It might be helpful if suggested activities were also included in the report enabling the parent to improve skills or help children become better readers. 
  2. I feel that my child may have been penalized for not typing fast enough during the skills and assessment surveys. I do not believe she was placed at the appropriate level. The work has been extremely easy from the very beginning. I have not requested an adjustment, because Alyssa is still learning some writing and grammar skills she hasn't been taught yet. I also figure there is a reason why she was placed at that level, so there must be something she must work on before moving forward. I will keep her at the current level. The simple activities are bringing up her confidence level and she doesn't seem to be completely bored with the program yet. If her opinion changes in a couple months or less, then I will ask for an adjustment if needed. 
  3. Occasionally, we had issues loading the website regardless of the browser used. It would take forever to bring up the website.  I am not sure if this was due to Internet connections (although we have high speed Internet) or the fact that many children around the world were using it at the time we wanted to use it. 
  4. I had a hard time seeing this as a complete core reading curriculum. It definitely seems more like a spelling and typing program at this time rather than a reading curriculum. The program does cover other skills in addition to reading and writing in order to lead the child to success. Phonics is barely covered in the program and I prefer a philosophy that includes a balance between phonics and whole language approaches. I have taught many children with different needs using a balanced approach with phonics as a base only to witness successful results. After reading the articles posted on their website, I noticed that their approach doesn't necessarily support phonics as an effective way to teach reading.
  5. The program may not be affordable for all families especially those with multiple children. I would not be able to afford the cost myself if using it as supplemental item and I only have one child. If you decide that you find this program useful after the free trial yet can't afford the monthly or yearly cost, then you can always apply for a scholarship.
  6. There was an extremely long delay in response or wait time between activities. Alyssa would answer a question correctly and couldn't move on to the next activity until the arrow showed up. She would say, "Come on hurry up! It's taking forever." This was quite annoying for both Alyssa and myself. She also said, "I answered the question correctly ... why isn't it moving on quicker?" During that time Alyssa would get distracted and disinterested for a brief moment... her eyes would leave the screen while waiting. In the beginning, I had to remind her to pay attention to the program. She kept asking me why it didn't move on faster but I couldn't respond. She eventually learned to wait patiently for the next screen, but I could tell it still bothered her. It is important to keep children engaged and actively learning at all times while sitting at the computer, because they can be easily distracted in a short amount of time.
  7. The motivational aspect of the program did not appeal to my daughter. She earned points for each activity completed and a certain number of points would open her Reading Kingdom Passport. Once the Passport opened there was an interactive reward waiting for the child. Many points were needed to open each level of the Passport and the interactive rewards were boring. For example, balloons popped one at a time. 
  8. The repetitiveness and lack of game variety may bore some children. I wish there were more "game" formats offered for each level of the program to increase variety when practicing elements.  At times, Alyssa would say "I thought I already typed that word." This indicates that the repetitiveness of the activities are beginning to bother her and may possible be unnecessary for completion of activities.  
  9. We came across a couple glitches in the program. There were several times that Alyssa answered correctly and the program counted it wrong. Her answers were not accepted. On another occasion, it froze and we needed to log out and log back into the program. She was trying to find and click the word that says "the" several times in a paragraph from left to right. She tried on several occasions before asking me why it wasn't working. I watched her attempt the activity once and we noticed that the stars were not going in the box as she clicked the word "the" and the sun to move on to the next activity would not show on the screen.  We needed to end the session in order to continue. It must have been a glitch because it worked as soon as we restarted the program.   
  10. I do wish that there was a back button to utilize during the skills survey. Alyssa recognized that she made several mistakes and tried to fix them, but she was unable to correct her errors. Therefore, there is no room for mistakes nor is there an option for correcting errors when being assessed. I had to tell her to move on but I knew that it would be counted against her and have an impact on her level. She was so frustrated that she couldn't fix the error, she incorrectly responded to the activity immediately following.
  11. Lessons were not taught about commas and capitalization; the program assumed the child has background knowledge of these concepts and their applications.  As Alyssa completed lessons, she would get parts wrong, because they expected her to add a comma to the sentence. They program never taught her how and when to use commas. It was assumed that she would either learn it after repetitive practice or that she already knew the material. I gave Alyssa a quick mini lesson on comma use after her reading session ended.  It is also assumed that the child knows how to capitalize the first work in a sentence. Luckily, Alyssa was taught this concept prior to Reading Kingdom. However, not all 4 year old children know about capitalization rules and comma use.    
A sentence is read aloud and Alyssa must type it out. This is her least favorite activity. She doesn't understand "Why she has to type EVERYTHING." She forgot to add a comma after the word "kids" (assumed an understanding of comma applications) and when distracted she forgot to add a space after word "the." She said, " I know I need a space."
Possible Improvements
  • Find out why computer glitches and slow loading issues are occurring. 
  • Have a setting that allows parents to adjust the response time or wait time for answers so that children can immediately move on to the next activity without having to wait on the computer program for soooo long. 
  • Add in lessons that actually teach about commas and capitalization before expecting children to apply the skills in their typed responses. 
  • Clarify vague directions throughout the program especially if you are requiring a child to independently work through the program without assistance.  
  • A back button would be of great value to children that quickly recognize their mistakes and want to fix the errors before having it counted against them.
Results and Recommendations
We will continue to use Reading Kingdom as a supplement to our current reading and phonics curricula. Alyssa is making progress with this program. The effective techniques have been used successfully in our home while building her confidence level as she learns increasingly more difficult words. I have noticed improvements and witnessed learning taking place as she interacts with the "game" formats. Alyssa was working on a writing assignment one day and she asked me how to spell the word "girl." She immediately yelled back, "Never mind, I learned how to spell "girl" on Reading Kingdom. The "i" comes before the "r." I wish we had more time to use this program before having to post this review. I wanted to review more about our experiences with the comprehension aspect of the program which I believe will occur in Level 3. I can see that as children are exposed to the meanings of words in this program, their comprehension increases if the meanings were unfamiliar from the beginning. Alyssa and I will target comprehension skills and strategies this year. I hope to see more advanced concepts covered in the program this year with regards to reading comprehension and grammar in the next few months. I recommend this program for older pre-readers (ages 5-6), struggling readers, on-level readers, and advance readers. This program can be used for both homeschooled children and those in the classroom. I would also recommend Reading Kingdom for children with special needs; this program may be beneficial for children that participate in a school's Title program. I am still learning about this program and haven't quite decided how I feel about it yet ... I have mixed feelings and hope to reach a final conclusion soon. We will need more time to review and use this product. I do feel that many 4 year old children may find this program too challenging and a bit frustrating at first, but I would still recommend it to advanced preschool aged children to maintain and reinforce their learning. The activities can be very beneficial to all learners especially once they are at ease with the keyboarding layout.

Is Reading Kingdom right for your child? Find out here. Are you ready to help your child become a better reader? Check out Reading Kingdom and give it a whirl! Sign up for the FREE 30 Day Trial.  After trying the program, should you decide that you can't financially fund it - you have the option of signing up for the scholarship program. If you have any questions about Reading Kingdom, please contact the company. Don't forget to read through the company's FAQ section to read about frequently asked questions you may also have about the program. 

You can become a fan or follower of Reading Kingdom on Facebook and/or Twitter. You can also sign-up to receive their Reading Kingdom newsletter. Be sure to check out their blog for articles and reading tips. I do find their newsletter and blog articles interesting and beneficial.

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Here to read about the unique experiences and other reviews for Reading Kingdom. Remember every child learns differently and at their own pace. Your child's experiences with this program most likely will not be the same as mine and will vary depending on your situation.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse review crew, I received a one-year online subscription for one child to Reading Kingdom, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest, professional review on my blog.  All opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced by the company.

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