Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading Kingdom Review

Reading Kingdom is an unusual reading program that utilizes the sight word method.  Now, before you brand me as one of 'those' whole language, anti-phonics homeschoolers you need to know that I believe in phonics,   but I still actually like this program.

What is Reading Kingdom?  Reading Kingdom is an online subscription program that costs $19.99 a month, or $199.99 a year.  (Extra children are $9.99 a month)  They also offer a scholarship program for those who truly cannot afford the price.  There are several levels in the Reading Kingdom, and you can read more about that on this overview page.  I HIGHLY recommend that anyone considering this program read this page, because it also has a lot of informative screen shots that help you see how the program works.

Before we received the review information, I went to the website to learn as much as I could about the program.  I was a little frustrated by the lack of information, so I am going to try to fill you in.  Bear with me, this may be a long review.  You can visit the Reading Kingdom website to learn more about the principles behind their approach, and get your own 30-day free trial.

How does it work?

Once your child is past the very important first steps (Sequencing Skills and Letter Land) you will move on to the lessons.  Each lesson is organized similarly to this:  Your child will see a picture and be asked to type a word, such as "girl" or "eat".  If your child successfully types that word, they will move on, and either be given another noun to try typing, or start learning another word, such as "more" or "the".  (The words that are typically thought of as sight words are not optional and cannot be tested out of.)

school by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-Sphere
"If you can type "fly", type it here."

Clicking on the word "kid"
If you child cannot type the word (we will use "eat"), they will go to a screen that has two or three similar- looking words, and has them click on "eat" and "eats".  Once they can do that, they move on to a screen with three pictures, and they will hear a questions such as "click on the one that eats".  After they do that, they will have to type "eats" from memory.  When they type a wrong letter, the word appears and then they are asked to type it again.

After doing that several times, there are a few more games they may go through, all of which center around picking the word out of several and typing it.  They may also type  other words that they already know, or even a whole sentence or more, as they progress.  There is also a game that has several words with letters missing and they pick which one can become "eat", like "_a_".  Then they will fill in the missing letters and make the word.
Fill-in the letters 

One last feature I want to mention is the left-to-right tracking screen.  This screen brings up several short sentences that contain the target word, "eat" 3 or 4 times.  The child must click on each word "eat", in order.  After learning several new words, there is a story for the child to read, complete with animated pictures.

So what do I think?

Seeing Sequences
My initial feelings about Reading Kingdom were not favorable.  It does not use phonics, and the oral instructions are too simple and can be hard for the child to understand.  Seeing Sequences and Letter Land are monotonous and seem to go on forever.

But after using the program for almost 2 months, and after both children moved out of Seeing Sequences and Letter Land, and on through the assessment to the first level, I have very different feelings!  I like Reading Kingdom.  It starts out teaching the children the foundation or left-to-right sequencing, which is so important, and it moves on to teach exactly where each letter is found, and how to make capital letters using the 'shift' key.

Letter Land
There are a few things I wish were different about these sections.  I wish that there was more variety in the games so the kids would not get so bored with it, and I wish that there was a capital-and-lowercase matching activity.  The program never teaches the child specifically which is a capital, so they have to guess at them unless they already know them.  Bop knows them all, so it was easy for her but Cj was getting pretty frustrated.  This does not detract from the program, it is just something to know about ahead of time and prepare for.

My favorite part of the program?  It teaches sight words, but they are not just learning to LOOK at them.  They learn to type, read and recognize the words, even in the middle of a story.  And once they have learned a word, it is not just put on a shelf, they use it in later lessons, over and over again.   They do not learn to write the words physically but that is out of the scope of the program.  They do learn to spell each word perfectly, which was completely unexpected to me.  I love that!

How did the kids do?

DSCN8647 by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-SphereBop loves Reading Kingdom.  She is at a reading level that is somewhere around grade 1 1/2, but we have really had trouble with the sight words like "they" and "or".  So this program is just what she needed.  She has gotten through all of the basic levels of phonics instruction and can sound out almost anything, if she puts her mind to it.  This program really gave her confidence by giving her the ability to read fluently- to look at a word and know it.  She was able to quickly understand what to do in each section of the program with minimal confusion, and I am happy to report that after only two months she has moved on to level 2!

CJ has had a much harder time.  He cannot use the program alone, because he has trouble comprehending the nuances of what to do where.  He is also highly distractable right now, and every thing in the program is timed.  One distraction and the program assumes that he does not know whatever word it is.  He also has had more trouble memorizing the words and the spellings, so he is moving through the levels much slower then Bop.  That is not really surprising, he is only 4.  The program says to expect 10-15 weeks for each level, so at that rate he is moving along quicker then average.

My final word

I really like Reading Kingdom.  It has its flaws, but overall I think it is an excellent program.  I would recommend it for children who have already had some phonics training (beyond just knowing the letter sounds, which Reading Kingdom DOES NOT teach) and who are ready to start reading fluently.  I would also recommend it for older children who need some remedial reading help.  They won't feel like they are using a program for 'little kids' and the program is excellent at tailoring itself to each child's abilities.

Typing the word after
selecting the correct picture.
I do NOT recommend it as the only method of reading instruction for younger children.  It is just pretty hard for them to find all the keys quickly enough and remember the words to type.   Wait a few years, and then it will be so much easier for them!

I also recommend signing up a parent account when you set up your free trial.  Your child will likely be in Letter Land and Seeing Sequences for the whole period of the trial, so you won't be able to get to the heart of the program to see for your self how it works.  Set up an account for yourself, test out of the first foundational sections, and do some of the lessons in level one or two.  Then you will be able to have a much better idea of how it works.

Be sure to read through the other reviews, which include a lot of diverse situations, including older remedial children, younger beginners, and some learning disorders such as dyslexia.  And don't forget to sign up for your free 30-day trial of Reading Kingdom!

I received this product free of charge
as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew,
for review purposes. I promise to be honest
and fair in my reviews, and I received no
other compensation in exchange for my review.
to read more reviews on this product.


  1. Love the photos of your kids using the program. :)

    I struggled too with my 4-5 year old with this program. She loves the little animations and all, but really isn't motivated to truly pay attention. I think it might be great for her in kindergarten though. Another 6 months will make a huge difference.

  2. I love the photos, too! Thank you for taking the time to review our Reading Kingdom program...

    I would just like to clarify that the Reading Kingdom program is not a "whole language" program. ... The Reading Kingdom teaches 6 skills that Dr. Marion Blank, the Director of the Light on Literacy program at Columbia University and the creator of the Reading Kingdom, has determined are required for reading and writing success. These skills are visual sequencing, motor skills for writing, phonics (sounds), syntax (grammar), semantics (meaning) and comprehension (text). So Reading Kingdom does teach the sounds of letters and letter blends, but it does so in the context of the other skills required for reading mastery.

    Thanks again!


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