For the past several weeks, I’ve had two of my kids working on their reading skills with the online program, Reading Kingdom.
What Is Reading Kingdom?
Reading Kingdom is an online program designed to improve children’s reading skills. Instead of focusing only on phonics, this program emphasizes a patented, “Phonics-PLUS” system of teaching reading. Here are the six main skills this program focuses on:
Since I have my master’s degree in elementary reading and literacy, I was intrigued by the concept and wanted to see how it all played out in the lessons.
I was given access for two student accounts, so I set up one for my kindergartner, who is learning really early reading skills, and one for my second grader, who reads very well. I decided this would give me a bigger picture of the scope of the program.
How We Used Reading Kingdom
I had both of the kiddos use Reading Kingdom approximately four days a week during the review period. Some weeks we did five and others we did three.
The lessons took about fifteen minutes, which was a good amount of time without being so long that interest would be lost.
The Placement Test
But, before they could start on the lessons, they had to take a placement test. This was a tedious process, and both of my kids started complaining before they were done. It seemed very repetitive, and I must admit I was also wondering if this process would ever be over.
And, I must admit, I don’t know about the accuracy of the test. For my early reader, it was right on. I knew she’d be starting at the first level, and that’s where she ended up.
But, my second-grader had a harder time. As the test got past the first level stage, the majority of it focused on typing skills, not reading. She was asked to type words, including those with capital letters.
Because she is just learning to type and takes a while to locate each key (especially when remembering the shift key to make capital letters), she struggled. This brought her overall score down, and she wound up in the second level of the program.
The problem? She didn’t learn a new word for reading the entire time she worked on the program. In fact, she was sitting there, reading everything aloud to me, and then waiting for the little arrow to pop up so she could move on.
When I tried adjusting the settings I could speed it up a slight bit. It was supposed to be 50% faster. However, this didn’t appear to be the case for the reading side. Or if it did, it still wasn’t fast enough for her.
All it did was speed up the time for the typing, which really frustrated my daughter because she’d be ready to hit the key and it’d stop her and make her start the entire word over.
Because my daughter was getting frustrated with the typing side of this program, I decided to have her stop using it. It wasn’t a good fit for her learning style, and she really needed to be working on her actual reading skills instead of her keyboarding ones. I didn’t like that she DREADED reading time.
So, I had my third-grade son take over her account, because he is slightly behind her when it comes to reading skills.
I do wish I could have updated the account setting to change the student name, but I was unable to. Thankfully it doesn’t bother him much to log into the account with her name on it.
What My Kids Thought of Reading Kingdom
I’ve already mentioned that Reading Kingdom wasn’t a good fit for one of my kids. But what about the other ones? I asked both of them what they thought, and here’s what they said:
Kindergarten Aged Daughter
I like Reading Kingdom it’s fun. I like learning how to read better. I liked when I had to find the right letters for the word.
It’s a fun program. I like the typing part the best. I learned how to type and spell more words.
What I Thought of Reading Kingdom
I really like the first level of Reading Kingdom. It helps students learn to sequence letters in a word (for instance, identifying that the letters C-A-T are all in cat, and they must be in that order.)
This is a skill not often taught in reading programs, that the order of letters matters. I think it really helps set a solid foundation for future reading and spelling skills.
There were some neat games in this level, that my kindergartner really enjoyed. As she was learning where each letter was on the keyboard, she got to shoot lasers or pop bubbles for fish, for instance. Here’s a picture of the computer screen during the laser game:
My daughter definitely improved in her reading skills during the review period. She wants to continue using the program, so we will keep it up through the rest of the school year.
Compared to the fun games of level one, level two seemed quite boring. There were still activities, but they didn’t seem like games. I think this is part of the problem my second grader originally had with it.
She was expecting to play like her little sister, and instead she got less engaging activities. And, the majority of her activities were very repetitive. For instance, she often had to read a sentence, and then find the individual words that made up that sentence.
I understand the importance of this activity. But, because her reading skills were already beyond the sequencing phase, she got frustrated quickly.
When I switched users, the second level was definitely more appropriate for my struggling reader. He found the speed appropriate (he’s a better typer so that part was easier for him) and the activities engaging.
What I Thought of “Phonics-PLUS”
I have to admit, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be at the six different strands included in this program.
During the two levels that I had experience with, it focused very heavily on the writing component. Typing words correctly was such a huge piece of both levels. And while learning to type is important, I really don’t think it is an age-appropriate skill for a kindergartener, or even a second-grader. There are much more important things I’d rather have them focused on at that age, like actually writing with a pencil. They can learn typing later, and can still be great readers without that skill.
The comprehension piece involved clicking on a picture of the word learned. I would have loved to have seen more in-depth comprehension, and perhaps that’s included at a later level.
The only grammar component I saw during these two levels were the emphasis on capital letters at the beginning of sentences, and periods at the end. Parts of speech could have easily been included (many of the sentences were basic with a noun and a verb), and weren’t in what I saw.
I thought there’d be a lot more emphasis on sounds, especially in the first level. But, there wasn’t. It was very much letter based instead of sound based. The games that asked to type the letter always said the letter name instead of the sound.
My Overall Thoughts on Reading Kingdom
There were definitely some downsides to this program. It was very heavily typing focused, and was not a good fit for my daughter who was reading above grade level.
But, my kindergartner did get better at reading during it. The repetition of words was very helpful to her in retaining them.
My struggling third-grader also did well with the program. He didn’t find the repetition to be bothersome, and appreciated all the opportunities to show how well he was reading and typing.
So I can’t say it’s not a good program for some students. Here’s my overall impression on Reading Kingdom.
If you have a child who is just learning to read OR who is struggling with reading (below a third-grade level), this is a good program. It’s also a good way for them to improve their keyboarding skills, because they’ll become very familiar with the keys by the time they finish their level.
There are some good features, and the early part of the program is especially engaging. So if you’re looking for a way to build early reading (and typing) skills with a child, give Reading Kingdom a try.
To see what other homeschooling families thought of Reading Kingdom, or the other reading program reviewed during this time for students on the Spectrum, ASD Reading, please click on the banner below.