I’ve talked before about how my oldest has struggled to learn to read. When I saw the subscription to Reading Kingdom on the list of reviews we would be doing with the Homeschool Review Crew, I poked around their site and discovered it could quite possibly be THE program we have been missing in our homeschool.
This article originally appeared on my old blog, Townsley Times. If you came here looking for this particular article but thought you were going to a different site, never fear, you’re actually in the right place. 🙂
My oldest, who is six, was sloooowly but surely getting the hang of things with reading and writing, but I was wondering if I was just not teaching this the right way, in accordance with her very hands-on learning style. She is logical and has excellent spatial reasoning skills; she sees things like an engineer would would, and it can be a little hard to teach the basics to a person like that, as I’m coming to find out! She likes to try to write things but reading itself is a struggle.
My four-year old is a blank slate and I’ve not done really anything with her for reading prior to this. She can write her name and much of what she does know has been picked up through osmosis, having a big sister who loves to try to write things. Neither of them had any keyboarding skills and had never used a computer prior to this.
Anyway, now that you have the backstory, let me tell you…Reading Kingdom has been working wonderfully for my children! We have been using the program over the last five-ish weeks and I’m glad to say it has helped both my girls. I continue to see improvement for them both, week after week.
About Reading Kingdom
Reading Kingdom is an interactive online reading program. Typically, we allow almost no screen time other than approved shows on our streaming channels, so this would be something totally new to them as it’s all online and not parent-led. But after all our previous struggles, I decided this was worth bending my own rule for. We have tried enough books; let’s try something different now.
Reading Kingdom is NOT simply phonics-based. It uses a six-pronged method of teaching and includes sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension. You can read more about this on their site; there is a pdf document you can download that explains it all in depth.
There are no direct explanations like “Use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence” or “Use a question mark when you ask a question.” They just make it so the kids can figure it out by using it. I guess you could say it’s immersive.
The program uses different interactive animations that are pretty much like games. They might be clicking on a letter or word, or typing full words or letters to complete words. Punctuation and capital letters are also included.
There are five levels and that will take the child to a third grade reading level; they say this will take 12-18 months. Each level is divided into six “books,” which are made up of varying numbers of words (so some books are shorter than others; I’ve counted between 3 and 11 words per book so far). At the end of each book, your child should be at a slightly higher lexile score. Lexiles are just a number-based system that give a range for each grade level.
Each word is one session. In a single session, there are five or six activities for the child to do. These are presented like games so they don’t feel like it’s work. The animations are all very cute without being over the top, and there are varying themes but overall they stick with the “kingdom” theme. Their sessions are given a performance rating of “needs attention,” “good,” “very good,” or “excellent.”
They earn points for each session and they can open a “passport” at certain increments. This is just a visual way for them to see their progress and get excited about opening the passport and what it will do next. The points aren’t accrued based on their performance; they’re based on how far they are in the level (90,000 points = 90% of the way done with the level).
One thing I liked is that there is no negative feedback per se. If they get something wrong, it plays a little sound, says “write this” and gives a hint, and finally “watch” and it fills it in for them. Nothing like “that’s incorrect” or similar (or worse). When they get things right, there are various noises, music, and encouragements (“that’s fantastic”). One of the activities had green birds that would pop out and my 4yo really liked that one in particular.
This makes me laugh every time I play it! My sweet Ruby, who is 4, is working on Reading Kingdom. She is much more adept at using the keyboard and mouse now, and she happens to love this particular activity. She likes the green birds that pop up when she gets it right. The first time she saw them, she called them the bird’s friends. Now they are just referred to as “the green bird friends.” 🤣 My full review of this reading program will be up on Tuesday! We have seen good progress in both our girls. 💖 #hsreviews #homeschoolers #phonics
How We Used It
The program is intended to be used by each student for one to two sessions a day, four or more days per week. That seemed like a big commitment but they love it and often ask to do more. I usually let them do it daily if they desire to, with one session in the morning and they can also do it again after lunch if they would like. It does recommend no more than two sessions per day so they can have a chance for their brains to absorb that information for best retention.
For my oldest, who is six: Miranda ended up flying through it. We started March 28 and it is now the beginning of May, and she has completed all of Level 1 and is about 40% of the way through Level 2! I did allow her to do it faster than is suggested, and let me tell you why.
I started letting her do three and sometimes four sessions in a day. I did not see her work suffer; she had “excellent” on almost every session she did, with a handful of “very good” sessions mixed in. But I know Reading Kingdom recommends a max of two sessions in a day so I was trying to honor that, as they are the experts. It just so happened that she asked to do a third session one day when my husband was home and I told her no, we have to let her brain have time to remember what she learned.
My husband took issue with that. Reading is not his strength, it’s just not his thing. Never has been; he’s a math guy and I’m the writer and reader in the relationship. He looked at our disappointed child and said to me, “If someone told me to read a chapter a day, I would have trouble with it. If someone told you to read a chapter a day, that wouldn’t be enough for you. Everyone learns at their own pace, just let her do it.”
This made so much sense to me. I have been watching her little gifted mind make these new connections with each session, like I have rarely seen when it comes to teaching her to read. So I let her do as much as she wants, which is still only two to four in a day. She will sometimes skip a day if we get busy with other stuff, or just do one while I work on breakfast and not do more later. She is still maintaining mostly “excellent” scores so obviously it is not to her detriment. I will continue with this unless I see her performance drop. That may happen as the levels get more difficult.
For my four-year old: My Ruby is my dreamer. She doesn’t have much of an attention span and always has her head in the clouds. This was no exception. She has been doing about as well as I expected. She started the same day as my oldest and is working to finish up Level 1. She is doing it at the suggested pace of four to five sessions a week with one to two sessions a day. She gets mostly “good” performance scores.
There is a computer training module that the child can do if they have never used a computer before. It recommends doing it before they get started, but I didn’t realize that. I think my 6yo would have done better on the placement test if we had done the keyboard and mouse training first. She picked it up quickly, though. For my 4yo, I decided to have her go back and do some of it and her performance improved quite a bit. So that is something I would recommend starting with if your child is not that familiar with a keyboard or mouse (you can choose for them to learn one or the other or both in the training).
She has trouble with certain activities and I noticed she would just wait for it to say “watch” and do it for her at times. To me, she was more or less cheating (that isn’t what she intended and she has no concept of what cheating is…but that’s really what she was doing because she didn’t have to put any effort into learning it then; it would still advance to the next level, albeit with a lower performance score.
I then decided to set it so she will have to do a word again if she gets a “needs attention” score. She has had to repeat a good handful of them. Not ideal. I finally went into the online reports (sample for my oldest daughter above) and noticed she is doing poorly on certain activities only, and she is actually getting a score of “excellent” and “very good” on certain other activities. But it’s averaging out to really bring her overall performance down. These same activities are ones she has been struggling with and sometimes refusing to do and getting a poor attitude over.
PIN IT FOR LATER! Continued below….
I emailed Reading Kingdom and told them my observations and the poor performance ratings and they told me it could be that she is just too young for the program, and we could consider taking a few months off. They also gave me some tips and further reading for how to help her without interfering too much, since it is intended to be totally child-led so it will adapt to their needs.
I do let her know how she is doing, and during the times she gets overwhelmed and starts refusing, I started letting her take a break and come back to it later instead of making her push through. That seemed to help a lot. I also sat close to her and really praised her on the parts she was good at and told her I knew she could do a good job, etc. Her attitude greatly improved and so did her performance. For now we are going to stick with it, but it’s good to know that Reading Kingdom does not try to push them into something they aren’t ready for and we do have the option to take a break if needed.
For the Future
There are a couple of things I would like to see improved upon. This is really not a criticism of the program at all, just a few things that were a little confusing or frustrating for me. The reports that can be accessed within the dashboard have different info that I wish was in the downloadable reports. It’s just a lot of clicking around to go to the student, go to the level, go to the book, go to the word, and then be able to see on which activities they are doing well or poorly. The downloadable reports do offer a lot of useful info as well, such as how long each session took and the dates the student completed each, which word, book, and level it was, what lexile is associated with each book, and how their overall performance was for each word. Both types of reports are very helpful! I would just prefer them to be accessible all in one spot, be it downloadable or via the site itself.
There is also a report you can set up to come to your email. That was not really too helpful for me because it’s just how many sessions they did. Maybe this could be tweaked to have more info in the future.
I was also a little confused by how they determine which activities the students need to do. My 6yo did the initial assessment to determine if she should start on Level 1 (she did), but she didn’t have to do “Letter Land” once she started the lessons. I had my 4yo start with Level 1 since she has had no real exposure to letters or phonics, but she did have to do Letter Land, which is within each session but I’m not sure which activity it is in particular. My older child also had to do an extra review activity at the end of Level 1, and it says that is based on their performance on the last review portion of the level, but she did “excellent” on the majority of that so I’m not sure what that decision was based on.
My last critique would be that it’s a little unclear how to change the program to speed it up or slow it down. This is under the student settings and I played around with it a little to try to figure it out but I’m not entirely sure if it made a difference. What I wanted to do was speed it up so my 6yo could go through it faster since she was acing all the activities, but slow down the response time for my younger daughter since she was having a little more trouble with learning the keyboard.
I would recommend Reading Kingdom if you have a child who is struggling to learn to read or is a hands-on learner. It is also great if you have other kids to teach or tend to and need to use some kind of student-led program versus parent-led. I think it would also be good for kids first learning to read, but be aware that the children at the younger end of the spectrum may not be quite ready for it. Remember that you can have them do the keyboard and mouse training also to help with acclimating them to the computer.
The minds behind Reading Kingdom also have extensive experience with kids who have autism and similar learning difficulties. They created ASD Reading, which is a similar program that is tailored to those who have the issues that come with autism. Around 10 of our Crew members were reviewing that program, so if you have a child on the spectrum, you might read those reviews in particular.
I really like how this program is working out so far for my girls. We have a ways to go with using it still but I have no reason to think that their progress would stall or otherwise be hindered. I look forward to using this until they have completed all five levels and I will likely use it for my other kids in a couple years.
There were 65 of us on this review, including the handful of ladies with children using the ASD version. Please check out what the others thought of this program, too!