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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reading Kingdom and How We Liked It: An Online Reading Program Review

When I was offered the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom, and online reading program, I was thrilled. I had been planning to buy a subscription for my kids to some kind of online learning software for the summer, and so this seemed pretty serendipitous!

My eleven year old daughter, and eight year old son were both born in Ethiopia and have only been in our family for about a year and a half. Though they have made amazing progress academically in that year and a half, they are both still significantly behind their peers in school (our eleven year old especially). So we're always looking for ways to give them extra academic practice, in a fun way!

Here's a little bit about Reading Kingdom (from their website):

"The Reading Kingdom is a fun, easy-to-use online program that teaches children 4-10 years old how to read and write to a third grade level.

  • Most kids can use the program on their own after just a few lessons.

  • It's fun so children think they're playing a game and want to practice.

  • It was created by Dr. Marion Blank, Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University and one of the world's top experts in reading.

  • It works with any other curriculum a child may be using.

  • It's the only program to offer customized online reading instruction for each child.

  • And, it's the only system that teaches all 6 skills needed for reading & writing success!
"Our commitment to online reading for kids is based on our patented six skills method for reading success. These skills include sequencing, motor skills, phonics (phonemic awareness), meaning, grammar and reading comprehension. Our online reading for kids program is ideal for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, special education, homeschool, and English as a second language. The Reading Kingdom online reading for kids program is an ideal supplement to existing curricula, as well an excellent independent curriculum. Our online reading for kids program is also a great educational alternative to other entertainment options. In fact, most children refer to the Reading Kingdom as a reading game, since it is so fun to play. We're proud that our reading programs for kids are thought of as reading games (especially by kids!)."

 The program is supposed set up to be individually tailored to your child's skill level. It tracks your child's progress and parents can keep track of how their child is doing and where they're at. I really liked the progress on the program. And I like how easy it is to get into, log on, and get going. You can stop in the middle of a lesson, and come back and pick up exactly where you left off easy-peasy.

Both my kids were placed at the very beginning of the Reading Kingdom program, and it seemed to be pretty far below where even they are academically.

The first unit was typing/keyboard practice, and both my kids found it very boring and redundant. I admit, I finished this section for them (which you're not supposed to do as the parent) so they could move onto a more challenging unit and stay interested, but unfortunately even then the program wasn't keeping their attention or interest. I did get them past all the typing practice (which took a long time), but my son was about as bored with the second unit as the first. 

I sat down and did some it myself so I could get a feel for the program and I found myself frustrated with most of the same aspects of the program. I understand that repetition is helpful in learning, but my kids were getting agitated by the bland way in which the material was constantly repeated over and over (having them spell the word "some" five times in a row). My kids actually kept thinking that the program wasn't working because it would give them the same instruction over and over and over again with little to no variation. 

I was hoping a computer program for my kids to practice their reading skills on would be highly motivating for them (they love when I give them any kind of screen time), but neither one has been interested much after their first and second times working with the program. At Literacy Launchpad we're all about reading motivation, and I was disappointed that my kids (and myself) didn't find much motivating about Reading Kingdom. 

I still would recommend that you give Reading Kingdom a try if you think your child might benefit from an online reading program. I have heard other families say they had good experiences with the program, and Reading Kingdom offers a 30 day FREE trial, so there's no risk in giving it a try. My kids are a bit on the older side (for this program), and can sometimes be hard to impress when it comes to games and gadgets, so I would say check it out for yourself! 

Note: Reading Kingdom did want to remind Literacy Launchpad readers that the program is directed toward children aged Pre-K to third grade.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

There's A Book for That!

During June we're talking about all the fun things we do during the summer and how we can read about all those fun things in a book. Going to the zoo? There's a book for that! Going swimming? There's a book for that! Going on a vacation? There's a book for that! It's great for these little guys to make these kind of meaningful connections between literature and real life.

This week we read a book about camping and then went camping right in our classroom!

We read this adorable book about some camping duckies that was enjoyed by my big(ger) and little students. We used our book as a guide for what we can and should do when we're camping: pitch a tent, go fishing, make a fire, bring a lantern.... (The kids also threw in some of their own ideas that they knew from experience... or came up with off the top of their heads.)

I was really excited about this lantern craft I came up with for the kids to make. They were so easy and fun, and the kids just thought they were the coolest! They're just Solo drinking cups, pipe cleaners, those faux candles form the Dollar Tree, and some stickers on the outside that the kids used to decorate and personalize them! (I recommend gluing the battery compartment on the candles closed with some strong hot glue or some super glue, for safety reasons.)

Next week we'll be going on a beachy reading trip and then brainstorming some more summer reading ideas for them to go check out at the library. 

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Picture Book Round-up: Reading Here and There

 Picture Book Roundups are simply an overview of what my kids and I have been reading together. These are not books that were sent to me for review. They are books my children and I discovered at the library, a bookstore, a yard sale, or on our bookshelf at home. Some might be old, some might be new. Some we might love, some we might hate. We read whatever strikes our fancy. The only kickback I get from reviewing these books here is my Amazon Associates fees if you purchase through the links on my blog.

Summer is a time when I get lazy and spare time seems somewhat elusive. Why is that? aren't I supposed to have all this extra time in the summer? The kids stay up later, we spend lots of time wearing ourselves out at the pool... I struggle to keep up with library reading logs and such. I always have high hopes, we start off well... and then summer happens.

So our reading has been pretty random. Just whatever strikes our fancy. Here are a few things we picked up at the library:

I have seen so many cute activity ideas for making styrofoam boats, or milk jug boats, and then putting them on a "river" made with tin foil and water. I want to try that this summer with my kids. This story would be fun to use with that. Wish it would work with my Literacy Launchpad kids, but sounds like it would likely be logistically impossible to pull off that activity with them. 

We love All You Need for a Snowman, so this one was a hit in our house too. Read it and then create your own beach on paper, in a sandbox... wherever! Use the book to create a list of all the things you'll need!

Adorable story about a girl who goes to great lengths to keep her duck friends from heading south for the winter and leaving her lonely. The ducks are just the cutest things, especially at the end when you see how Lenore helps them stay warm. Would love to create some adorable ducks for a bulletin board with my students. We might use this one in our curriculum next winter!

I checked this one out from the library so my littlest one would have a book he could "read" to me for his summer reading hours. Wordless picture books are perfect for that. I love hearing him create the words based on the illustrations! This is a fun one that tells a definitive tale, but leaves plenty of room to throw in your own creative interpretations too!

A charming book about a little girl having trouble finding the right outfit to wear. Everything is either too itchy, too feathery, too zippery, too purpley... Such fun text! And you could have all kinds of fun letting your kids be little designers themselves with collage materials and such. This books lends itself well to all kinds of fun ideas for extension activities!

Cute illustrations. My boys liked it because it had a monster in it. I wasn't over the moon for this one; I didn't really GET it. It was kind of weird for me. 

This is my new pirate story that I'll be using in Literacy Launchpad when we do our adventure unit. Love the illustrations. Loved the story itself. It was charming and fun, and I know I would enjoy reading this one aloud with my students like I did with my kids at home.