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There are many approaches to developing literacy in young children, struggling older readers, and even adults. Some education experts advocate the study of phonics, or the sounds that combine to make words, while others push for "whole language" methods that emphasize meaning over sounds.
The most current studies show that the best way to help people learn to read is by mixing both strategies, teaching students how to decode the way words are formed and spoken while encouraging increased comprehension of what's being read.
Wednesday, May 18th
Hooked on Phonics has been a household name for decades - "Hooked on Phonics worked for me!" as the ads used to say. There's a reason for that: since 1987, this Learn to Read system has helped more than five million children go from learning the alphabet to reading with confidence.
This program is designed with an 8-level structure for grades Pre-K through 2nd. Each individual grade is broken down into 2 levels, so that the initial lessons support the student at their current ability and then challenge them to progress towards the next stage of learning.
Hooked on Phonics can be used in two ways: print + digital or digital-only. If you really want pre-printed workbooks to use on-the-go or simply prefer having options that aren't screen-based, check out the options in the Complete Kit tab. These start at $199. On the other hand, you might just be looking for an online program to catch your child's interest; Hooked on Phonics gives you access to their Digital Only plan for $6.99/month, $39.99/year, or their most economical option, Lifetime access for $49.99. Anything your child does through the digital platform is completely synchronized, whether she uses the app on a tablet or phone or signs in on a computer.
Watch for a popup discount: when we visited the site recently, we got an offer for 25% off as a first-time buyer. We also spotted a discount of $75 off the Ultimate Bundle, right at the top of the main page.
You can try Hooked on Phonics digital lessons for free. Just go down to the bottom of the site where it says "Digital Edition: Try it FREE". Each lesson in the digital platform takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. These lessons come with catchy animated songs; as you can see in the free sample lesson, they teach how certain letters sound (i.e. phonics) like "a" and "t". Next, an activity lets children see how those letters sound together (-at) and with new letters that are also sounded out (sat, hat, cat, etc.). Each step builds on the one before and walks students through the next learning target. Hooked on Phonics uses the Learn-Practice-Read-Celebrate approach, making it simple and systematic to master unfamiliar letters, sounds, and words.
Hooked on Phonics has a stellar promise and satisfaction guarantee. They say that your student will improve in their reading ability by at least one grade level in 30 days. You have 30 days from the date of delivery to request a full refund, and you'll be responsible for covering the return shipping costs of any materials you received that weren't designated as free gifts.
Hooked on Phonics is the world's most popular Learn to Read program. It's up-to-date, comprehensive, affordably priced and guaranteed to work - or your money back. For all of these reasons, Hooked on Phonics continues to be our highest-ranked system for learning to read.
Do you have a child that you'd love to see motivated and working independently as he or she learns to read? If so, definitely check out Reading Eggs.
Reading Eggs is one of the few Learn to Read programs in our review that has a level designed specifically for older children (ages 7-13). That's a huge plus if you're working with a struggling reader who would be put off by materials that seem childish. We found lots of parents with older children who said that their kids wanted to have an account on Reading Eggs after seeing how much fun their younger siblings were having - and that those older kids wound up using and enjoying the program even more than their brothers and sisters! That's an impressive track record.
This Learn To Read system comes with the following levels:
There's also a well-rounded library of digital books that students can read - on their own or as part of a lesson.
We appreciate that the company offers a complimentary 2-week trial that doesn't require you to enter your credit card to access it. You'll only need to enter an email address and password - that's it. Or, under the About heading, you can try several free sample lessons without even signing up for the free trial.
You've got several membership options with Reading Eggs if you decide to subscribe after the free trial: $9.95 a month or $59 a year for one student, or $89/year for 2-4 children. Each membership includes access to all four programs (Reading Eggs, Reading Eggs Junior, Reading Eggspress, and Mathseeds).
There are thousands of positive reviews about Reading Eggs. Parents say that their kids especially love the rewards component of this Learn to Read system: students earn access to games and virtual prizes as they complete learning activities, which keeps them motivated and progressing. Parents love the independent nature of the program; while there are worksheets and other offline options, Reading Eggs was designed to make it possible for students to work on their own most of the time, and the reviews we found said that it definitely works that way. Kids have fun and rarely need help to work through the lessons and activities.
We were impressed with the number of reviews we found that specifically mentioned Reading Eggs' effectiveness for children with special needs. Because of the engaging nature of this Learn to Read program, kids with ADHD and autism have an easier time staying on task while doing the activities and remembering what they learned.
One thing to note: we found several aspects of the program with a distinctly non-US English flair. Some of the audio clips had a British accent, and sometimes we found spellings like "colourful". But, the majority of the materials on Reading Eggs are based on American English (e.g. lessons that talk about currency reference dollars, not Euros or pounds), so it's just something to be aware of.
Reading Eggs uses proven, successful techniques for helping children Learn to Read. The program is affordable and extremely user-friendly, especially for older students who might find other platforms too "young" for them. This is a great choice for most students who are learning to read.
Time4Learning is a comprehensive learning platform that includes Math and Language Arts while incorporating lessons from the fields of social studies and science. This program is particularly popular with homeschooling families, because of its well-rounded, all-in-one curriculum. Generally speaking, Time4Learning uses lessons that correlate to state standards; of course, with each state setting its own criteria, you may find that the program doesn't precisely match the learning standards where you live.
We strongly recommend that you look through the Lesson Demos for the grade level you're considering. They're broken down by Pre-K, Elementary (K-2nd or 3rd-5th), Middle School and High School levels. That will help you get an idea of whether or not Time4Learning's style is a good fit for your reader. For example, the Pre-K curriculum has 60+ chapters and 350+ activities. In their Learn to Read programming, you'll find games like Sentence Slopes, Syllable Drum, Initial Sounds and Rhyme & Climb.
Time4Learning emphasizes both phonics and whole language concepts. They describe this with their Reading Skills Pyramid, which includes Print Concepts, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension. Lessons are taught by animated characters, helping your student to engage with the material instead of being expected to read it (or have someone read it to them).
One of the best aspects of Time4Learning is that you're not locked into one particular grade level with your monthly membership. Instead, your student will have access to a three grade-level range of curricula. For instance, you can sign your learner up for their second grade level and have access to lessons in both first and third grade. That's a huge perk compared with programs that make you pay per grade level.
Membership plans with Time4Learning start at $19.95/month for students in grades Pre-K through 8, and $30/month for high schoolers. If you have additional children in 8th grade or lower, you can add them for $14.95/month per student. That's more expensive than most of the Learn to Read programs in our review, but is a good value for the money when considering that you get access to a full curriculum and not just reading lessons. There's no contract, so you can start or end your membership at any time.
The company offers a 14-day money-back guarantee. If you use the program for two weeks and decide that it's not the right Learn to Read system for your student, you'll get a full refund. This policy only applies for new members, not for reactivated accounts.
We love that Time4Learning offers free help from Personal Advisors. Their in-house, full-time representatives can help you get started, answer questions about grade placement, explain how the online platform works, and much more. You can opt in for this complimentary feature during the signup process.
Time4Learning has an excellent reputation, from its "A+" rating with the Better Business Bureau to numerous industry awards (including The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, certification as an IBCCES Autism Resource, and the Disney iParenting Media Award). It's been used by more than 500,000 families around the world over the last 10 years, making this Learn to Read program one of the most highly-rated in our review.
You won't be shocked to learn that Kiz Phonics is a Learn to Read program that focuses on phonics. Although this program was designed for students learning English as a second or foreign language, we were pleasantly surprised to see that all of the instruction videos, descriptions and materials were in clear, native-speaker English.
The company is based in Hong Kong, however, so be prepared to make an international phone call if for any reason you want to speak with a customer representative. Kiz Phonics does have a representative location in Ireland, but you'll still be making a non-US phone call.
Kiz Phonics is best used with children ages 3-9. We recommend that you watch the intro video, to see how the platform incorporates the following elements:
The included worksheets and flashcards can easily be printed out and used whenever you like. If you want hard copies of the printable materials, you can buy book sets directly from Kiz Phonics. You can purchase them in sets, such as Pre-K and Kindergarten or 1st and 2nd grade; each set includes a 1-year membership to the online learning platform and sells for $174 to $179. You can also buy all 4 grade levels for $279, which comes with a 2-year online membership as well.
Otherwise, an online membership with Kiz Phonics costs $39 for 6 months or $56 for a year, when used with just one student. If you have more children that need to learn to read, you can get an expanded membership that includes up to 20 children; you'll pay $79 for 6 months or $99 for the year. This makes Kiz Phonics one of the most affordable Learn to Read programs on the market.
It's hard to tell if Kiz Phonics is updated regularly. We found a good number of fairly recent reviews from customers, but the site itself had a copyright date from one year ago, and the site archives dated back to 2014 with nothing more current. On the other hand, you can try out many of the activities and lessons offered with this program right on the website - no need to sign up for a free trial or enter your credit card information to access it. You'll see that the materials are well designed, attractive, and look much like what you'd expect to see in a children's workbook or school classroom.
Parents and teachers have good things to say about the results of using the Kiz Phonics program to help kids learn to read. We found many reviews that praised the system as effective and fun, especially for younger learners. And, because you get complimentary access to the first few lessons at each grade level, you can try it out with your own student before subscribing to the full program.
Although we typically prefer working with companies that have easy-to-access, US-based customer service representatives, Kiz Phonics still earns a high ranking because of their perks: many materials provided upfront with no commitment or sign-up necessary, extremely affordable pricing, and effective strategies for teaching children how to read.
ABC Mouse is an online educational program designed for children ages 2-8. The materials cover Reading, Math, Science, Art and Colors across 10 levels, with over 850 lessons and 9,000 learning activities.
If your priority is helping someone learn to read, we suggest that you review the Curriculum Overview for Reading. You'll find that link at the bottom of the page. There, you'll get more details about the ways that ABC Mouse targets the following Learn-to-Read foundational skills:
ABC Mouse puts a lot of emphasis on Phonics. Under the site's Results and References tab, there's a wealth of information that explains the importance of Phonics to parents, including a webinar from a National Teacher of the Year award-winner, that could be really helpful in understanding how a child learns to read.
According to parents, one of the most motivating aspects of ABC Mouse is the Tickets and Rewards system. As children successfully complete learning activities, they earn virtual tickets that can be used to buy rewards in the online platform, like new items for their digital classroom or add-ons for their avatar. Many parents say that their kids ask to use the program all the time, specifically because they want to earn more tickets.
Parents appreciate ABC Mouse's Progress Tracking system. They can easily and quickly see exactly how their learners are doing, by subject and by academic level.
Pricing for ABC Mouse is straightforward: you'll get a free one-month trial, and then you'll pay $9.95/month thereafter. There are no contracts or long-term commitments. This subscription includes 1 parent account and up to 3 student accounts, making the program a bargain if you have more than one student that needs to learn to read. On the other hand, ABC Mouse doesn't have any satisfaction guarantee or refund policy, so you'll want to make sure you use the program thoroughly during your one-month free trial.
While ABC Mouse's parent company, Age of Learning, has an "A+" rating with the Better Business Bureau, we weren't happy to find so many complaints from customers who said that they were charged for subscriptions they didn't want. While some of those were very clearly situations where the users hadn't read the fine print or followed the required steps for cancelling, especially after the free trial, there were quite a few cases where the customers had followed the process to the letter and still wound up with charges - sometimes months after they thought they had successfully cancelled their subscription.
We also found more than a few comments saying that the Tracking and Rewards feature was glitchy, especially for app users. Some parents said that their children were in tears after working hard for new rewards that mysteriously disappeared.
ABC Mouse is probably best used by younger children; most of the reviews we found from happy customers had children who were 2 or 3 years old and were using the platform for advanced learning. The games and activities would probably be too "babyish" for children on the high end of their recommended spectrum of ages 2-8.
If you decide to give ABC Mouse a try, watch your credit card statements very closely, since the biggest issue users have with the program is related to billing.
K5 Learning offers instruction in Reading, Spelling and Math for grade levels Kindergarten through 5th (hence the name "K5"). The program can also be used by advanced learners in preschool but isn't recommended for much younger children.
This program comes with a free 14-day trial, which includes a skills assessment that covers 5 key reading skills:
Your membership gets you access to all of K5's curriculum, including downloadable worksheets for further study. Membership options include monthly and yearly plans: $14.95/month or $119/year for one student, $9.95/month or $79/year for each additional child.
Reading comments from parents shed a lot of light on the user experience with K5 Learning. One mother gave examples of words that her second grader was asked to learn, which included "gun" and "wine", and the sentence "He kept a flask in the top drawer of his desk even though it violated company policy." Another parent pointed out that many aspects of the program are not frustrating - parents have to select lessons to assign each day unless they let K5 Learning do it automatically, and students can be frustrated to the point of tears when they accidentally select the wrong answer, because the system doesn't let them go back and change it to the answer they meant to enter.
It's worth noting that most of the reviews of K5 Learning are years old; in fact, at the the of our review, the copyright date at the bottom of the company's website was 5 years prior. That makes us wonder if the program is outdated, compared with other Learn to Read options currently on the market.
You also get a sense of the program's lack of polish when you play the New User Tour video. The voiceover is clearly computer-generated: not a great strategy when you're marketing a Learn to Read program, which should use natural speech for optimal learning. The K5 Intro video had a native speaker voiceover, fortunately.
On a positive note, the BBB gave the company a flawless "A+" rating, so their reputation is decent.
Overall, K5 Learning feels a little cheesy and less up-to-date than most of the Learn to Read programs we evaluated. We strongly recommend that you take advantage of their 14-day trial before choosing a paid membership plan, since there's no credit card information required to give the program a try.
There are many online programs designed to teach these fundamental reading skills to learners of all ages. Of course, younger students have the most potential for rapid skill acquisition, because the human brain is amazingly flexible in the earlier years. Fortunately, hope is not lost for older students, who often have greater vocabulary and background knowledge compared with children and can use those language experiences to help them understand how the printed word works.
As you consider the various Learn to Read programs currently on the market, it's easy to get confused by all of the options. Here are several criteria to keep in mind as you choose the program that is right for your student:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Learn to Read Programs available today. We hope this information will help your student get better at reading, in a way that is fun and effective, right away!
Select any 2 Learn to Read Programs to compare them head to head
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