Table of contents:
- Overwhelmed trying to find the best learn to read program?
- Why not all phonics programs are created equally?
- At A Glance – Comparison Table of the Best Learn to Read Programs
- Learn to Read Program #1
- Learn to Read Program #2
- Learn to Read Program #3
- Learn to Read Program #4
- Learn to Read Programs #5 & #6
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I know how overwhelming looking for reading programs can be!
There are just so many and it gets really confusing! So, I have done the homework for you!
By the end of this article, I think you will have a very clear picture of the best reading programs out there for teaching your child to read, but you will also have a good understanding of which option suits more your child’s learning style.
Even though I have done an extensive research on the topic, of course, there could be programs that I am not aware of! There are just so many, as you may have noticed! This is precisely what motivated me to write this article!
Before we start, I would like to be upfront with you, and tell you where I personally stand with regards to the huge debate there is about phonics vs. whole word methodologies vs. balanced literacy.
I truly believe that phonics is the approach for teaching children to read. However, my belief is not just a belief, it is based on overwhelming evidence and on what modern science has say about how the brain works and how we learn to read.
So, the programs that I have shortlisted are all phonics programs…
All phonics programs are not created equally… Not at all!
There are big differences among different phonics programs. My preference, which -again- is based on what modern science has to say about this, are research-based, synthetic phonics programs. By the way, if you are confused by the terminology, don’t worry, you can check this article, where I explain more in detail what synthetic phonics is. Or this article, where I write about the differences between Analytic and Synthetic Phonics.
I am also aware that different children need different learning styles. Some kids hugely benefit from a multi-sensory learning style, while others may just need very explicit and structured lessons, and lots of opportunities to practice.
That is why I have also shortlisted programs with different teaching / learning styles.
Besides, we – as parents/ families- all have different lifestyles, circumstances and preferences… Some of us just want to be taken by the hand, do not want to overthink! We just want to be told what to do, for example following a script.
Some of us appreciate that the program offers some flexibility, and don’t mind a little bit of extra preparation. Some people have more time than others to devote on a daily basis…
I know some of you are looking for a curriculum for homeschooling your children, while some others just want to reinforce the reading instruction that their children are receiving at school, or maybe just want to get their children ready for reading instruction at school.
There is a common denominator for all of us, I think, though, as parents… That is that is that we are all very busy, and want something effective and efficient. That has been on top of my list!
The last thing we need is to is to be wasting our time or money!
By the way, I warn you: this article is going to be packed with LOTS of information. If it is too much all at one, you can of course re-read the article as many times as you like! But, you can also download the notes from the article here!
So, without further ado…
|Program Name||Who is it for?||System Used||Levels||Great if you want...||Reading & Spelling?||What is the price?||Guarantee||How to Buy?|
|Children Learning Reading||Great for young readers and for reinforcing reading instruction at home, if your child goes to school.||Unique system that combines Phonemic Awareness and Synthetic Phonics||Only 1. Everything is included in this one level.||Simple and short lessons, convenient implementation (Doesn’t get messy!)||Reading instruction only, spelling / writing not covered specifically.||$69.00 - $89.00||60-day money-back guarantee.||From the Children Learning Reading Website|
|All About Reading||Great for children that learn best through multi-sensory experiences. Very popular homeschooling curriculum.||Orton-Gillingham.||5 Reading Levels + 7 Spelling Levels (All About Spelling)||A multi-sensory program and very explicit instruction. Very good option for homeschooling, and for children with reading difficulties.||Tackles spelling and reading separately.||Each Level is $149 + one-off purchase of interactive kit ($45.85 -$21.85).||Full 1-year money- back guarantee||On their website|
|Logic of English||For children that learn through multi-sensory experiences, and children with dyslexia or other reading difficulties. Another popular homeschooling curriculum.||Orton-Gillingham.||Their Essential Package includes 3 Reading Levels (a, b, c).||A multi-sensory program, that also goes really deep into rules (into the ‘logic of English’).||Tackles spelling, writing and reading all together. Another very popular curriculum for home schooling.||Foundations Module: From $74.99 (per level). Whole Essential Package: $159.99 - $279.99||90- day money-back guarantee.||From their website|
|Hooked on Phonics||For children that thrive on a very clear routine when it comes to learning, and appreciate the use of audio-visuals elements (video lessons).||Sequential, systematic synthetic phonics approach.||8 Reading Levels. You can complement reading instruction with their app for an even more complete curriculum.||A very simple, but fun approach that uses audio-visuals elements (video lessons, app) . Very good for busy parents! The hard work is done for you!||Tackles reading and spelling. However, an additional spelling practice pack can be purchased for further practice.||Complete Learn to Read Kit (all levels): $209||30-day money-back guarantee.||From their website
|Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons||Great program to teach any child to read from scratch in a one-to-one setting (direct instruction).||DISTAR System (Direct Instructional System for Teaching and Remediation).||Only 1. Everything included in 1 manual!||To be taken by the hand following a script, and following a system that has been proven to work.||Only reading.||Very affordable. Normally sold for less than $20. Check final price on Amazon!||Amazon T&C's.||Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons on Amazon!|
|Alpha Phonics||For anyone looking for a no-frills phonics-based system.||Phonics Primer. Uses synthetic phonics principles.||1 (everything included in 1 manual)||Simple / no-frills program that is easy to follow and implement.||Only reading||Very affordable. Normally less $20. Check final price on Amazon.||Amazon T&C's.||Buy Alpha Phonics on Amazon!|
Children Learning Reading in a nutshell!
- Who is it for? Great program for young readers and for reinforcing reading instruction at home (if your child goes to school).
- System: Follows a pretty unique system that combines Phonemic Awareness and Synthetic Phonics. You can easily teach your child to read from scratch following this program.
- Number of levels: All included in 2 manuals (only one purchase).
- Great if you want… Simple and short lessons, convenient implementation (Doesn’t get messy!)
- Reading instruction only, spelling / writing not covered specifically.
- BONUS: This program has allowed me to share with you a sample of their Phonemic Awareness/Phonics worksheets.
You can get them from here!
NOTE: If you decided to go for this program, bear in mind that these worksheets are offered as an additional one-off purchase. You can still do the program without them, but they are a nice complement to the rest of materials you may want to consider.
- How to Buy: From the Children Learning Reading Website
- 60-day money back guarantee.
If you know me, it is not secret that I really like this program. I personally used it with my older daughter and her progress was amazing. I actually wrote a very detailed review of the Children Learning Reading program that you can check here.
The program follows a combination of Phonemic Awareness and Synthetic Phonics principles, which is pretty unique. And, in my experience, very effective!
Phonemic Awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate the individual sounds in words, called phonemes.
For instance, the word ‘cat’ is formed by the individual sounds /c/ /a/ /t/. A child with Phonemic Awareness can identify those 3 individual sounds in the word ‘cat’, but also knows that when you change of its sounds or add a new one, you get a new word. For instance, by adding the /s/ sound you get the word ‘cats’, and when you replace the /c/ sound with the /m/ sound you get the word ‘mat’.
It looks like a simple thing without much importance but developing Phonemic Awareness is crucial! In fact, it has been found to be the main predictor for successful reading.
So, the focus on the development of Phonemic Awareness that this program has is fantastic!
The program is designed in two stages: the foundational stage and the advanced stage.
Each stage comes with its own manual and lessons. These lessons are short and will take between 2 minutes to 20 minutes / day to complete.
Yes, 2 minutes! Well, this is because this program was created with young readers in mind. When I say young readers… Really young readers!
When using the program I noticed that it is strategically created so the initial lessons are short and easily digestible for really young learners.
Then, once your child has developed the foundational skills for learning to read fluently (that is, once he/she has finished the Manual 1), the lessons start to become a bit more complicated.
However, the beauty is that once you get there the concepts that your child is learning will build upon the knowledge he/she already has creating this sort of compounding effect, if you wish.
If you are wondering what is it that your child will be able to read after finishing the Manual 1…
- S/he will be able to read simple words without effort, very fluently, such us CVC words (these are words that follow the structure: consonant vowel consonant, such us cat, dog, hop, cup – this is one of the most basic word structure in English) or even more complex words, such as CCVC (consonant, consonant, vowel, consonant words, such us spin, spit, flip).
- He/she will able to read these in isolation and as parts of full sentences or simple stories. But he/she will do this very fluently, without lots of pauses, without your child having to think about every single sound in the words he/she is reading. This is because you’ve worked a lot on making the retrieval process automatic.
You can watch of the progress of this student of the Children Learning Reading Program to get an idea of what I mean!
In the Stage #2, your child is introduced in a systematic way to more advanced and challenging concepts, such us letter combination sounds (for example, the letter combinations “CH”, “TH”, “SH”), the idea that we can represent the same sound in different ways (for instance, the /f/ sound can be represented with an “f”, as in fan, “ph”, as in photo, or “gh”, like in laugh). And even more complex things, such us -R controlled syllables.
However, as I mentioned before, the good thing is that your child is introduced to all of these more difficult concepts in a systematic way, in a logic order… Basically, when he/she is ready for it and makes sense!
This way the child doesn’t get overwhelmed with the amount of new information she/he receives at the same time.
Cons of the Children Learning Reading Program
- The teaching style might not work for all children.
Even though there are some games and fun activities suggestions (especially for younger kids and for the development of Phonemic Awareness), I wouldn’t say that this program has a multi-sensory approach. And maybe your child can find this approach boring or repetitive.
- This program is only available online, as a digital download, that you are going to have to print out yourself. I do not personally find this a disadvantage, as you get access to the materials straight away, but if you want actual text books, then this program is probably not for you!
- I do not consider this program a learning to spell program or a writing program. Even though your child will obviously benefit from the information on this program when it comes learning to write and spell, you will most likely have to reinforce that part with some additional resources.
But, all in all, this is a very good reading program, and if you follow the process, you can get good results.
How much does Children Learning Reading Program cost?
This program is very cost-effective. Most reading programs have level 1, level 2, level 3, etc., and you have to pay for all them separately.
Here you get all the levels in the 2 manuals for approximately 70 – 90 US$ depending on the package you go for. By the way, this price might vary by the time you read this article. This is the price at the time I am writing this article.
Children Learning Reading – Guarantee
This program comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee, which I think is always very reassuring!
So, if you think this might be the right fit for your child, and then you discover it is not… Well, no problems at all: you get your money back!
Also, if you want to check a full review of this program, I wrote a whole in-depth review about it you can check here!
And remember you can also get the download my notes document here!
Children Learning Reading – Conclusion:
This is a very solid program that can work very well for younger children (because, as mentioned, it was very much created with young children in mind).
In fact, the author of the program taught his 4 children to read following this system by age 3 or 4, something pretty incredible!
You could start to do this program with your child on the year before starting school… That’s definitely something that could be very beneficial for your child, but bear in mind if you decide to that, most likely your child will be reading fluently when he/she starts school… Nothing wrong with that, but that’s what’s likely going to happen!
It is also a very good program if you just want to use it as a complement to reading instruction at school.
Why would you like to do this?
Well, maybe you are not happy, you are convinced that the methods they are using at your child’s school offers a solid phonics foundation… The one that will be there for life, and that is necessary for truly successful reading… That was my experience, by the way, and what attracted me to this program!
The reason why I think this program works so well with a kid that also goes to school is because it doesn’t take too long at all to work through the lesson on a daily basis, as I mentioned before.
Lessons are short and to the point. And it doesn’t require a lot of preparation or a lot of materials, either.
Apart from the manuals, you also get some print outs and lesson stories, but honestly it doesn’t get messy.
Besides, if you lose anything, you can easily reprint things, because you have forever access to the materials, and any update they may do in the future.
You could also use this program for homeschooling. However, in my opinion, you are going to need to reinforce the writing / spelling side with other materials.
Children Learning Reading: Bonus
This program has allowed me to share with you a sample of their Phonemic Awareness/Phonics worksheets.
>>You can get them from here!
NOTE: If you decided to go for this program, bear in mind that these worksheets are offered as an additional one-off purchase. You can still do the program without them, but they are a nice complement to the rest of materials you may want to consider.
All About Reading in a Nutshell:
- Who is it for: Great for children that learn best through multi-sensory experiences.
- System: Orton-Gillingham Approach.
- Number of levels: 5 Reading Levels (All About Reading) + 7 Spelling Levels (All About Spelling).
- Great if you are after… A multi-sensory program. Very explicit instruction (no-gaps approach). Tackles spelling and reading separately. Very popular curriculum for home schooling. Very popular program for struggling readers / dyslexic children.
- BONUSES: You can download FREE program samples (including 2 lessons), so you check before buying what you are signing up for:
>> Get free pre-reading samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside Pre-Reading Materials’)
>>Get free Level 1 samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside Level 1 Materials’)
>> Get free Level 2 samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside Level 2 Materials’)
>> Get free Level 3 samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside Level 3 Materials’)
>> Get free Level 4 samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside level 4 Materials’)
- Price: Each Level is $149 + one-off purchase of interactive kit ($45.85 -$21.85).
- Guarantee: Offers a full 1-year money back guarantee (only if you buy directly from their website).
- How to Buy / More Info: On their website.
You have probably heard of this program before. It is very renowned… and for good reason!
This program could be a great option for you if you are after a multi-sensory program!
That is actually fantastic for so many children, that learn through manipulation and kinetic experiences. The more sensing it occurs for those children, the more learning it happens.
What approach does All About Reading / All About Spelling follow?
All About Reading (AAR)/ All About Spelling (AAS) follow the Orton-Gillingham Approach.
Ok, big words! But, what does this mean?
Well, if you have a child with dyslexia or suspect you might have one, then it is likely that you may have heard about the Orton-Gillingham approach before.
The main idea behind the Orton-Gillingham approach is to take the 3 pathways to the brain for a much more holistic / robust learning experience.
What are the 3 pathways to the brain for teaching reading?
- The first pathway is the multi-sensory approach to teaching reading. By doing this, we are encouraging the left side and the right side of the brain to work together, creating stronger connections.
- The second pathway is the auditory one. The Orton- Gillingham approach is therefore phonics-based, and they go all the way down to the phoneme level, which is the smallest unit of sound in words. This capacity of playing with the sounds is called Phonemic Awareness, as I explained before when talking about the Children Learning Reading Program. All About Reading also places a lot of importance on the development of this skill. And that is something that puts this program on top of my list.
WHY is that? As I mentioned before, the most up-to-date research (such us this meta study from the National reading panel) overwhelmingly indicates that the level of phonemic awareness is the number one predictor to how successful a person will be at reading. Besides, the better reader you become, the more Phonemic Awareness you develop.
- Finally, the third pathway to the brain is the visual / sight approach. But, please, don’t think that the visual approach means that your child will be encouraged to look at pictures and guess words, or learn words through strategies, such us word shapes! That is the opposite to their teaching style. What it means is that your child will play games with flashcards, as flashcards are an important element of the curriculum. But -I repeat- the objective of flashcards is NOT to visually memorise the words, but to actually engage with them through games.
Who is this program for?
Don’t think that because this program uses the Orton-Gillingham approach, it is only good for children with dyslexia or processing disorders!
Any child can do great with this program. There are so many kids that love and can benefit from a multi-sensory approach!
How much preparation is required for the All About Reading Program?
The program is ‘lightly scripted’. This means that it leaves certain room for flexibility, giving you a script to follow at the same time.
The result is that there is not much preparation required, and you can be sure that you won’t forget or left anything important out.
However, at the same time, you can adjust the lesson to your kid.
How long does it take to work through the lessons on the All About Reading Program?
The recommendation from the All About Reading / All About Spelling creators is to keep the lesson to up to 20 minutes a day, regardless of whether you have finished the lesson or not. If the lesson took 3 days to complete, it is ok. It took 3 days.
Otherwise, lessons over 20 minutes might be too overwhelming.
However, they also encourage you to read their books for 20 minutes a day. By the way, books and stories are included with the program. They are all phonetically decodable and in line with the reading level that your child is at every step of the way.
I personally love that they include the decodable readers as part of the package.
The ‘no-gaps’ system…
The All About Reading / All About Spelling program also has what they call a ‘no-gaps’ approach. This means that they don’t leave concepts unexplained or in the air. This curriculum doesn’t assume that children will just figure things out all by themselves.
Again, this is something I really value and think is fantastic for any kid learning to read!
English is complicated. The spelling system is really one of the most complex there is. Besides, we have many, many sounds! Especially vowel sounds. For instance, 14 sounds for vowels, as opposed -for instance- to 5 vowel sounds in Spanish.
Besides, these sounds are represented in different ways.
Leaving things at chance and assume children will just get this complex system all by themselves is dangerous and too much to hope for really!
While it is true that some children might get it without receiving an explicit instruction, many won’t! And what happens in many cases when they are not taught explicitly and you leave gaps is that those children that apparently got it all by themselves, well, in reality:
They have just learned to cope with other strategies, such us memory or guessing to cover up for the gaps in the system,
Reading English and English spelling is not straight forward. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense.
It just means that if we were comparing it to a sport, it would be a complicated sport to figure out, such us cricket. Many rules! Difficult to follow and to understand!
You would probably need to be explained all the rules of the game in a systematic manner (starting with the simpler ones) so you can eventually follow the game, and know what is going on.
Spanish could be maybe something like soccer, less rules, more simple rules. More straightforward, ok?
You can probably get away and understand soccer with less explanations.
Is All About Reading a sequential phonics program?
This program is also very sequential and logical in the order that it introduces concepts.
Again, this goes very much in line with what I said before. The concepts are introduced in an incremental way.
Another thing that I really like is that there are many opportunities to review previous concepts to make sure that your child has fully mastered what she/he’s learned before he/she moves on.
This is really important, in my opinion, because sometimes we explain something once, and we see our children get it, so we think: “Great, they have mastered it!”… But then: “Oh no, you realise they have forgotten all about it!”
That piece of information got stored, but only on their short-term memory.
I feel that All About Reading does a great job at this. You have those opportunities for review integrated on the lessons, but also through play, and multi-sensory experiences. Also, they have integrated a customised review system.
I don’t want to extend a lot on this, but when you get your AAR package you get a box to store your cards. If you feel that a concept has been mastered, you file it behind the “Mastered” divider in the Review Box. If you need more practice, you file it behind the “Review” divider, so you don’t forget to review it again with your child.
By the way, that little box unfortunately is only included on their deluxe package. More on that later…
Are Reading and Spelling tackled separately or at the same time?
Another big thing worth mentioning about this program is that it tackles reading and spelling separately, so your child can advance faster with reading.
And also because they go deep into spelling rules! Remember that we are talking here about a ‘no-gaps’ approach…
I think that being explicitly taught spelling rules is again a very good idea, because spelling rules are not straight forward, as we learned before.
Is All About Reading a Digital Program?
As opposed to Children Learning Reading, All About Reading / All About Spelling is not a digital product that you download and print out at home. They send you the physical products.
They have 4 reading levels, and then 7 spelling levels.
Ok, I hear you and I know what you are asking..
How do I know which level is best for my child?
You can do a placement test from their site. You can do your placement test here!
You can also claim a free sample of the program (including 2 lessons), so you can check before buying what you are signing up for.
- Get free pre-reading samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside Pre-Reading Materials’)
- Get free Level 1 samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside Level 1 Materials’)
- Get free Level 2 samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside Level 2 Materials’)
- Get free Level 3 samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside Level 3 Materials’)
Get free Level 4 samples (go all the way down to the section ‘See Inside level 4 Materials’)
How much does All About Reading / All About Spelling cost? All About Reading Price
I am not going to lie: this program can get expensive…
At the moment I am doing this review each level of the All About Reading program costs $149. And you get the Teachers’ manual, the Student Packet, and two readers.
You will also need to do a one-off purchase of one of their reading interactive kits (including letter tiles, magnets, divider cards…). The deluxe kit costs $45.85 and the basic kit costs $21.85.
The materials on these kits are used across all 4 reading levels.
On the other hand, each level of the All About Spelling program costs between $34.95 to $44.95
For more information, check their website below.
What is the All About Reading / All About Spelling Return Policy?
I also wanted to mention that this program never goes on sale, or offer coupon prices or anything of the kind. And if you find these coupons on the internet, the AAR website very clearly states that they are not real, they are not going to be valid.
However, this is a high-quality program, and I guess that you get what you pay for.
On the other hand, you must know that they have an outstanding money-back guarantee! They give you one full year to try All about reading / All About spelling programs!
And if the program doesn’t meet your expectations, you can return the programs (in whatever used condition they might be) and get a full refund, excluding shipping.
That says a lot, in my opinion, about the trust they have in the product and about the company itself.
The only caveat here, and take note, because this is very important: this only applies to purchases made directly from their official All About Learning Press website. So, make sure to use that one when purchasing this product!
The team and the story behind All About Reading / All About Spelling!
It seems to me as well that the team at All About Reading is really lovely and passionate about what they do!
They seem to be there to help you in every way they can.
In fact, if you didn’t know the story behind the program: it all started with a mum that created this program for his child who was dyslexic, because she couldn’t find anything out there that was appropriate for him.
And, I guess, out of desperation (and really understanding the needs of a dyslexic child!) she created this reading program. This mum is Marie Rippel, the author of All About Reading.
By the way, when you purchase AAR you also get access to their app, which is an additional tool for your child to practice his/her reading.
Main Pros of AAR / AAS
- Very good program for any child with dyslexia, reading difficulties or any child that thrives on and learns better through multi-sensory experiences.
- Great for homeschooling
- With this program you make sure everything is covered and clearly explained
- Amazing 1 year money-back guarantee
- Lovely / passionate team and excellent customer service.
Cons of AAR / AAS
- The main con is the price, really. As we’ve seen before, it can get expensive. On the other hand, as I explained before, you get that amazing one year money back guarantee if you buy through their official site.
- Some people may find it too ‘hands-on’ for the parent.
- Who is it for: For children that learn through multi-sensory experiences.
- System: Orton-Gillingham Approach.
- Number of levels: Foundations: 4 levels (A, B, C, D). Essentials: 3 levels (Levels A, B, C)
- Great if you are after… A multi-sensory program, that also goes really deep into rules (into the ‘logic of English’). Very appropriate approach for dyslexic/struggling readers. Tackles spelling, writing and reading all together. Another very popular curriculum for home schooling.
- Offers 90-day money back guarantee when bought from their website. Products to be returned in good condition (like new).
- Price: Foundations Module: From $74.99 per level. Whole Essential Package: $159.99 – $279.99
- How to Buy: From their website
This is another Orton-Gillingham reading curriculum.
That means that it could be a very good for you again if you have a dyslexic child (or suspect you may have one) and for any struggling reader. But I think it could also be good, in general, for any kid!
Especially if they thrive on and learn better with multi-sensory experiences. Again, this program was created by a mum with a dyslexic child.
Since I already explained a lot about the Orton Gillingham approach when talking about All About Reading, I am not going to extend on this.
What I thought would be a good idea is to actually go through the main differences between the Logic of English program and All about reading.
Differences between the Logic of English and All About Reading
- This program takes the no-gaps approach to the next level. It really goes deep into the ‘Logic of English’ and why things are spelled and read in the way they are. So, if you have a child that really wants to understand everything and doesn’t take the: “Oh, this is an exception” phrase for an answer, I recommend it.
So, in line with this: this program introduces all the sounds that letters make at the same time..
It is not going to teach your child: ‘this is the letter A, and it makes the /a/ sound, as in cat, pat, mat, tap…’
No, it is going to introduce all of the letter sounds that the letter A can make at the same time. So: this is the letter A, and it makes the A sound, the long a sound, and the schwa sound.
To be honest, as a side note, there are up to 7 different sounds that the letter A can make, but those 3 are definitely the ones that your child has to learn, because they cover almost 100% of English words with an a.
You may think: ‘Oh Gosh, this is overwhelming’
But, in a way, when you think about it, it makes sense!
This way, then they don’t get all confused when you say to them…: “Do you know what? The letter A, that I have been insisting and insisting makes the /ah/ sound, it turns out it can also say its name many times and even do this schwa sound”.
This way, you really introduce these other sounds as rules, rather than as an exception. And, suddenly, words such us, ‘about’ (with a schwa sound at the beginning) or even the word ‘the’ with a schwa sound for the letter e, are not exceptions anymore.
- Another difference is that on this reading program there are more games and sort of ‘fun’ activities than in All About Reading. These activities can come in handy especially if you have an active kid. So, if you thought that you were going for a program that is all about studying the English rules and that it was going to be very boring, well, not really… Remember: it is still a multi-sensory approach. You do teach the rules, but using lots of interactive games.
- Another big difference is that the program tackles reading, writing and spelling all at the same time. So, good news in terms of price I guess, because that way you don’t have to buy something separately.
The manuscript or cursive choice
When buying this program you are going to have to make a choice between buying cursive or manuscript for writing. This really caught my attention and I thought it was so great!
If you don’t know the difference between cursive and manuscript, cursive is something like this (see picture below) and manuscript something like this (see picture below).
It does not only take out of the picture certain problems that beginner readers struggle with: such us b and d reversal.
Because b in cursive is (see picture below), and d in cursive is (see picture below), this is not confusing anymore.
But, apart from that (and also being beautiful), it is also becoming apparent in the scientific world that learning through cursive typography can be extremely beneficial for the cognitive development of children. It does to your mind sort of the same benefits of learning to play an instrument.
I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about this topic in this article, because it is not the purpose of it, but if you want to find out more about this, you can check this article.
And I will also make sure to include some links on the download my notes document, in case you are interested.
For a totally beginner reader, the Foundations module consists of 4 levels (A, B, C, D) and covers contents appropriate for Kindergarten to First Grade.
Their Essentials module consists of 3 levels (A, B, C) divided in 5 parts. All of the materials on their Essentials module are included on their Essential package.
On their site you can do a quick test to see which one they recommend.
Regarding the price: Again, on the pricey spectrum, but this is a good quality program. Might seem a bit more expensive than AAR but since they include spelling/writing instruction on the same program, when you work things out, prices are pretty similar.
They offer a 90 days-money back guarantee.
- Who is it for: For children that thrive on having a very clear routine when it comes to learning, and appreciate the use of audio-visuals (video lessons).
- System: Sequential, systematic synthetic phonics approach.
- Number of levels: 8 Reading Levels. You can complement reading instruction with their app for an even more complete curriculum. The app also covers spelling – ‘Hooked on Spelling’.
- Great if you are after… A very simple, but fun approach that uses audio-visuals elements (video lessons, app) . Very good for busy parents! The hard work is done for you!
- Complete Learn to Read Kit (all levels): $209
- 30-day money back guarantee when you buy from their website.
- How to Buy: From their website OR on Amazon.
What is Hooked on Phonics?
This is another good quality phonics curriculum that follows a systematic, sequential approach.
Hooked on phonics is a comprehensive English curriculum that also follows the right principles for learning to read.
Again, you start by building up your Phonemic Awareness, letter recognition, etc. and then in a systematic, sequential way you start to introduce phonics concepts.
The Hooked on Phonics curriculum is aligned with the commons core academic standards. If you didn’t know, the Commons Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). They outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade.
This is especially helpful if you are in the US, and if you want to use this curriculum for homeschooling your child.
What is the structure of the Hooked on Phonics Lessons?
The structure and the system for teaching phonics is completely different to the other programs we have seen before.
I find that this structure can work for many parents because it is really simple, it doesn’t really require for the parent to know a great deal about phonics, neither it requires a lot of preparation, you don’t have lots of materials all over the place. So: really convenient!
The structure of the lessons is always the same, so once you get the hang of it (and you will get it very easily because it is very straight forward) it will become part of your routine.
Let’s see how that routine/structure looks like!
- You get a DVD with video lessons to follow along with the student book. If you don’t have a DVD player (these days many people don’t), you can register your hooked on phonics kit for online access to the video lessons, which is what I did. And, this is how your child is going to start his/her lesson each day: Watching the video lesson.
By the way, a little word of caution here: if you want online access to the videos, don’t buy second hand, because the ISBN of your kit might have already been registered under someone else’s account.
- The video covers the Learn / Practice bit.
- Once your child has finished the video lesson (around 5 minutes), you return to the workbook, and work on the Learn/ Practice pages. Remember, this is already familiar to your child: he/she has already seen this on the video lesson.
- After that, it is time to read.
- Once you are done, the lesson is finished! Your child get his/her sticker if you consider they’ve done a good job and don’t want to repeat the same on the next day, and that’s it.
Every day, same structure: simple for you, simple for your child.
A few games are introduced on some lessons as well to make the program more exciting…
Finally, you also get nice readers that are appropriate for your child’s reading level, and don’t worry: they tell you exactly when your child is ready for them.
Simple / Structured Routine for Learning to Read…
It looks simple and sort of repetitive, but I know many kids that do very well with this program. That is what actually attracted me to it.
Besides, I like simple, I like finding a simple system and a routine.
And I find that works with my child as well. It doesn’t mean you can add a little bit of play here and there, but she thrives on structure and loves her video-lessons. She actually learns a lot that way, and doesn’t find it boring. Quite the opposite.
Pros of Hooked on Phonics:
- It is supported by audio / video lessons.
- Great if you are after a reading routine that is easy to implement and don’t want lots of additional materials all over the place.
- It follows a systematic approach, with clear / direct instruction that is not boring.
- It gives many opportunities for children to practice.
Cons of Hooked on Phonics:
- It can be costly for some families. But if you are convinced this system is what your child is going to thrive on, then if you get the Complete Learn to Read kit that goes all the way up to level 8 (those are all the levels they have), then you can save a lot of money.
Hooked on Phonics app
Besides, Hooked on Phonics also has an app (this is different from the video lessons).
If you are interested you can get a bundle with all the levels + plus 1 year access to the app for a little bit more.
I encourage you to check their official site to check final prices and options! (as they have quite a few!)
I also wanted to include less pricey alternatives here….
If that is what you are looking for then I will give you 2 more:
I actually created a whole post in which I compare both Learn to Read Programs. Check our post comparing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Alpha Phonics here!