Learning to read is one of those staple life skill milestones parents often look for and fret over. Just like talking, walking and many more, we often look for ways to help our child get there quicker, often wondering if our child is going to be a genius if they make it sooner than expected.
There are plenty of reading programmes available online, designed to either teach your child read from scratch at a young age or aid older children who are struggling readers.
Today, we’re going to be reviewing Children Learning Reading.
Children Learning Reading is a digital download programme developed by experienced reading teacher, Jim Yang, to help teach your child to read.
The programme is based on phonemic awareness and blended phonics, which is becoming widely accepted as the most effective method for teaching children how to read. Phonemic awareness helps children to understand the sounds that letters make, and the collection of sounds that make up our language. Phonics is the relationship between the spoken word and written language, which helps children to decode words they haven’t seen before.
The standard Children Learning Reading package contains:
Phonics foundation theory
32 step-by-step lessons
9 short stories
Lifetime access and updates
*This programme is entirely digital, with pdf files available to download and print.
Who is it for?
The programme targets children from 2-8 years old, which seems like a very large age range when you consider the developmental differences between a two year old and an eight year old. However, it can be used to teach young children to read from square one, or help older, struggling readers.
In the early part of the phonics foundation theory book, Yang explains that he taught all four of his children to read from the age of two, even as early as two years and four months.
How it works
Yang recommends reading the Phonics Foundation theory first. Although a near-120 page read, it gives an incredibly useful explanation of the theory behind the programme, why it’s so effective, and also how to deliver the lessons. It really does give parents a better understanding and belief in the programme, something that’s particularly reassuring if your child doesn’t take to it straight away.
Once you’re ready to begin, the lessons take no more than 10 minutes at a time. Some of the earlier lessons can take as little as five minutes, especially for older children. Each lesson not only covers what the child needs to do, but also helpful reminders and explainers for parents.
My son is five-years old and has always loved books and stories. He’s a pretty accomplished reader, with phonics books from school putting his reading age at around 7.
Obviously not looking to use the programme to start teaching him to read, or improve him as a struggling reader, I was curious to see if and how the programme would work for a child who is already a strong reader.
And while I can objectively see the positives of the programme and why so many parents love it, my son didn’t really engage with it.
As a parent looking at the programme, there wasn’t really any clear indication of where to start for more advanced readers. At the start, Yang suggests that stronger or older readers can do the first few lessons quickly - but that really didn’t work. My son looked at me confused as to why we were covering stuff he already knew and could reel off easily. And so I wasn’t met with great enthusiasm as I searched for more suitable lessons further into the programme.
Ian, a dad to two boys aged 4 and 5, also reviewed the programme, particularly focusing on the video lessons available through the premium package. Adding an extra $20 to the price, these videos show Yang following the lessons with his own child, offering up words of advice to you as the parent-teacher along the way.
He said: “Both my boys are in their phonics stage, and joining them to learn how to read is something I really enjoy as we get to be together, and I get to see where they are in something that is typically school based.”
“The delivery was solid and detailed. We covered a dozen letter sounds and I could see my boys progressing as we went along. There were also some really great tips for me in terms of what I can do to continue the teaching away from these lessons.
Yang’s videos are filmed in his living room to emphasise that they can be done in the home in a short amount of time. However, Ian said his sons (and himself) found this a bit too distracting at times.
“In places, it did come across a little too casual, particularly when there were so many toys in the background. I could see their attention drifting to a cool toy in the back of the shot, or a flashing toy that the child was playing with.”
“Overall, it was really positive and I could see some progress in a short space of time, but the delivery could be a bit better.”
Children Learning Reading is one of the highest rated reading programmes available on the internet; it claims to have helped more than 200,000 children to read. So what’s so great about it?
Depth and detail
The theory book gives a detailed understanding of what phonics is and why it’s so effective as a method of learning to read.
Easy to follow
Each lesson contains really useful tips and reminders to help you deliver them. It makes each one easy to follow for parent and child.
Taking a maximum of 10 minutes per day, they’re short enough to prevent the child from getting bored and ensures parents can fit it into their busy days.
The programme comes with audio clips that show correct pronunciation of letter sound.
Affordability (and money back guarantee)
Starting from $69, it’s one of the most affordable reading programmes available. And, there’s a 60-day money back guarantee, too.
Despite its many positives, very little in this world is perfect. Let’s look at the programme’s downsides.
Where to start?
It’s not clear where older readers or stronger readers should start the programme.
There are a range of phonics games and activities that I think really help make it feel more fun and less ‘lesson’, and might have helped my son to engage with it a bit more. However, they’re not included in the package and are available as an optional extra for roughly $40.
You’re left with a choice of looking at the lessons on a screen (which I think is less engaging for parent and child) or printing out hundreds of pages. I don’t have a printer so I had to go with on-screen lessons, which wasn’t great.
As mentioned, I can objectively see Children Learning Reading is so effective and so popular. However, it doesn’t seem to be as effective for children who are already strong readers. Actually, that’s not a comment on the programme itself but the information around the programme. There’s a Stage 2 called ‘Advanced Phonics’ available as an optional extra, but little information about who it’s aimed at.
The value for money is excellent, the lessons are short and simple, there’s a huge amount of support for you as a parent, and going by thousands of reviews it has helped thousands and thousands of children learn to read (or improve their reading).