Welcome back to Best Case Parenting. Today, we follow on our review of Children Learning Reading by reviewing another reading program that is available.
That program is called “Reading Head Start”.
What is Reading Head Start?
Reading Head Start is an online based reading program aimed at parents. Whether you want to teach your child to read from scratch or help a struggling reader, this program aims to help.
On their website they say that this reading program is “well researched” and designed by educators.
They state that the Reading Head Start program can be used with children from 2-9 years old.
How much does it cost?
As you can see above, Reading Head start offers several ways to pay. You can either pay for the service monthly, at a cost of $37 a month. Alternatively you can pay yearly for $197 or even get lifetime access to $297.
The other thing to mention is they have a very comprehensive money back guarantee, allowing you to get a full refund up to a year after purchase.
This is a really great feature, as it allows you to try the service without fear of losing out financially.
This is especially important for a phonic program, as it is hard to tell if you will like the style of the system until you have had time to look into the details.
What do you get?
This reading program consists of a full compliment of reading lessons and resources to teach any child right through from basic phonics to reading and comprehension.
All of this is housed online at their website. I have to say that I really like the presentation of this product, as they have done a great job of making it user friendly and simple to navigate.
This is the welcome screen you will see when you first login to Reading Head Start.
They have a 30 second welcome video which should help any new parent understand how to use their program.
They also have all their other resources detailed here in a clear and easy accessible way. These resources include reading books, flashcards and letter formation guides.
This great presentation filters down to the lesson plans as well. As you will see below, they do a great job of putting all the resources you need for each lesson right there in the lesson itself. No need to go searching through the website, they are just one click away.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides to their presentation, which I hope will be fixed in the near future.
These are bugs which should be fixed. The main one is that when I click on the lessons tab on the website, it only shows up levels one and three (see picture below). The other levels have mysteriously disappeared. This is a pretty annoying bug, and it was consistent across all three of the internet browsers I tried it on. I will be contacting the developer of Reading Head Start about this, so expect it to be fixed soon!!
Down to the Nitty Gritty!
The presentation of a reading program is important and all, but means nothing if the content is lacking.
As someone who has taught phonics for over a decade, I am impressed with the program taught here. It is a detailed program that will take your child from the basic syllable recognition to full on reading.
The only thing I would say, is that the instructions look to me as if they were designed more for teachers than for parents. Maybe parents might find some of the wording confusing.
Having said that, you will find detailed instructions for every lesson and the resources you need right there to hand on the same page. As long as you take your time to read carefully, you should be fine.
When teaching young children (especially those under 6 years old) I would recommend you teach them phonics in short sharp bursts on a daily basis. I noticed some of the later lessons could run to over 30 minutes based on their guidelines. Unless your child is clearly able to focus for this long, I would recommend that you do that lesson over two days to lessen the burden on your child.
As soon as learning because a chore, your child will quickly loose interest.
I would have liked to see some lesson demonstrations in video form, especially for the first few lessons. This would help some parents see visually what they are supposed to do. Some parents might be put off the program by the amount of reading that needs to be done.
What are the other resources like?
This is a great addition to the program, to have decodable readers to support your child through their reading journey. These readers can be downloaded in PDF format too.
The problem I have with them is they are great for the later parts of the program, but not well suited to the first stages. Yes, they are illustrated nicely, but all the text is bunched up on one page. This doesn’t make them easy for early readers to follow. And the text starts in a pretty complex way, meaning they are only really good for children that have learned all their phonic sounds already.
The way to get around this, is to read the books to your child and only ask them to read the words you know they are capable of. The problem is, unless your are a trained teacher, it may be hard for you to judge this.
I would also recommend that you type out the words from the readers again yourself. Enlarge the text and print out strips of one sentence at a time. This would make these readers much easier to follow for early readers.
In general, a major part of teaching a child to read is to also develop a love of reading alongside. This will give the child a natural motivation to read their favourite books, making the task of teaching reading to them a lot easier! These readers will likely not develop that, so I would recommend that you read to your child on a daily basis outside of this program. Buy your child a bank of excellent children’s books that they will grow to love.
I have articles on this website that give ideas for children’s books, for example this one giving suggestions among recently released books (at the time of writing) is a good place to start.
I don’t see any guidance on how to use these readers within the program either. It would be much more helpful to parents if you marked clearly when to use each book within the lessons provided.
Reading Headstart does provide you with all the flashcards and word cards you would likely need. The idea is to download them and print them out.
I particularly like the phonic sound flashcards, which have been beautifully illustrated in a hand drawn art style similar to the readers above.
Other tools and resources
Some of the lessons included in Reading Headstart mention a pronunciation guide. However, the link is dead and I can’t find this guide anywhere within the website.
I feel this guide should be re-instated as soon as possible, as it would help a lot of parents hear how some of the phonic sounds should be spoken. For example, I am sure a lot of parents don’t know how to say the phonic sound “ai” or would not be confident until they heard it.
At the moment, the only option is to look the sound up online yourself.
After using Reading Headstart for a while, I feel it has some really great qualities.
By buying this guide, you are getting a detailed and comprehensive phonic and reading program to use with your child.
I like the way that it is all delivered in a modern, easy to use way.
It is a shame that there are still a few bugs on the website, something which I will update the review with when they are fixed!
And some parents might find it challenging to follow the lessons. I would like to see some video demonstrations or more parent friendly modifications made to the lessons.
Having said all of this, if you are vaguely interested in what you have seen in this review, why not test Reading Headstart out. The high quality nature of the guarantee offered gives you the confidence to do this.
What we Like…
- Full and Comprehensive Reading Program
- User Friendly Website Delivery
- Flexible ways to pay for the program
What we don’t like….
- Some lessons too teacher focused (rather than parent focused)
- Some bugs and missing resources
- Decodable readers should include early readers better
Let me know in the comments section below if you have any experience with this program, or if you have any recommendations of your own.
To find out more about the Reading Headstart program, simply go check out their official website HERE.