Headsprout: Learning To Read

Submitted by scott
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Over the past few months, Princess P has been using an online, animated series of lessons to learn to read... or at least start recognizing more words. Since I deal with online learning on an almost daily basis at work, I was curious to see how effective the Headsprout Early Reading program would be for Princess P.

Early Reading

When the materials arrived, I must admit I was very impressed. Not only are there 80 online episodes, but there are 80 real, physical books available that supplement the online lessons. Plus, there is a large progress chart (complete with stickers) that helps give Princess P a visual reminder of how far she's come, and how far there is to go. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped to plop Princess P in front of the computer and see what happened. Deep down somewhere Princess P is a little like me, so she too was excited to try out this new 'computer game.'

During the very first episode, Princess P was introduced to two happy little aliens, San and Vee. Very quickly Princess P was starting to recognize (by clicking) what letter combination's make what sounds (like ee and an). On top of that, there are many 'speak out loud' sections that allow Princess P to practice connecting the dots between what's on the screen, and how it sounds.

I could ramble on and on about this program, but to spare you wading through the fluff, listed below are my top pros and cons.

Pros

  • Great 'reward' system (if your kids like books) - After finishing milestones in the online lessons, the kids are rewarded with one of the 80 books, which they are now able to read on their own.
  • Length of the Lesson - They average about 15-20 minutes.
  • Remediation - If the child is having a hard time, the lesson adjusts accordingly and spends more time in those areas.
  • Hands-Off - I don't mean that you sit the kid down and go run errands, but more that the lessons do a good job teaching, so you don't have to hover over you child's shoulder and explain things.


Cons

  • Remediation - I really only have one con, and it was also a pro. Princess P seems to have a hangup with the name 'Fran.' There's something about that word that frustrates her to no end, and she can't get past the remediation loop associated with it... so she gives up. I know her personality lends itself to getting frustrated easily, but be careful not to push too hard, or let your child sit too long without making progress, it only ends in frustration.


Reading Comprehension

Headsprout has recently released 'Reading Comprehension' for slightly older children (2nd to 4th grade). Although I don't have as much hands on experience with these lessons, the format is very similar. The child goes through the online lessons, which are supplemented by hard copy materials.

The goal of this program is focused more on reading passages, then answering questions about the passage. In some cases you have find a fact that was revealed in the passage... like "Where was Sally going?" Other times you are asked what a particular word in the passage means, and using clue words are asked which available answer makes the most sense. As expected, since at this point your child can read, the supplemental materials are more in depth than the early reading program.

Overall Opinion

If you're homeschooling, or just wanting to help your child out with his or her reading, I highly recommend the Headsprout reading programs. This post probably could have been twice as long, and there is so much that I haven't covered (like viewing your child's scores, what words they should know upon lesson completion, and all the more parenty stuff).


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