If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wordy Wednesday...Review!

Quite a while back, I shared my first review of Reading Horizons, on Orton-Gillingham based intensive phonics program, especially for kids that struggle with reading. This program came highly recommended by a friend I absolutely trust with such things. So I had to check it out, as The Girl was really struggling with reading.

While I have never officially had her tested, showed nearly every sign of dyslexia in every online assessment I could find. Seriously. Of course, it took me ages to get around to figuring out that this might be the issue. Until that time, we had tried the "normal" processes of learning to read, the ones that worked with her older brother. We worked on the alphabet, half of which she forgot again nearly every day after "learning" it. We worked on letter sounds, with little progress. I tried Explode the Code, Reading Pathways, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, The Reading Lesson, Reading Eggs... you name it, it probably found its way into our home at some point.

And still, she wasn't reading beyond cvc words, and a few sight words, with very little fluency.

Then Jessica found Reading Horizons, and told me about it. Actually, she told me about it a few times before I gave in and tried it out, all the while thinking in the back of my mind, "Oh geez, another program that won't work." So I talked (via email) to the people at Reading Horizons, and first, I will say they were very helpful, friendly, and not pushy. I appreciate that! I was given a trial of the interactive software program (for ages 10 and up) for The Girl to work through, and as you read in my first review of Reading Horizons, I saw progress almost right away, though "At first, truthfully, The Girl was a little reluctant to use it. She thought the first few lessons were "just dumb. I know what a bag is!", but, we persevered (at my insistence), and she soon changed her tune as the lessons ramped up."

She went on to finish most of the program (I'd love to have her finish it someday). And what do I think now? I think that this program gave my daughter the confidence and skills she needed to finally decode words. Put it this way, she went from Bob Books being a pain, to currently reading The Hunger Games. I know, its not "fine" literature, but she's reading, and enjoying it!

How does it work?

Each lesson both introduces new sounds/reading skills, while at the same time reviewing and building on those previously covered. The instructions are all verbal, which was fantastic for my struggling reader -- she liked that she could do the lessons herself. This alone gave her a sense of accomplishment she had been lacking before. The program also constantly reviewed high frequency words...you know, those that we see a lot in text, such as the, you, not, that, of, if, and so forth. Each lesson also includes vocabulary practice, which further builds on the skills introduced in the lesson. Having to mark words actually made her slow down, and think about what sounds each letter makes, which definitely helped with her decoding. And, when students make enough progress, the library is unlocked, and they can work on reading a variety of passages based on their current reading level! And each passage also has an introductory page, with "challenge" words that appear in the reading. If they struggle with any of these words, they can click on them to hear them read aloud. Along the way, grammar and punctuation, as well as keyboarding skills, are all part of the lessons.

Parents can set the threshold at which the student passes, and so I set it at 85%... anything below that and she had to repeat that section of the lesson. There's also a dashboard which shows clearly how many attempts were made at various skills/lesson sections, and how much time was spent on the lesson. This helped me see exactly where she was struggling, so I could help her through it.

We did take a long break in there from using it, as she began to develop her reading skills and wanted to try them out "in the real world". Long enough really that when we went back to use the program, because we were both anxious to see more skills developed, my subscription had expired. But, that turned out to not be a problem, as the folks at Reading Horizons quickly set me up with the Elevate program, for kids (and adults!) 10 and up.

I am delighted, and amazed, at how much this program helped my daughter. She was at an age where she was starting to feel ashamed of not being able to read well, when she could see that all her friends were fine with it. Some days, she's told me, she just felt stupid, which is never how I would want my kids to feel! So, thank you!!!! By the way, she also reads all the common, day-to-day things, like movie descriptions, labels on packages at the store, street signs, and so on, and so on, plus she's writing short stories, all of which she did not do before.

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