Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
As a Special education teacher I used many different methods of reading instruction to meet the different needs of my students. I have also used several different programs to teach my older children to read. Teaching children to read has always been a passion of mine and I love to get to experience new programs and resources! Last month, I was given the opportunity to try out Reading Unlocked with my family. My 5 year old Pre-K son and I have been using the Reading Unlocked program for his beginning reading instruction. Today, I get to tell you all about this program and our experience.
What is Reading Unlocked?
Reading Unlocked is an online program that uses a simplified phonics approach to teach children to read. It’s phonetic approach to teaching reading is based off the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction. Each lesson focuses on several sounds and teaches how to blend those sounds into words. Each lesson also includes phonemic awareness instruction, helping children to recognize the sounds they are hearing in words.
If your child is not a beginning reader you may choose to start at a higher level of reading instruction. If you start at the very beginning the lesson introduces 3 sounds. Each lesson then builds and introduces new sounds and words. The lessons take 10-15 minutes for a child to complete. All instruction and practice is guided by the Reading Unlocked program, however, several activities need involvement from a parent to assess or complete a shared reading with the student. Therefore it is necessary for the parent or teacher to sit with and monitor the student using the program.
What is required to use Reading Unlocked?
To use Reading Unlocked you must use a computer or tablet with a compatible browser. Reading Unlocked states that most browsers on a Windows or Mac Computer, Chromebook, iPad or Android Tablet are compatible with the program. They do not recommend using a phone as the screen would be too small for the student to use the program correctly. Internet access is required to use this reading program.
You also need to subscribe to Reading Unlocked. The program costs $24.99 USD per month. They do offer a free trial so you can try it out with your child before paying monthly. However, there are no other materials or workbooks you will need to purchase to use this program. Everything you need will be on your computer or tablet. Some lessons ask the student to write letters or words on paper, so just make sure to have something on hand for your child to write on!
How did we use Reading Unlocked?
I decided to give Reading Unlocked a try with my 5 year old, Ethan. He is not reading yet, knows the alphabet, but has not yet really been able to blend and connect sounds in words. When we started the program the first lesson went great!! He absolutely loved it and was so excited that he learned to read the word cat the very first day he used the program. I did find it necessary to help him through the lesson.
Ethan is a very young 5 and is just now showing some readiness to learn to read. We found many of the tasks difficult for him without help. One part of each lesson practiced writing the sounds, and then words. This was challenging for him, however, we found a way to make it work for him. Ethan would name or point to the sounds/letters (depending on the task) he needed to write. I would then write each letter, and afterwards he would copy it. He loved this, and it really gave him more confidence that he could write the letters!
A few problems…
Unfortunately, for us right after we completed a few lessons of Reading Unlocked, Ethan ended up getting sick with a flu virus (ugh!) We really weren’t able to do any lessons for a whole week! Then the next week was a planned spring break for our family, where we had several different plans and took a break from daily lessons. After this, we finally got back to work and started with lessons again. I went back and reviewed the first lessons with him as he had forgotten most of it! After this, I was able to do Reading Unlocked lessons with Ethan about 3 times a week for several weeks. Unfortunately, for us the program quickly became a bit much for him at his age and developmental readiness to read.
For beginning readers, I personally would have liked the lessons to focus longer on each short vowel sound before introducing a new one. He was just starting to have success with the short ‘a’ sound when it moved on to short ‘e’. I felt it introduced too many sounds at once for him to be able to retain and have success with. Also, he realized quickly he was repeating the lessons to review sounds and got frustrated that he was doing the exact same lessons multiple times.
I realized quickly that he was simply not ready to learn to read at the pace that that Reading Unlocked sets. Reading Unlocked is not quite what Ethan needs right now for his reading instruction. However, there were many things that we liked about the program even though it is not quite the right fit for us right now. I could however see this working well for many children, even Ethan in a few more months.
What did I like about Reading Unlocked?
There were several things in the Reading Unlocked program that Ethan and I really enjoyed. He loves learning on the computer and we enjoyed working through the lessons together. He like being able to click through the and progress through the lessons mostly by himself. Ethan was also very proud of each word he learned to read. I really like the emphasis that the program puts on phonological awareness. Several parts of each lesson work to help students recognize hearing and discriminating between the different sounds in words. This is very important in early reading instruction.
Ethan especially enjoyed the shared readings at the end of each lesson. Each lesson ended with a fun poem. The parent or teacher reads the poem with the student reading the red words (words that had been taught during the lesson).
Another advantage of Reading Unlocked is that is a complete reading program, ready to use and requires no planning on your part. I think this program would work well for Kindergarten students who can already identify most letters and sounds. It would reinforce the sounds and then also teach children to blend sounds into words. I look forward to trying this program again with Ethan soon when he is a bit more ready.
Do I recommend Reading Unlocked?
I believe Reading Unlocked could be a great fit for many children learning to read. However, it may be a little fast paced for students younger children or children with special needs. If you are looking for an online phonics based reading program for your children, I recommend trying the free trial of Reading Unlocked. Then you will be able to easily see if it would be a good fit for your family.
Many other families with the Homeschool Review Crew also had a chance to use Reading Unlocked. Read more how this program worked for them!