Rory and I have been trialling Reading Eggs; an online program which teaches children to read at their own rate with a series of lessons full of games, puzzles, stories and songs. He's been interested in letters and words for quite a while now, and I have taught him a lot of letter sounds and how to segment words into different sounds already. Given this interest, I thought that Reading Eggs would be appropriate for him. It's suitable for children aged 3-7 (with Reading Eggspress available for 7-13 year olds), and your child completes a small test at the beginning to judge their level so they start in the right place.
For children who are not yet ready for phonics, there is the Play Room area, which contains lots of fun games and activities to help with mouse control and observation, which is perfect for pre-school children and a lot of fun. Rory has spent a ridiculous amount of time in the Kitchen area of this section creating virtual pizzas and fruit salads. He enjoys this so much, that I sometimes give him a pad of paper, a pencil and an apron and send him round the room to take orders from everybody so he can play restaurants. He dutifully scribbles away on the pad and then goes and knocks up a virtual feast for all - brilliant for putting writing in context.
As he had phonic knowledge already, we started the lessons as well, which are recommended for Reception age upwards. If your child has recently started school, I'd say these lessons are a must as they consolidate everything that is learnt in phonics lessons. Rory is only just 3, but he still finds the lessons really engaging and easy to understand. He sits on my knee to do them, so I'm always on hand if he doesn't understand something and I offer him lots of encouragement. The lessons are bright, fun, obviously good quality and last about 20 minutes, which is the amount of time that tends to be dedicated to phonics each day at school. The y focus on letter sounds, single words and sentences, just as would happen in school, so they complement existing learning really well. They are presented by animated characters - so far we have met Sam the Ant and Jazz the Cat and there is a lot of variety throughout sessions, so he doesn't get bored. He absolutely loves them. Every day he begs me to "learn his letters" and gets so excited to see what he'll be doing today. "The best thing ever is when Mummy lets me learn my letters!" he shouted at playgroup the other day, making me look like the sort of awful pushy parent who keeps her child in a box and only lets him come out to do calculus for fun. That is how much he loves doing them.
But do they work? Well, that's a big fat yes. Rory's made a lot of progress already and is becoming really confident in deciphering and spelling out words himself. Because he's only in pre-school for 15 hours a week and I'm at home with him the rest of the time, I top up by doing little activities with him off the computer to keep track of where he's up to (again, I am NOT that pushy parent - I promise we only do stuff he enjoys and that he wants to do). Here he is the other day doing a word building sticking activity. He completed it entirely without any help. I'm really impressed - this is the sort of thing I'd do with a mid ability reception class at this time of year, not a 3 year old. And he's bright, but he's not the next Einstein or anything - it's definitely down to Reading Eggs that he can do this already. This might be making me sound a bit of a smug parent. Believe me, I was anything but smug when he started shouting "C for Coke! N for Nuggets! B-I-G M-A-C" the other day.
I think what I like the most about it is that you can keep track of your child's strengths and weaknesses. Rory's brilliant at phonics and word building, but clueless re: sentence building at the moment. But that's fine - if things start getting too tricky, I can just go back and choose a lesson he's done already to re-cap or bide some time before going any further, and if he starts getting frustrated, we can just switch back to using the Play Room and have a break from the lessons.
In fact, the only negative things I can think to say about the whole experience are that occasionally a couple of the puzzles can be a bit glitchy, but that's quite rare, and that I would quite happily smack the Jazz the Cat character in the face with a P-A-N.
If you'd like to try Reading Eggs yourself, go here and have a look: http://readingeggs.co.uk/ It generally costs £39.95 for a full years subscription, which I think is well worth it. there are often discounts available too, so look out for them. And just for you, I have a code for a free extended 5 week trial (they usually offer 2 week long free trials, so you get an extra 3 weeks with this code): UKB24MBT
Do give it a try and let me know what you think. 5 weeks is definitely long enough to make a huge difference, so see what you think.
I was not paid for this review. Rory and I were offered a 5 week trial of Reading Eggs in exchange for a review if we liked it. I was under no obligation to write a review at all.