Some reading programs may require the child to have a specialized instructor; these are often used in the classroom setting and may be offered by schools. Other programs, however, are accessible online or via apps and can be a convenient and perhaps more affordable option for parents needing additional help or enrichment for a child that is struggling with reading.
An online reading program for kids may encompass many features and each one may look very different. What online reading program for kids is right for your kid? Trying out and researching different options might help parents decide! Here’s how to find the best program for your child.
What is the Best Online Reading Program?
The best really is a matter of opinion, and, obviously, Readability, in our opinion is the best! That being said, the best online reading program for kids and, most importantly, for YOUR kid should address their own unique reading struggles.
Researching different reading programs is a great first step in finding out what options are available. Google and other search engines, however, may bring up many, many choices. In fact, the options could be quite overwhelming.
Parents might consider the following when narrowing down their choices:
- What is my child’s reading struggle? Comprehension, phonics…both?
- What is my child’s reading level and how does that compare to the grade-level expectation?
- How does my child learn best? Visual, tactile or auditory? Maybe a mixture?
- What is the budget for a reading program?
- Does my child enjoy online learning?
The Individual Reading Struggle: Address the Child’s Own Unique Needs
Finding the best reading program for your child means finding the program that best meets the child’s needs and helps address their reading struggles. Some reading programs online may focus on learning sight words or helping children sound out words. Phonics and phonetics are both key elements to reading. If the child is having difficulty with sounds and putting blends together, if they struggle in phonics, then a program should address this concern.
Other children may read fluently but might not be able to summarize what they’ve read. The words may come easy but the meaning may be lost. Comprehension is another crucial part of reading. Children need to understand what they’ve read so that they can think deeper about the story.
However, comprehension goes beyond merely summarizing content. In time, children need to be able to understand feelings of characters, predict what will happen next, apply the understanding of the character and the plot to their own situations and further analyze metaphorical context that could be unwritten but still exist between the lines.
Comprehension can be quite abstract, and some children may find that digging deeper, looking beyond the literal, is a bit of a challenge. Children who lack the ability to summarize or to remember what they’ve read may be struggling with comprehension (although other issues could be at play, too).
Parents may have a good idea that their child is struggling to grasp the meaning of a story. Often, parents will ask their child questions while reading aloud. Children may not be able to retell the story or might not be able to summarize key plot points. While disinterest in the story also could contribute, if parents notice that their child consistently fails to be able to summarize or explain the basics of a story, comprehension could be the issue.
If parents have talked to their child’s teacher and have learned that the teacher is concerned about a child’s reading comprehension, parents may be looking for an online reading program that addresses this literacy component.
Reading Level: Is the Child Really Struggling?
Some parents may believe that their child is struggling with reading, when, in actuality, their child is perfectly on target. Parents could have expectations based on an older sibling who was a precocious reader.
Understanding a child’s reading level and how that level compares to grade-level benchmarks and expectations can better help parents figure out how much help their child needs. How can parents find out their child’s reading level? Ask the teacher!
Many schools test reading skills throughout the year. This helps teachers and districts better understand the progress of each child; this also helps identify children who may be falling behind or struggling with reading.
Parents can ask the teacher about their child’s reading progress and how that compares to the grade-level expectations. While a single test score might be lower because of a bad day or an illness, teachers can note patterns in progress.
Reading levels can be a number or a letter. Scholastic has a great primer on how to decipher the reading levels between reading systems. Once parents know their child’s reading level and how close or far they are to benchmark expectations they can find a program to best meet their child’s needs. Of course, parents also could pursue extra enrichment or help from the school, but the teacher would be the best resource for parents in how to start this process.
Money Matters: What’s the Budget?
Researching an online reading program for kids does mean also researching the cost of the program. Not every program or app is financially viable for every budget. Reading programs can be found in many different formats and price points.
Parents might want to look at their budget to see what they can reasonably afford. Some families may want to budget per month, others may want to simply pay for a program up front. Readability, for example, requires a monthly subscription. Parents will be billed the same price every month.
Online reading programs may be more affordable than a private tutor. Parents may wish to compare these options to find the best reading enrichment solution for their child. Readability offers a built-in AI tutor that assists children with pronunciation and asks questions related to comprehension. While there isn’t a tutor sitting next to the child, there is a tutor within the program!
Learning Processes: Tactile, Auditory, Visual
Children and adults might have a unique way of learning. Some of us learn best by hearing directions, others need to see instructions in words. Still others are hands-on (tactile). How an individual learns could impact how parents provide help. The VARK Modalities are commonly cited as the four main learning styles; VARK stands for Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic.
During the pandemic, many children had to learn remotely. For some, this online method was an amazing change. Maybe being more independent and receiving virtual instruction was the ideal atmosphere; some children thrived in this environment.
Other children, however, really disliked online learning. Some might have struggled to grasp concepts that were given via remote instruction. Working only on the computer might have been frustrating to them. Maybe they thrived in writing out problems or working hands-on.
If a child loves online learning, then an online reading program could seem like a fun option to help them catch up to peers. Children who are tech-inclined also could favor a computer-based reading program.
Parents who watched their child struggle with online learning, though, could be hesitant to try an online reading program. However, some reading programs like Readability provide auditory and visual components to appeal to different types of learners. Look for programs that also provide a free trial period; this can help parents decide if their computer reluctant child would enjoy the program.
Content Matters: Is the Program Interesting?
One of the most important components of any successful reading program is the one that many parents probably don’t think about much. Is the program interesting?
While an online reading program for kids could check all the boxes, if it doesn’t interest the child, is it useful? One publishing expert advised that parents should let children pick their own books. The advice is sound, as most adults read books that interest them, and children should be free to explore ideas and stories that appeal to them, too. Maybe the benefit of choosing also could influence their attitude towards reading.
If the reading program has stories that are geared towards a child much younger or just not any fun, will a child be motivated to engage with the content? This issue is, again, why parents may wish to look at programs that offer a free trial period.
Children want to read stories that interest them and that are engaging. Colorful illustrations and interactive features also could help grab their attention. Children who struggle to read also don’t necessarily want to read content that is written for a younger audience. While an eight-year-old may read at a much younger level, they might not want to read content that is designed for that younger audience. Children want to read what their peers read, so parents may look for programs that take this to heart.
The Data: Parents Need to Know that It’s Working!
Even if a reading program addresses the child’s reading struggles, how do parents even know the reading program is working? Parents want to see results, they want to understand that the program is beneficial and that their child is improving.
Reading programs should provide parents with the data they need to evaluate a child’s progress. For example, Readability provides a Parent Dashboard. This is a hub of information for parents to review their child’s progress on the program. The Dashboard provides data related to the child’s reading level, their progress, and how long they engaged with the program. Information from Readability also can be sent to the child’s teacher.
Parents also will want to talk to the child’s teacher to ensure that the progress they see via the app has been demonstrated in the classroom, too. Readability’s reading reports can help open a dialogue between the parents and the teacher regarding a child’s reading progress.
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