Sunday, May 26, 2013
EasyRead (http://www.easyreadsystem.com/index/index.html) is a system designed to teach people between the ages of 4 and 94 to read. The computer based system includes many things that allow it to be a great fit for my twins who are gifted, but also dyslexic with some sensory issues. The program starts with the use of characters that remind the user of the sound that specific letters make (including separate characters for the different vowel sounds).
The things that make the program fun is that each session is short (15 minutes at the most), with the use of games sprinkled throughout. However, the games are really creative. For instance, in one game the student is a fighter pilot and must read the word to know what target to shoot – pretty big motivation to read the words correctly! Another aspect of the program is the rewards. As students complete various sessions, they get a code word. When they enter the code word into the designated area, a prize is placed in the mail. It is quite fun to get mail and each prize comes with a nice letter for the student. There are also 3 levels of achievement built into the system with certificates they earn as they achieve the levels.
Helping is good. Yes, this program has a built in premise that the parent should help the child with the program. This is in direct contrast to many programs where you feel as if you are “cheating” if you help your child with the answers, not in Easyread. Of course you don’t give them the answers, but slowly going through the pronunciations, encouraging your child to look at the characters, walking your child through the multiple choices options – not just allowed, but encouraged. Even though the program is computer based, it isn’t a “place child in front, now walk away” sort of program. This is a program in which you are actively involved in the learning process with your child, a definite plus from my standpoint.
Another thing that impresses me the most is the frequent contact with the parent built into the system. In addition to messages within the system giving me tasks to do with the kids, there are also phone consultations and short training videos to watch. There is also a training guide and downloads for flashcards and other things that may be of interest. They also help give you an understanding of how progress should be made. You get a reasonable timeline for when your child should be able to take what they are learning in the system, and apply it to reading books in general. Everyone’s expectations are managed.
Now, here is the absolute most impressive part of the system – an understanding of visual issues that often affect reading. I am a curriculum junkie and have some experience with almost every reading program out there – this is the only one to begin with an assessment for visual tracking! Both of my twins have vision issues that require vision therapy – the employees at Easy Read were able to have a conversation about that and also asked for progress reports so we could see how their vision therapy was affecting their progress within the program. However, for children with less severe issues they have advice for small games that can be done at home with a parent to improve visual tracking and eye coordination. This aspect alone makes the program worth the money. I mean, I have never seen a reading program not only acknowledge vision development issues, but also integrate improving visual tracking into to reading program – score, goal, win.
While I am all for singing the praises of this program, there are some things I think could affect the ability of the program to work for other families. The first is the cost, approximately $1,200 for the first child, and $450 for each additional child. Yes, you read that right. Payments can be spread out monthly over a 10 month period. I know, the cost is high and probably a deal breaker for many families. However, for us the cost was worth it. This program for us is actually cheaper than the $150 per hour we would need to pay a tutor that was skilled in working with dyslexic children. Also, the program has all the aspects I would have to create if I wanted to do the intervention myself – which would be much more time consuming than the 15 minutes each of my kids spend on the program. At the same time, it is still a lot of money.
The second thing that might be an issue for parents is that the program is UK based, so your child we be getting a some aspects of British English. While British and US English are roughly 98% the same, they are still around 2% different. If that difference is going to be an issue for you or your children – consider that in your evaluation.
A final concern that might be an issue is the voice of narrator. Now, I love his voice and the kids haven’t had any issues at all – but he does have a kind of nasal based pattern of speech (think Seinfeld with a British accent). Every once in a while I will repeat what he says to ensure my kids heard him correctly, but he does go through great effort to pronounce sounds so they can be easily understood. I do understand that some voice patterns can be annoying to others, and this could be one of them.
Overall, this program is a 10 out of 10 for us. In fact, I had signed up only one twin, but enrolled the other just a few days later after learning the program a bit more. The program is solid, thorough, but incredibly fun for the kids. I like that the fact that there is encouragement throughout the program, with kind words, prizes, and even real certificates of achievement as the student goes through the program. While the program isn’t cheap, I can say that I feel we are getting what we pay for.