Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Stepping Stones Together reading program

As I've mentioned here many, many times, I love books. So it's been great to see my kids developing a love for books as well, and I look forward to sharing my favorite children's books with them.  Both kids want to read books all day- Vivian's always bringing one to my lap and demanding that I read it, and Ethan says the phrase "Mommy read book please?" more often than any other.  While I love reading to my kids, I do have a few other things that need to get done during the day, so I'm anxious for them to learn to read for themselves!

So I was excited to get to review an online beginning reading program called Stepping Stones Together. Here's some information on the program:
 Parents gain the tools to help their child learn to read in as little as 20 minutes a day. Our personalized online and printable beginning reading program makes reading fun for every child whether you are at home or on the go. Stepping Stones Together utilizes methods that are directly connected with research on the positive correlation between parental involvement and academic success.

This reading program is designed to be done by the parent and child together, in 15-20 minutes per day.  It's made for beginning readers, and that age generally ranges from 3-7, depending on the child in question. To see if your child is ready for the program, you can take the tests on this page

Stepping Stones Together has its own books that you can access through the website and either read on the computer or print out for yourself.  The books are in six categories- animals, fairies, princesses, superheroes, sports and transportation. When you start out, you have access to books in the "A" category. These are very, very simple books with simple words. Perfect for teaching your child new vocabulary and introducing them to the idea of reading. The books in this program include high-frequency words which, according to the Stepping Stones Together website, make up 58-75% of all words in children's books. So they're important ones to learn! 

Each book has both a story writing prompt as well as a list of questions about the story, to help develop critical thinking skills.  As your child grows in their reading skills and comprehension, he or she then can move up to the more complicated books in the "B" and "C" categories.  Even though the books are more advanced, they include pictures and characters that were introduced in the first level, so there is some continuity.

I really like that these books are printable and can even be used for coloring books. We're flying cross-country next week, and I'm going to print several books to take along. Definitely easier than carrying some of Ethan's heavy hardcover books with us! I also really like that you can download flash cards that go along with each book, for extra practice with the new words.  The program also includes an incentive chart for keeping track of your child's progress and suggestions for games to play to help your child learn high-frequency words, as well as detailed instructions on how exactly to use the books to teach your child to read.

Ethan loved the stories, especially the ones about sports and transportation.  I liked being able to read him lots of new books without having to buy lots of new books! Since he's just three and does have some developmental and speech delays, the actual learning-to-read aspect of this program was a bit beyond him. But we still both enjoyed the books, and I will continue using them to introduce new vocabulary and the idea of sentence structure to him. Most of his books that we have at home have much more complicated sentences and stories, so it's nice to have something really basic on hand so that we can really focus on starting from the beginning and not overwhelming him.

The Stepping Stones Together program is available for $19.99 for a 90-day membership or $39.99 per year. For more information, visit the Stepping Stones Together website. If your child is ready to learn to read, and you want to help, definitely check this program out.

Disclosure: I received complimentary access to this program so that I could review it for myself. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions posted here are mine and mine alone.