Hooked On Phonics

Learn to Read

When I was asked by Hooked on Phonics to be a part of a group of parent bloggers to have what Judy Harris the CEO of Hooked on Phonics parent company Smarterville dubbed “Virtual Coffee” I was thrilled. It’s obvious I am not a fan of static learning , workbooks or flash cards. So I was thrilled to be a part of a group suggesting appropriate activities, what we like and don’t like about a developing product and what we want to see as parents and educators .

I have to start off by saying when I opened the package I knew there would be flash cards included and had to giggle when my son only wanted to play with them. He’s never seen flash cards and I had a good laugh that I’d be reviewing something that included them on my blog that is devoted to learning with out them. So I am going to address this before I get into the nitty gritty. I don’t think flash cards are inherently evil, I just don’t think they are the best way to learn, they get results but the results are usually pretty shallow, they are memorized not understood and often used in such a static way that children are missing out on learning to the depth that they need, and in a way that they will make true connections, which in my opinion is through play and discovery. This picture is one of my son matching up rhyming words like cat and hat, spoon and moon and tree and bee!

That said sometimes flash cards are appropriate and the way that this system uses flash cards is in a dynamic and engaging way. They are used in games , kids are not sitting down and being flashed a letter with the expectation to label it and move on to the next. They are used for matching, for rhyming and as a tool for learning not memorizing. This made me very happy to see, and my child much like the vegetarian’s child who naturally gravitates to steak was happy I didn’t banish them, he loves them!

The system itself is set up for parents to use the workbook as a guide not as worksheets, when you open a lesson you are met with all different ways to introduce , reinforce and play with the letters. During our “virtual coffee” with Hooked on Phonics many of the parent bloggers as well as I suggested they include more sensory and kinetic activities for the lessons. They listened! Here you see my son making a C on the floor with his body. Not only did he love doing this , for days he was asking me to make all sorts of letters with his body. This simple activity sparked his interest and was a launchpad for even more learning!

There isn’t just one option for each letter either, here you can see three o the many for the letter B our button B ( which used fine motor skills to do) as well as one we made on the floor with bean bags ( which used gross motor), and tracing the letter with your finger to learn the shape. I suggest parents pick and choose which things will work best for their child, and the beauty of this system and how easy it is , is that there are so many options you can tailor it without any added effort.

Other than the workbook you also get story books and a DVD. My son has loved every book and don’t even get me started about the DVD. He is oddly attached to it. I have to admit I am absolutely impressed as well, the production quality is much higher than I expected, the songs are awesome and the concepts used for it like a art museum guard finding letters in various masterpieces is right up my alley! I enjoy watching it as well which is important since this should be a family affair, I can support my son’s learning much better if I am a participant as well. Thankfully it’s so well done, I enjoy watching with him, talking about it as we do and don’t groan when he asks for it again a few days later! The other thing that seems small at first but is really very important are the star stickers that are used as a way not only to celebrate finishing a lesson but also as a reminder for your child that they can do it. My son loves choosing which color star to pick out at the end of each lesson.

We’ve been doing the system now for a few weeks and it’s shocking what he’s learned, his phonemic awareness has greatly improved and what’s delighted me the most has been his rhyming skills and seeing them develop. I wasn’t expecting to start teaching rhyming for a while but did a few lessons with him thinking they’d go over his head – they didn’t and we’ve been rhyming ever since!

Over all I am genuinely impressed, both with how the lessons are presented and the results I have seen in my own child. I have to admit before being contacted by the company to participate in the discussions about literacy and learning I was not planning on ever buying this product to use in my own home. I wouldn’t have discouraged a family from it, but I didn’t think it was right for my child. I was wrong. Turns out my child craves this more structured learning and with the short lessons – each is under 20 minutes or less, it still fits my personal belief that adult directed learning should be minimized for preschoolers.

Disclosure : The product reviewed was provided for me free of charge. I was not compensated in any other way for this review. I am not employed by Smarterville the parent company of Hooked on Phonics, nor was I paid for my involvement in the discussions during the production of this product. These opinions are my personal opinions only.
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  1. mama hall says

    great review! i've always been curious about HOP – it's been around forever & has a really good reputation. thanks for solidifying that- it means a lot coming from you, Miss No Time for Flashcards 🙂

    so, are you planning on homeschooling him?

  2. Adriana says

    Thank you for the information. We are big fans of your blog. We are a bilingual family so I always adjust your lessons so that they are in Spanish but I appreciate all of the ideas and great advice.

  3. Allie says

    I know it was a long review but I had to include my thoughts, and I had many! Thanks for reading it.

    Regarding homeschooling, no I don't plan to homeschool him. I think that there are amazing parents who decide to homeschool but I am not one of them. I want to head back into the classroom either as a teacher or a student myself in a few years and look forward to being the parent at the parent teacher nights for once.

    That said – if our local school district wasn't providing him with the schooling he needed I would consider it. So I won't say never , but it's not the plan at the moment.

  4. angee says

    Love this review!!! I support your educational theories 100% (considering I was trained to teach in a similar fashion and have found it true through my own experience teaching).

    Anyway, but I will say this. This program does work for some kids. My brother was delayed in reading, and although his teachers at school did their best, nothing stuck. My mom ordered this program, and he was above grade level in a year! It truly worked for him! And I feel some kids may need programs like this.

    I love all the supplemental materials, too! Thanx for all the good info!

  5. The Activity Mom says

    What kind of verbage did they use to talk about rhyming? I want to started mentioning that to B but I'm not sure if I should say "What word sounds like…?" or something else. Did they have a particular way of wording it in the program?

  6. Beth says

    Allie thank you so much for this review, it came at a great time for my family! We are planning on homeschooling our little guys and I have been looking into HOP for reading. However, they have SO many products that I was overwhelmed with trying to choose one, or if we should even try them at all!

    After reading your review I am going to give them a try and see if it works for my son. Thanks again!

  7. Melissa Taylor says

    I'm surprised! I thought you would hate it – and so would I. I think it's changed a lot in the last decade to be more than skill & drill. Interesting. Thanks for the detailed review.

  8. hmh26 says

    oh man, Allie-this is the first post I have read top to bottom, comments included, no skimming-ok, so seriously,I always had this "ugh" attitude towards HOP too, but just before moving to MX, I got the kinder set free via some of my bonus points from Scholastic-wasn´t trying to shell out the dinero for it, but was sooo curious-sooo, when I logged on tonight and saw your review-ya got me, lady-I am back in the classroom here in the US next week, but am constantly looking for "opportunities to do it my way" and you inspire me-so thank you, mil gracias, merci!

  9. Penny Pinching Parent says

    Thanks so much for the review. We ordered the set over the weekend and can't wait to try it out.

    Our daughter has been showing the signs of wanting to learn to read & I think this will give us a good structure to work with & elaborate on.

    Thanks for the review!

  10. Tiffany @ Lattes And Life says

    Thanks again for tweeting with me about HOP. My son started sounding out words, and reading some sight words (he learned from a Sight Words DVD?) this weekend….so we did the first lesson in the PreK level today! It was short and sweet, and a great launching pad to more letter play!

  11. A. Brown says

    I really appreciate this review! My mom just bought the same set for my boys, and while we haven't played with it much yet (and what we have, my almost-three-year-old was way past, so we'll see), but this gives me hope!


  12. Allie says

    It seemed easy for my little guy at first too – heck he's known the alphabet since he was 18 months. But it's great reinforcement, I would look into the K curriculum if he's past it. Follow his ability not the age on the box!

  13. Tessa says

    I use the HOP Pre-K for my son as well, and he likes it. One thing that I don’t understand, however, is the letter “X” in the flash cards. They used “box” for the letter x. I’m not sure why. Most “x” associations are with “xylophone.” Maybe because to use the cards for the rhyming part there was nothing to rhyme with xylophone. I also wish they included more games for when you log in online. However, there are tons of games you can do an online search for, which makes it not a big deal.

  14. Shanna says

    Thank you for the review! I was given the “My Baby Can Read” system by a relative when my son was a few months old. I’ve never used it. He’s almost 4 now and I’ve been looking for an alternative. Phonics was how I learned to read. I’m excited to look into this. Thanks!

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