Reading Head Start is a reading program designed explicitly for children aged 12 months to 9 years to give them a head start on reading (hence the name) or to help them catch up to and even surpass their peers.
Where does Reading Head Start come from?
Reading Head Start is a digital program, the brainchild of Sarah Shepard, an English teacher of 14 years, who is also a wife and mother of three.
Ms. Shepard says the impetus for her creation of the head start program was when her six-year-old son came home with a bad English grade, which, for her, was a nightmare, since she’s an English teacher.
This was sort of the crux that made her realize that it’s not the parent that is to blame or the child that is to blame for their reading ability or even the teacher, for that matter—it’s the way in which children are taught English reading skills that’s the problem, which can lead to issues like slow reading, not keeping up with peers academically, etc.
When she realized the problem was the learning process, she decided to create her Reading Head Start method with a goal in mind to change up how reading is taught, the learning process and instead focus on methods that yield quick results—and make your child feel like an achiever in the process.
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Does Reading Head Start really work?
Well, it focuses on approaching learning to read from a logical angle by teaching the child what sound each letter makes and how letters can change the sound of a word when added or subtracted so that they learn the language organically.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that today’s schools often leave out fundamentals such as giving a strong foundation in phonemic awareness, letters and sounds so that a child has tools in their arsenal that they can use when confronted with an unfamiliar word.
Reading Head Start works, but it’s because it follows common sense principles, such as teaching your young child the sound value of a letter, so that the child can use their own logic when faced with unfamiliar words to read them correctly on the first try.
So, yes, it does teach children the foundations of the English language, helping them read, and especially for younger children, it will likely put them ahead of kids their own age, because they’ll be learning skills that are normally reserved for older children.
That’s not to say it doesn’t work on older kids. Since a lot of teachers skip reading and sound basics when it comes to teaching language, older children can sometimes be missing this main ingredient for reading success.
Once they get a handle on it, they can, most often, quite easily catch up to the grade level they’re supposed to be reading at.
In fact, it wouldn’t be out of the question that they read at a higher grade level than their current one simply because a smart kid who’s been giving it their all their whole lives will likely go above and beyond once they have the foundational education that they were previously lacking.
The Pros and Cons
The big pro regarding Reading Head Start is that children seem to like the program, so it means they’ll actually want to participate in it.
As any parent knows, it can be tough to get a child to do any academic-related thing on top of a day at school and the homework that brings with it.
So, your kid wanting to use Reading Head Start is, in and of itself, a huge pro. Your child may view it as a sort of educational game, which will make them want to be good at it—the “it” being reading.
Kids who struggle to read often hate reading, because reading reminds them of the hard time they’re having, so they avoid it. Getting a child who has struggled to read to want to read is a huge achievement on its own.
Interactive reading games are a big part of the system, which is a huge pro for kids—and the parents who want to keep them engaged.
But it’s not all fun and games; there are also workbooks, exercises and videos. But this may be a pro for the kid who likes to switch up their routine, or for kids who maybe learn in different ways.
For instance, audio learners have access to videos where they can hear sounds; visual learners have books and kinetic learners have workbooks. Interactive video games engage all three learner types.
And this makes it great for families with more than one kid and more than one learning style as a result. It can also help you figure out which learning style your kid leans toward so you can focus on that.
A practical pro is that after the free trial period, you’re billed monthly for the program. That means that once your child has the skills they need, you can move on.
Of course, the con with this payment method is obviously what happens if you forget to cancel when the program is no longer needed—you’ll obviously be billed again, since it’s a subscription.
Sarah Shepard, the program’s creator, promises your kid will be reading in just a few minutes after implementing her method. For parents who want quick results, this is definitely a pro.
But it’s also a pro for a child who feels down about their reading difficulty; fast results will give them the encouragement they need to keep learning and growing as a confident reader.
One of the cons of Reading Head Start is the claim that it can prevent and reverse dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a complicated condition, and while there are many tools to work around it or improve reading skills in children with dyslexia, a true dyslexia preventative would certainly be a first, so that may be a claim to take with a grain of salt.
That doesn’t mean the program doesn’t offer skills to help children with dyslexia, however.
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What do real people say about Reading Head Start?
My son began to struggle with reading when he transitioned from short children’s books to chapter books for kids. It was then that his teacher and I noticed that he was reading much slower than the other children; she recommended that I work with him after school, but I didn’t know where to start. Reading Head Start was the answer. My boy is reading so much faster now and feels confident when reading out loud in class. We’re both happy!
– Virginia Mason, Dallas TX
We moved to the States two years ago. My daughter has a great grasp of English—verbally, at least. But my wife and I noticed that she struggles with reading and it was lowering her self-esteem and making her feel more like an outsider. With Reading Head Start, English started coming more naturally to her and now she loves reading in English.
– Fareed Al-Hashim, Knoxville TN
My twins were born severely premature and consequently have been developmentally behind in a lot of ways, reading one of them. I’m glad I chose Reading Head Start—they both love it and I’m thrilled with their progress.
– Jana Stewart, Toronto ON
My child hated reading and used to fight me when it was time to do her reading assignments. I’m ashamed to say it took me awhile to realize she wasn’t being disobedient—she was frustrated by the fact she was struggling to read and simply too young to express it. I researched online and found Reading Head Start. I’m always skeptical about things on the internet, but I was at my wit’s end at not knowing how to help my child. I’m glad I took a chance. The program worked for us!
– Janet Wakefield, Cincinnati OH
My twin boys have always been slow learners. Their pediatrician told me it was likely because they were born premature since they don’t have any obvious learning disabilities. They just needed to “catch up”, so to speak. Reading Head Start was recommended to me by a friend and we’ve had a great experience. The boys love learning along with my friend’s son and are competitive about reading now—in a good way.
– Carol Ingram, Paducah KY
My wife and I noticed our younger daughter wasn’t reaching reading milestones at the same rate her older sister did. We know every child is a unique individual, but after a while, it seemed like something was “off”. We chose Reading Head Start because we heard good things from other parents, and we are seeing our daughter thrive every day now.
– John Padilla, Madison WI
My husband is kind of a helicopter dad since he’s the stay-at-home parent while I work a high-stress job. I didn’t take his concerns over our son’s reading issues seriously, because I thought he’d simply been reading too many parenting blogs. Now, I wish I hadn’t been so dismissive. My husband took the initiative and got Cooper Reading Head Start, and I’m writing this testimony as a mea culpa, to let everyone know that sometimes, when your spouse spends more time with your child than you do, they ultimately see things that you don’t. So glad Cooper is reading better and feeling more confident!
– Louise Carrington-Cross, Seattle WA
First impression of Reading Head Start
I like the simple, straightforward approach Reading Head Start takes. It makes sense that children need to learn that sound value of letters to be able to read words they don’t know.
As adults, that’s often how we approach foreign words, so why wouldn’t it work the same for children? After all, they learn even better than us since their brains are growing, so they’ll better be able to exploit this invaluable too.
My kids really love the interactive games, but I love that it comes with workbooks as well, because I like to see what they’re doing.
What surprises me the most is that all three of them—ages 3, 7 and 9—seem to love the program, which frankly shocks me—but in a good way.
I like the fact that Reading Head Start uses a variety of methods to engage my kids, from books to interactive games and more.
My kids have a lot of energy and they don’t like to follow a routine. This system gets them to follow a reading routine without even knowing they’re doing it, because of the way the program switches it up.
The other upside of this is my younger daughter is a kinetic learner, so she learns great from the games. My son is a visual learner, so he’s better with the videos.
Meanwhile, my oldest is an audio learner so it really helps her to hear the sounds. With this program, all three of my kids get what they need.
What really surprises me is that the kids aren’t getting sick of the program after using it awhile. It’s not one of those things where they like it at first and then the novelty wears off, which was something my husband and I were concerned about.
My two older children especially (my youngest is too young to grasp this concept, for now, anyway) love the fact that they are building their skills.
Becoming better readers has really done a positive number on both of their confidence levels, particularly my son, who was very withdrawn due to feeling bad about his reading problems.
In this day and age where first graders are texting each other on their parents’ phones, a kid knows when their reading isn’t as advanced as their peers, so the confidence it brings him is just priceless.
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One final word, a warning
Once again, it’s important to remember that Reading Head Start may not be a cure-all for your child’s dyslexia.
Dyslexia has to be diagnosed by a trained specialist who works with dyslexic children on a daily basis, so it’s possible that your children’s reading trouble may not even be dyslexia-related.
Always get a correct reading issue diagnosis from a third party, before starting any reading program just to be certain that you’re properly addressing your child’s specific needs.
Updated: 24 January 2021