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My Reading Coach Platinum, Professional Edition Review by Donna Campos

440 S. Williams Blvd., Suite #206
Tucson, AZ 85711-4403

My Reading Coach is a computer-based program intended to assist struggling readers from age 6 to adult. Purchased on a per-student basis with use for up to one year, the program is installed via CD-ROM, for one, five, or a classroom of students. This intensive reading program is not an entertainment item. Users should be prepared to work 30-60 minutes per day, five days per week. It is a phonics-based program that covers phonemic awareness, phonics sounds, phonics rules, vocabulary, word structure, syntactic processing, and reading comprehension. The virtual tutor, or "coach," is incredibly encouraging during each lesson. We received the Professional Edition, My Reading Coach Platinum, which included an installation CD, four One-on-One Instruction CDs, and a Spanish CD for students requiring English-as-a-Second-Language support. The 436-page spiral-bound Teaching Guide has 129 pages of information for the parent/teacher as well as hundreds of blackline masters that can be photocopied as needed. (These are also available to be printed from within the computer program.) The parent/teacher information provides a detailed explanation of how to use the program and also covers how to monitor progress and provide remediation. There are Appendixes on the Progression of Sounds and Lessons, Word Lists Used in Lessons, and Grammar Lessons.

Easy-to-follow instructions enabled us to complete the installation in approximately 20 minutes. An Administrator is set at the start, and teachers and students are input in a straightforward format. We named our "class" after the name of our homeschool, listed me as the teacher, and then listed our student. At the beginning of each lesson, the coach introduces the new phonics skill to be mastered. Then through various activities and practice sessions (including "Word Building," "Listen and Find," "Reading," "Writing," "Vowel/Sound/Stick," and "Spelling"), the student is able to master the material. Ideal for struggling readers and those who prefer computer-based study, the program may be incorporated into any type of homeschool. When a student struggles with a particular concept, the blackline masters in the Teacher's Guide are used for remediation separately from the computer lessons. This program prides itself on not being entertainment based. There are no child-friendly games or other "bells and whistles." The program reminds the student: "You are in control of your learning." And parents should encourage consistent use of the program to enable the child to succeed.

The presentation of sounds is excellent. Students clearly see the movement of the mouth and tongue and are able to mimic as necessary. The child has the option of replaying the demonstration until he can confidently choose an answer. Instructions are presented for each and every lesson. Although this was redundant, it helped our child respond correctly without hesitation. Encouraging comments are repeated throughout the program. These do vary, but the student will certainly hear some of them over and over. We were just pleased to find such consistent encouragement offered to the student and didn't mind the repeated phrases. Different voices are used from time to time in the program, but not so much that it disrupts the learning process. The Teacher/Administrator can choose to remove specific types of activities if they are deemed unnecessary for the student. However, we chose to run all available activities and found that it offered a very well rounded process for our son.

My Reading Coach is an incredible program. When an answer is wrong, it comments on why it was wrong. For example, if a student is trying to find the word "dig" but chooses "gid," the coach will respond by saying, "The sounds are backward." The child's correct answers are tracked at the bottom of the screen.

The extensive Teacher Options are reached from the tool bar. They include a Session Options box, allowing the teacher to automatically advance a student by a placement test, lesson mode, or review test. A demonstration mode is also available. The Activity Options allow the teacher to utilize only a specific activity, while Lesson Options allow the teacher to choose a specific lesson or lessons pertaining to only phonics or only grammar. Additional options include specifics for use of a microphone, sound effects, mode of entry (keyboard, paper, onscreen), and the Spelling list. The teacher can access a Student Performance Report, Student Error Report, and a Student Attendance Report. Student Certificates are printable upon completion of specific lessons. Class Reports include a Daily Lesson Plan, Remediation Report, Intervention Reports (for Grammar, Phonics, Comprehension, and Support sheets), Needs Report, Improvement Report, Efficiency Report, Grammar Report, Reading Comprehension Report, and Progress Checklist! No matter what information you seek for any particular student, it can be found within the available reports of the program. Parents will be able to easily monitor concepts that the student is struggling with.

Struggling readers will find this program incredibly helpful. For those seeking greater fluency, the same company offers a Fluent Reading Trainer program designed to follow My Reading Coach. My Reading Coach has been a big hit in our family. Although I had concerns that our computer-game-motivated son would not stick with the program, he found his own progress to be adequate motivation. The word building, listen and find, and writing activities were all very enjoyable for him as he improved his ability and gained confidence. He definitely worked better with an adult in the room, as he struggles with autism stims without regular guidance. Most children, we were assured by the professionals at MindPlay, will complete the program in less than a year, but our son may take much longer. Just as each child is different, each will gain success within the program in different ways and at different times.

Regardless of which purchasing option you choose (individual, five-student, or class), the use is still limited to one year. So larger families wishing to use the program in the future for younger children would have to pay for that separately. I reviewed all the printed material and found no evolution or creation reference, no references to God or religion, and no character teachings beyond general encouragement to be good. Cost may deter some, as this is not an inexpensive program. But families with a struggling reader may find the expense to be justified. My Reading Coach is a thorough reading program that we will certainly purchase again if one of our younger children struggles with learning to read.

My Reading Coach is one of the best reading programs I have seen. It surpasses anything our family has worked with and truly focuses on the task at hand--reading! For less than the cost of a year of private tutoring, My Reading Coach can help your struggling reader achieve success.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2008