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The Struggling Reader Review by Joy Stott

William and Kristen Eckenwiler
1213 Queen Anne Road
Wilson, NC 27896

The Struggling Reader is a complete and comprehensive program that enables home school parents to diagnose their child's weak areas based on the work of The National Reading Panel; empowered by Congress. The National Reading Panel discovered that there are five fundamentals that are the prerequisites for reading that are crucial to being mastered. Those five key elements are: phonemic awareness (the ability to distinguish between sounds), phonics, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. The Struggling Reader, Inc. has built an incredible program that addresses all fundamentals except vocabulary to create a full and balanced program.

The whole wire bound bundle consists of Phonemic Awareness Diagnostic Inventory (PADI) Test with CD, Teaching Activities and Picture flash cards; Sight Word Assessment Portfolio (SWAP) Test with CD, Teaching Activities and Flash cards; Fluency Test with CD, Teaching Activities and Phrase Cards; Reading Comprehension Assessment (RCA) Test with CD and Teaching Activities; Phonics Assessment with CD and Teaching Activities. The accompanied CD contains about ten minutes of auditory instruction that aids the parent to assimilate the materials more rapidly.

The PADI test is such an ingenious user-friendly tool that empowers parents to put on their diagnostic hat to evaluate their child's phonemic awareness skills to determine the child's mastery of phonemes. Once the parent pinpoints the weak areas in any of the twenty-one phonemes then the fun activities begins! There are ten teaching kinesthetic activities for each phonemic skill without utilizing worksheets.

SWAP is a sight word evaluation that allows the parent to gauge the child's knowledge of 300 most common sight words occurring in print. One-third of printed materials are found in about twenty-five sight words. When a child is able to master the sight words without the need for decoding, it will be such a morale boost to any emerging reader. There are about 20 activities that capture the child's interest.

Reading with fluency is comprised of three correlations: reading rate, accuracy, and prosody. There are a variety of reading materials such as textbooks, comic strips, fiction, and magazines, etc. that require different reading rates. A young and budding reader will attempt to impress the parent by reading too fast. It is necessary to read with accuracy in order to comprehend the context of the story. Children reading inaccurate words tend to move on without realizing the error. It is up to the reader to make the printed words come to life by showing intonation. Learning the skills of fluency will help the child achieve gratification. There are about fifteen different activities to strengthen the child's fluency in reading.

Phonic rules are a critical component to laying the foundation for readers to build on. After administrating the phonics test, the child's strengths and weaknesses will be made apparent. If the test results indicate that the child needs to focus on specific phonic rules; there are about sixty activities targeting six different skills such as consonant blend, consonant digraph, vowel digraph, vowel diphthong, R and L controlled vowels, and silent E. The activities are fun and very engaging.

The Struggling Reader offers a variety of assessments and tools for children with emergent reading skills to eighth grade. There are activities that involve a group of kids but with creativity, the parent can adapt the activity to one child or involve the other siblings. I only used this with my struggling child. My other children will benefit from the fluency activities. My struggling reader enjoys the kinesthetic activities as we've adapted some of the games. We are in the process of creating a sight word wall. Before tucking our son into bed, we would pull out the little laser and play "laser word tag." One of us would call out a word and we would point our lasers onto the word before the other person does. By playing this game, we are having a blast laughing as the sight words are being cemented into his brain without him realizing it. I am very blessed by this program as it empowers me as a home school teacher/mother to target the weaknesses but also recognize the strengths of my struggling reader.

The Struggling Reader bundle is extremely expensive, priced at $600. I acknowledge that the program bundle could be used with all five children; however, we are a single income family with only one child demonstrating the need for this program. There are opportunities to buy each assessment individually, but I feel that having all of the assessments gives me an insightful understanding of my son's struggles. I appreciate knowing the immediate results of the assessments and grasp HOW to help my child overcome the obstacles on his path to becoming a fluent reader.

Product review by Joy Stott, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2012