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TUNE into READING Review by Brenda Prince5401 Hangar Court
Tampa, FL 33634
Having a son who is on the Autism Spectrum can be frustrating, more so when “professionals” who have years of education take a child at a very young age, label them and tell a parent that the child will never be able to read. While my son has overcome this label, reading is indeed a difficult task for him and is something he struggles with. We’ve tried many various programs and curriculum for reading, each with varying degrees of success to get him to where he is today. With that said, however, I would say my son reads on a 1st to 2nd grade level, two to three grades below where he performs in other subjects. I am always looking for a new and fresh approach for him when it comes to reading.
We were given the opportunity to review TUNE into READING, a computer-based reading program that provides intervention. This program takes a multi-step approach to accomplish this. Students are introduced to vocabulary and sentence structure using fun songs to familiar tunes to help engage the student in a sort of sing-along game. Students are exposed to both repetitive oral reading of the material followed by adding sing-song tunes so that students actually have fun while developing literacy skills. Each song also exposes children to grade-leveled vocabulary words that are clickable within the text. When children click on these words, which are signaled by being highlighted in green until they are clicked, the student is then given an auditory and visual display that pronounces the word and gives a simple definition that helps to increase comprehension and build vocabulary. TUNE into READING guarantees that a student will gain one full year of reading levels within three months if used consistently.
Using this program will require the purchase of the program, an internet connection and a microphone that connects to the computer. A headset with built-in microphone is recommended.
When logging into the program, students are given an option of selecting which song they would like to work on for that day. Each of the songs are grade-leveled and increase in difficulties as the child progresses down the song list. Each song is also given a point value – when the student completed the activities for the song, they are awarded the points for the song. Points are totaled together cumulatively towards a goal that, once achieved, the student is given a Certificate of Completion for that grade. Students are also awarded stars for completion and performance for activities such as clicking on vocabulary words and singing the song correctly. Following three readings and five sing throughs per song, students are given a quiz that consists of questions relating to the vocabulary words and the child’s comprehension of the lyrics. Parents are able to monitor their student’s progress as well as discover areas that the child is struggling with through reports that are instantly available through the program.
My son (age ten) has been using the program for about three weeks and I would easily say this approach is working for him. But, in total honesty, Garrett is not much musically inclined and he does not particularly like singing. With that said, he has enjoyed using this program and it’s easy to adapt to our needs. Typically, we do one song per session. What works the best for us is having Garrett read the lyrics to the song on his own before actually listening to the read through. He then listens to the reading, followed by doing each of the sing-along activities. Sing-along activities allow for adjusting the tempo and vocal range to customize for the child. The sing-along activities are where Gold, Silver or Bronze stars are earned and Garrett, being reward driven, enjoys earning them. Following the last reading, the program automatically goes to the quiz which I once again have Garrett read aloud on his own. There is, however, a button to have the question read aloud but we have opted not to use this function.
One thing I want to mention is the excellent customer service that accompanies the subscription to TUNE into READING. Getting answers to questions, helpful hints and tips to using the program, and explanations for the various features were as simple as an email or a phone call. We had one minor technical issue while using the program to which I sent an email about. That email was read and the issue was addressed within minutes by their customer service and technical team. The customer service for this company is by far, first rate and I cannot say enough about how helpful, knowledgeable and friendly they are.
There are a few small caveats that I have noticed with using this program. Because this program relies on the student’s participation, which does involve singing, if a child falls ill they may not be keen on doing the program during this time. We ran into this problem when my son had strep throat and refused to speak, much less sing. The second caveat is the fact that a child can mumble or hum their way through the singing activities and still receive a gold star so long as their pitch and tempo matches the program. Because of this, I was constantly sitting beside my song in order to keep him from cheating the system. Finally, if the child does mumble his way through, the stars earned cannot be deleted and the activity repeated. However, the parent can use a keyboard shortcut in order to open the song list that will include all songs and the song can be repeated that way.
In my opinion, this program does work well. My husband has even noticed a huge difference in my son’s reading skills after his short time working with the program. Outside of refusing to do this while he was sick, my son has had no issues when I tell him it’s time to do his reading, even though reading is his least favorite subject. I would highly recommend looking into this program, especially for a special needs student who struggles with reading.
TUNE into READING offers a 30-day free trial which will allow for parents to see the program in action and how their student performs with it before committing to the $19.95/month subscription.
-Product review by Brenda Prince, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2017