Review: Rocket Phonics (Year End Review)

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When I received Rocket Phonics to review back in September, I agreed that I would do a follow-up post at the end of our school year.  After all, learning to read doesn’t typically happen in a six week review window.  To refresh your memory, you might want to read my initial review of Rocket Phonics first.

So, here we are at the end of the school year, and what do I think?  Well, if you’ve been reading my Top Picks posts for the various grade levels, you’ve probably noticed that Rocket Phonics has been on my lists of recommended products.  While Josh isn’t reading at grade level yet — which is more a commentary on us than Rocket Phonics — his reading is much improved and he is much more confident.

Why do I say that his current reading level is more a commentary on us?  Well, we put Rocket Phonics on the shelf for about three or four months.  Josh has always been the kind of kid who needs to let things “percolate” a bit.  When he got to the point where he was able to read lower grade level books (first and second grade) easily, he wanted to just read those for awhile, rather than have a daily time of reading instruction.

Since he was reading longer selections than he ever had before — more confidently and fluently — I was willing to let him spend some time putting his new-found skills into practice by just allowing him read to me daily.  After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal of reading instruction?  Frog and Toad books were our favorites.

By late-January/early-February, I realized that Josh had progressed as far as he was going to without further reading instruction, so we pulled the Rocket Phonics books back out.  I’ll admit, he wasn’t happy to see it.  He’s at the point in the book where he is supposed to read the story to himself with helpers, to me with helpers, and, finally, to me without helpers.  That’s a lot of reading for a reluctant reader.  I just have him read each selection to me with helpers, then, without.  However, I have him do it in one sitting — which can still be a lot of reading — because I’m afraid he’ll completely lose the gist of what he’s just read if we don’t do it in one sitting.

Reading practice is not his favorite thing, but I do see it helping him.  One thing, specifically, that I’ve noticed is that he has gotten very good at knowing where to break down a word in order to sound it out.  I used to have to help him see the individual syllables, but now he can sound out longer words by himself with a decent degree of accuracy.  I’m not sure if that’s because of Rocket Phonics, All About Spelling or a combination of both.  I’m leaning toward both because they complement each other really well.

Megan has a much harder time with the helper concept of Rocket Phonics than Josh does.  The helpers are more frustrating and confusing to her than helpful.  This leads me to believe that Rocket Phonics might be more effective with a child who has reading delays than with a child who does not…but that’s just based on what I’ve observed with Josh and Megan, not on any research of any sort…and I do still have Megan work in the Rocket Phonics books because I think it’s helpful to her to have to pay attention to how to break down and sound out unfamiliar words.

So, all of that to say that, while Josh isn’t reading at 5th grade level yet, we’ve only really used Rocket Phonics for six months and I have noticed a definite improvement in his confidence, comprehension and fluency.  It’s slow going, but we’re getting there and I feel confident recommending Rocket Phonics to others.

The only issue I have with it is the same one I mentioned in my initial review — I’d have preferred a little more direction as far as lesson plans go toward the beginning of the program.  Once you get to the point in the book where we are — reading practice stories with and without helpers — that’s not so much an issue, but it was confusing at the beginning as to what, exactly, we should be doing each day.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.  Your experience may vary.

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  1. My son will be 3 this summer and has shown an interest in sounding out words and has started to read small words. Is this something he could use or is there another product you recommend?

  2. Countrymama,

    Yes, I believe he could use Rocket Phonics. It's designed for preschool through older, struggling readers. It comes with lots of downloads for preschool games.

    I have never used it with a preschooler because my kids were already 8 and 9 when we received it, so I can't say for sure how it would work with a preschooler, but I do know that your ds would be within the age range.

    My picks, for a three year old, would be Rocket Phonics or Scaredy Cat Reading, Level 1. I really like the looks of Scaredy Cat for that age (again, I've not personally used it with a child that young), but a definite strong point in favor of Rocket Phonics would be that you can use it from preschool up until 5th grade reading level.

    Either way, I'd definitely follow his lead and be committed to shelving any formal reading instruction for awhile if his interest wans or it becomes a source of frustration for either of you.


  3. Hey, Kris. Have you heard of "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons"? that's what I'm currently using with my almost 4 year-old. We're about halfway through it, and it's SO BORING for her, although it is working – she can already sound out most short words. Would switching to Rocket Phonics be a good idea, or stick with what we've got?

  4. I tried 100 Easy Lessons with my youngest two. They hated it. We tried a bunch of different things before getting Rocket Phonics to review. It has worked well for my kids, but we've used a variety of other things, too, so I'm not entirely sure what actually clicked. However, I can definitely see some areas where Rocket Phonics has helped, especially with my struggling ten-year-old. I hate to suggest to anyone to change things when what you're using is working. I guess it just depends on how much you dislike 100 Easy Lessons. I know several people who have used it with great success and whose kids now read really well.

    Is that any help at all? I would just hate to stick with something that is extremely boring or that you really dislike, but if it's working and it's something that's not so distasteful that you couldn't stick with it, I'd hate to switch unnecessarily, too.

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