K-3 Online Reading Programs-The Skills They Should Address


Some of the Best Online Reading Programs for kids, ages 5-7 or so, are probably programs you have heard of already. Recently, I had a chance to work with a great company, called ABC Mouse. I wrote some leveled readers for them. ABC Mouse is one of many K-3 online reading programs for younger readers. This post will focus on what reading skills these programs should address, and what reading skill terms to look for when learning about reading programs or reading websites.

What Makes A Good Online Reading Program

There is plenty of buzz about the importance of learning to read well before the fourth grade. Statistics show that children who read proficiently by the end of third grade, read proficiently in grades 4-12 as well.

Reading Programs Should Address These K-3 Reading Milestones to Strengthen Reading Skills Needed Before 4th Grade

  • Matching sounds to letter symbols of the alphabet in the pre-primary and primary grades: K-1
  • Solid grasp on phonics: letter combinations and their sounds, long and short vowels, consonant sounds, and spelling and reading basic sight words found in K-3 texts

  • Effective word decoding strategies: through reading practice and targeted, explicit instruction, a child develops greater phonemic awareness and phonics skills to determine new words and remembers previously seen words with a decreasing amount of assistance.
  • Develop common vocabulary words used in K-3 texts and strategies to understand what words mean through reading the text without assistance.
  • Finally, comprehension should gradually increase in grades K-3. Comprehension at the K-3 levels is the beginning of the ability to identify the main point of what has been read, why it was written or its purpose, and be able to summarize a text adequately. Readers should be able to identify text structures or elements like topic headings, graphics, and bolded words in nonfiction.

Experience with Text

With fiction: Readers should be able to identify story elements, such as the setting, its plot, basic character development, basic thematic development, and author literary devices at a simple level: symbolism, word use, and sentence structure to convey meaning, dialogue, and simple foreshadowing.

Assessing online reading programs for kids

The point is not only that they are reading, but reading well and improving


An online reading program is yet another tool that teachers and parents can use to assist their children or students to read more, read better, and spark motivation.

Many have interesting and interactive features, actually most do.  These are good things, but not what is most important: reading improvement is the number one goal, always.

So, if you invest in an online reading program, remember that it must strengthen reading skills first. This is its primary goal. Assess its interactive bells and whistles aside from its ability to strengthen phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension. These should be the primary goals of any program. If a program is effective in improving these skills and the bells and whistles enhance the program instead of detracting from it, you have a winner!

For other reading resources, such as online reading websites, click here.

To check out whom I am and what I do, well, click here.

What Books that Bridge the Gap between Picture Books and Middle-Grade Novels Should be More Like

We Need Better Chapter Books!

Chapter Books with Action and Depth-From My Publisher, Splashing Cow Books

There are many chapter books for boys, especially series books. I refer to books for ages 7 and 10 or so. They are early chapter books, the books that bridge the gap between picture books and middle-grade books. Middle-grade books are longer books with few pictures and divided into chapters. The chapters are longer, have more details, deeper themes and ideas as well. Chapter books, especially early chapter books, are usually between 65 and 110 pages and have illustrations on every other page or so. They have straight forward plots and are often action-based, especially early chapter books for boys.

Back to Books that Bridge the Gap Between Picture Books and Middle-Grade Novels-Many Readers Can Handle More

And by more, I mean that many chapter books, for boys especially, have all of the boy stuff: burping, underpants, boy humor, some farting, action, goofiness, and this is all fine and good. But what about chapter books for boys when these books are no longer that interesting or when boys are ready for more sophisticated reading, and trust me many are reluctant because chapter books are entertaining but lack depth and challenge. Readers at this age want more but aren’t willing to put the effort into longer books quite yet because they are still a bit intimidating and associated with ”school books” or books they read that are perceived as chosen by their teachers.

 More Chapter Books Like These Please

We need chapter books that skillfully mix fun boy humor and action, great characters, and plots that are more in depth with real themes, subjects that boys do think about, however, aren’t intimidating to read like most longer, middle- grade books for third through fifth- grade readers or 7 to 11- year -old boys.

Boys are more complicated and deserve more than farts and burping at the ages of 7 – 11 years old. These are some issues that boys are aware of and have questions about even at ages as early as seven years old: they should be included more in early chapter books:

-Awareness of their own mortality and the mortality of the ones closest to them
-inner moral conflicts-treating others with respect no matter how others look and act
-choosing between right and wrong
-helping causes or being a part of something larger than themselves
-protecting others
-racial issues
-issues of sexuality
-understanding disabilities and those that have severe physical differences and learning how to treat them appropriately and with respect
-understanding and respecting the female gender
-complicated friendships
-understanding the behavior of adults: good and bad
-beginning to understand the good and bad and gray areas of society and how boys fit
-dealing with loss and the anger, confusion, and sometimes depression that accompanies it
-learning how to compete and improve physical skills without becoming obsessed with winning and dominance alone
-finding a worthy cause
-learning about their own emotions and feelings
-learning about the emotions of others

Now, the chapter book that weaves these subjects and themes with fun humor, boy topics, action-packed plots, that bridge the gap between simplified, fun chapter books or graphic books that are easier to read, are truly worth looking into. I wrote Jack’s Tales to be one of these chapter books for boys and I hope for girls as well.  If you are a teacher with students in second through fifth grades that are reluctant to read longer middle -grade novels, or a parent with a boy or girl that is reluctant to read longer books, but is done with books like Captain Underpants and Diary of the Wimpy Kid (both great books but serve a certain purpose) go to my  Jack’s Tales page and please give  Jack’s Tales a close look, especially if you have a reluctant, boy reader between the ages of 7 and 10 or so.  

If you are looking for resources on reluctant and struggling readers, I have plenty. Click here