Although I have used a ton of resources to prepare my son for early education, there are certain brands that I have learned to count on for their quality and ability to quality information in an entertaining format. Below are my top choices.
Pre Readers: Preschool Prep Products
Preschool Prep offer a wide range of materials including videos, books, and flash cards to teach reading, numbers, colors and shapes. My son enjoyed the colorful animation and often would play the videos himself. The books ranged in difficulty and focused on short stories with sight words which my son was able to easily begin to read. I have recommended this product to many and they have also found it highly successful. My only discontent is that the videos had no story line but rather focused on very short clips involving the letter, shape, or character identified and repeated the character. Children however find it fascinating and easy to learn from and that overrides any concerns I might have.
Emerging Readers: Leapfrog Products
Now there is no hiding the fact that I LOVE Leapfrog products, (in fact I should invest in this for as much as I purchase but I digress). The truth is that their products work. The videos are very entertaining and have a great story line, which kept my sons attention. The Leapster Explorer has numerous games from popular characters such as Dora the Explorer and Batman, which kids love and they also have an site where parents can monitor kids progress. Admittedly there are some products which worked better than others i.e. the TAG Reader book set was far more informative and entertaining than the Interactive Maps but overall I heavily relied upon Leapfrog for the majority of my early education reading materials. Despite my love of this brand there always flaws. The biggest one for Leapfrog is that while the videos are highly effective and reasonably priced, the TAG system, which to me has been the most effective in helping to teach children to read is costly. Additionally, some products prove to be repetitive or rely on the same resources (e.g. Tag Junior vs Tag Reader and Leap Pad vs Leapster Explorer) so it is important to know what you are purchasing before going forward.
Fluent or Advanced Readers: Scholastic Products
Scholastic is a well known name for purchasing quality reading materials but they also offer highly detailed and educational teaching workbooks at almost every reading level. Although they have little level reader books which I thought were great, I have not found that they offer programs to actually ‘teach’ reading so I cannot reasonably recommend it for early readers. I found this brand most helpful when with teaching advanced materials such as grammar, prefixes/suffixes, Latin and Greek root words, vocabulary and reading comprehension. The books are easy for me to follow and have short but quality lessons that help assess children’s abilities on certain subjects. In addition to the education materials, Scholastic, of course, sells books at reasonable prices. Since many schools have a relationship with the company, your purchase also goes towards helping your school. Its a triple win.
Honorable Mention: Educational Insights: Hot Dots
Educational Insights is the maker of Hot Dots brands flash cards and pens. This program offers flash cards for nearly every subject and allowed students to choose answers on their own with a responsive pen similar to the Leapfrog Tag Reader. The flash cards and pen are also quite inexpensive. The negative side to this is that Hot Dots does not come with instructional information that actually teaches, it only reinforces material that has already been learned (supposedly). Additionally the pen sometimes malfunctions stating that an answer is incorrect when it is indeed correct. Another gripe I found is that the math portion actually kept the correct answer in the same place on every card, my child figured this out very quickly and was able to get the answer correct without doing the work. If I were to purchase again, I would buy the cards without the pen until they work out the kinks. Overall Each of these products are effective in their own right depending on how you use them. My judgment in terms of likability weighs on their ability to not only educate my child but to also maintain his attention and entertain him. My son chose to use these items freely without my insistence and learned a great deal while doing so.