As you’re well aware there are MANY reading programs out there, and they all claim to get fantastic results with their students. You might have even spent a ton of money getting your student tested for disabilities and on programs that didn’t work. We hope we can save you some trouble and save your child the frustration and embarrassment of being behind. The simple goal of this article is to show you what differentiates Great Leaps Digital from other popular online reading programs and why we do things a certain way. We recommend you use these criteria when choosing a program so you don’t find yourself a few hundred dollars short with no results and a growing frustration.
1. Is it research and/or evidence based?
Many programs make bold claims but fail to have any 3rd party research done on the program to truly back those claims. This is a very important criteria in determining if a program is legitimate and can be reliably effective or not. Lot’s of programs make big claims based on studies that they funded and results that they filtered which kills their credibility. Unfortunately it can be really difficult to evaluate the studies, but we still recommend you take this into consideration.
Great Leaps Digital Reading Program: Great Leaps Reading has been researched twice, both showing significant gains in fluency. The first study was done by Dr. Cecil Mercer in collaboration with author Kenneth Campbell in 2000 that yielded 2 years of reading growth per year. This was later confirmed in an additional study by Sally Spencer and Franklin Manis in 2010. These were done prior to the addition of our depth of knowledge questions that target comprehension. These studies were also prior to our digital reading program which has been averaging even better results. We are working on getting academic research done on this to confirm what our data has shown ASAP. Students in Great Leaps Digital working 5 times per week have grown an average of 2 years in the first 18 weeks!
2. Do they teach phonics?
Phonics are the building blocks of any language. Additionally, the English language is particularly tricky, so direct instruction in phonics and different letter combinations is essential for a student to build a strong foundation for their reading.
Great Leaps Digital Reading Program: One third of the intervention is dedicated to work in phonics. The exercises start at the most basic level of sounds in isolation and then works sequentially through different letter combinations amounting to 65 phonics exercises in total. This is essential practice for all students but especially students with dyslexia who will likely struggle most through this section.
3. How does it aim to motivate and keep the student engaged?
Students that are behind in reading are often frustrated and have lost their academic confidence. A major aspect of any program for students that are behind is re-motivating them and rebuilding that self confidence. This often translates to other areas of school and will lead to better performance and remove their hatred of school and academics.
Great Leaps Digital Reading Program: First of all, we start students off easy so that they can make goals early and often to build momentum and confidence! In addition, constant positive reinforcement from the instructor establishes a great working relationship that lasts through more challenging material later in the program. Additionally, 15 minute sessions make it easy for a tutor to maintain focus throughout the entire session. And lastly, our fun and age appropriate stories make reading enjoyable again for the students rather than trying to force feed in more content.
4. What instructional methods are used?
This is the basis of “Why” the programs work. The method behind the madness so to speak. Some programs try to implement these just with computer software which often means they have to make compromises and making it ultimately less effective than having a real instructor.
Great Leaps Digital Reading Program: The first most important method is immediate correction. In Great Leaps, the instructor says the correct word or phrase immediately after the student makes an error to build that new neural pathway. Other programs attempt to do this with software that listens and reads it back BUT this is often times inaccurate, less immediate and doesn’t account for a student’s accent. Real instructors use judgement as well to give the student an opportunity to sound it out before making a correction.
We also use modeling. After a student completes an exercise, our instructors pick a section to practice that the student made a few errors on to build speed, accuracy, and proper intonation. First the instructor reads the passage, then instructor and student read them together and finally the student reads it on their own. Purely digital programs also attempt to reconstruct this but in this case it relies on trusting that the student is performing as instructed. These programs can often be cheated by the student so that they can avoid academic performance.
Lastly, we use positive reinforcement that helps change the student’s entire attitude towards academics. Through praise over accomplishments and sequential nature of making goals, the students build self confidence. Additionally, many struggling students likely have built very negative relationships with adults and possibly the parent that has tried to teach them in the past to no avail. This positive relationships often changes that outlook where purely computer based programs aim to reinforce through "gamifying" the intervention so they hope to achieve rewards within the game.
5. Is their team there to support you?
Call the companies customer service and talk with someone in their team about your child. Call them out on their criticisms that you see online and see what they respond with. Are they speaking in circles and dodging the questions OR are they there to answer your questions and help you help your child?
Great Leaps Customer Support: We have a dedicated support member who is a Great Leaps tutor herself! Lisa draws from real experience and an intimate knowledge of the program to give you credible advice and answer any of your questions. Additionally, the author Kenneth Campbell is also available from time to time to field more challenging questions regarding student behavior or teaching strategies for more challenging students.
6. What is the lifetime cost AND is there a Free Trial?
So it’s important that you get to try something out before making a pretty big financial and time commitment to something new! There’s a good chance you’ve already spent money on having your child evaluated
Great Leaps Digital Reading Program: There is a 14-Day Free Trial of our program that can give you some great insight into how it works and hopefully you can make some progress with your student! If you tutor your own child, it will cost $129 per year (or if you are in a school and have 5+ students $59 per year) and most students finish a program in 2 years. Often times however, parents have a difficult relationship with their child when it comes to schoolwork and they would like a trusted private tutor to ensure better results. We now offer 1-on-1 online tutoring for $299 per month which costs over two years $7,176. I know that sounds like a lot of money, but it’s less than most competitors that offer private tutoring, with results that out perform others.