Software Focus

In addition to the humble book, publishers have launched an array of reading programs designed to help readers of all types acquire the skills they need — Here’s a selection of the most innovative

Academy of READING
The Academy of READING is an intensive, online intervention program for struggling readers in grades 2-12 which instructs students in the five critical areas of reading — Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. Continuous assessment and progress monitoring provide robust data to inform instruction and illustrate students’ reading gains.

The program breaks the complex task of reading into manageable pieces. Students learn using a structured and sequential approach, in­creasing their automaticity and building higher order comprehension skills.
Each student is given individualized instruction based on real-time formative data. Assessment and progress monitoring tools create goals and give each student a personalized learning plan. The dynamic learning environment provides positive feedback and coaching, motivating the most reluctant students.

Real-time, web-based reports allow teachers and administrators to monitor student progress and document reading gains. Teachers can access student and class level data, while administrators can view performance at the school and district level.

Dynamic Vision Training — Eyes in Conflict
The Gemstone Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation, offers Dynamic Vision Training (DVT) to help students age nine and up who skip lines, lose their place, see words wiggle or jump around, or even see double on occasion. Proven effective in classroom situations from grade 3 through adult, DVT uses 3D technology in an online interactive format, so it feels like playing a game. Each session is 15 minutes long and the entire program contains 30 sessions. DVT is perfect for a pull-out or after school program for students who read below grade level yet have no known reading disorder and have passed school vision screening. Between 20% and 50% of poor readers like this have Eyes in Conflict, a condition where the two eyes are not well coordinated. The problem is easily identified and can be remedied by DVT in most children regardless of ESL or Special Education status, because no reading is required.

English 9A
English 9A is a newly refreshed course from PLATO Learning that is now fully aligned to Common Core State Standards. The program gives the instructor a variety of ways to engage different learning modalities and to give the student an opportunity to experience a range of standards and objectives to ensure academic success. Learning activities include tutorials, lesson activities, online discussions, and unit activities to deepen understanding of key unit objectives.
The course also includes comprehensive assessment tools like unit pretests, mastery tests, unit post-tests, and end-of-semester tests. These assessments combined with instructor-evaluated unit and lesson activities provide multiple data points that result in a more accurate evaluation of a student’s strengths and needs.

Reading assignments cover a wide range of authors, periods, and genres, from The Sport of Biathlon to The Iliad; from Sport Utility Vehicles and Safety to Paradise Lost. Unit activities include Visualizing as you Read, Understanding Figurative Language, Using Prior Knowledge to Read Expository Text, and Analyzing Personal Narratives.

The flexibility of this program allows for considerable customization for Common Core alignment, and it can also be optimized to meet the unique needs of students and their learning environment. The teacher controls the instructional choices for individual students as well as for the classroom. The instructor may use all of the components as sequenced or select specific activities to support and enhance instruction.

HearBuilder Phonological Awareness – Sound Awareness for Reading is an award-winning, evidence-based software program from Super Duper Publications designed to help children improve their common core phonological awareness and listening skills.
Students segment, blend, and manipulate words, syllables, and sounds in nine target areas: Sentence Segmentation, Syllable Blending, Syllable Segmentation, Rhyming, Phoneme Blending, Phoneme Segmentation and Identification, Phoneme Deletion, Phoneme Addition, and Phoneme Manipulation. Players move through multi-level tasks earning instruments and band members to form The Phonemix virtual rock band.

HearBuilder Phonological Awareness has won nine national awards including Parents’ Choice, Tech & Learning, Creative Child, Family Choice, Bessie, EdTech Trendsetter, Academics’ Choice, and Children’s Tech Review.

READ 180 Next Generation
READ 180 Next Generation has been developed to prepare students for the rigorous expectations of the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Assessments. The program is designed to meet students where they are, accelerating them toward reading independence with grade-level text, and putting students on a personalized learning path to college and career readiness.

It offers a staircase of text complexity that builds confidence and fluency for struggling readers in each rotation of the proven model for blended instruction, including Whole- and Small-Group, Instructional Software, and Modeled and Independent Reading.

Students read increasingly complex text daily, building their comprehension and fluency with teacher-led instructional scaffolds. Rigorous text-based questions and evidence-based performance tasks accompany each type of text in the program, ensuring that students gain content-area knowledge and skills that are highly portable to their science, social studies, and math classrooms.

With READ 180, students can also choose from a wide array of highly-motivating, age-appropriate leveled texts that span genres and text types. Leveled paperbacks, audiobooks, and new 100% non-fiction eReads provide students with access to grade-level texts with the support of scaffolding.

Reading Rockets
Reading Rockets is a national multimedia literacy initiative aimed at parents and educators of kids in preschool through grade 3 which produces original programming for PBS, including the award-winning Launching Young Readers series. Our comprehensive website,, offers a wealth of teaching strategies, Ask the Expert and FAQs, parent tips, professional development webcasts, reading research, online video and podcasts, video interviews with children’s authors and illustrators, children’s book lists, blogs, a daily news service, and free monthly e-newsletters. The project is funded by the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

Skoolbo Core Skills
Skoolbo Core Skills is an innovative literacy and numeracy program designed to assist elementary students in mastering the fundamental reading and math skills that serve as the building blocks of education. The multi-player games incorporate beautifully designed 3D worlds, customized avatars, and an enticing rewards system to promote effective learning in a fun and engaging environment.

One of the core elements of the program is the involvement of the teacher and parent. Through comprehensive reports detailing strengths and weaknesses of the student and individualized activities for student improvement, it makes teachers and parents an integral part of the learning process.

Smarty Ants Reading World
Smarty Ants Reading World is a comprehensive, online PreK – Grade 2 reading curriculum. It is an immersive virtual world where students create their own ant avatar and become a learner in a world where they choose from a variety of activities like snowboarding, rock climbing, hoops, story time, dancing, races, and game shows as they learn to read. It offers sequenced, scaffolded instruction and allows students to make choices to match any learning temperament. There are 72 different learning paths that students might follow for every new concept they learn. The program also allows students to modify their learning path as they desire.

There are versions for students whose primary language is not English. In these versions all of the instructions and directions are delivered in the student’s primary language while the student learns to read English.

Smarty Ants Reading World records every click and progress students make on their personalized learning path. By collecting this data, it can quickly recognize patterns which give insights into students who are having specific difficulties, and provide immediate intervention and scaffolding specific to those issues. Three Data Dashboards (district, school, and classroom) enable student data to be reviewed in a concise and meaningful manner, providing real time insights into how they are progressing (including standards mastery reports).

SRA Reading Laboratory 2.0
SRA Reading Laboratory 2.0 is an all-digital, interactive, and personalized reading practice program based on the classic SRA Reading Laboratory print program created by Don H. Parker, Ph.D. now featuring innovative 21st century digital and social skills that can be used anytime, anywhere, on any device to improve a student’s reading level and skills. Students are assigned fiction and non-fiction reading passages based on their Lexile level and interest, and then the complete comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, word analysis, writing and study skill activities that encourage deeper understanding of the passage. Interest is maintained through engaging community, reward, and game features. Teachers are provided everything they need to track and communicate progress through their home page. Classroom management tools are provided for both individual student detail and whole class rosters. Reports are provided by student and class on Lexile level, student progress, standards, skills, and fluency. Teachers have the ability to customize their classrooms and individual student experience through additional tools such as: assigning specific reading and skills instruction, creating new readings and activities, managing rewards, and writing notes. Reading Laboratory 2.0 can be used for individual or small groups before, during, and after school, and even at home as homework.

Start-to-Finish Online Accessible Library
As districts scramble to find efficient ways to get the most out of their iPad collections, Don Johnston has launched an online accessible library that may be an ideal way of filling these blank slates.

The Start-to-Finish library features some of the most powerful books of all time like Anne Frank, Call of the Wild, and Moby Dick, which were re-written to be age-appropriate for students on IEP and 504 plans. The 90+ books come to life with professional narration, and end of chapter quizzes track comprehension. Students can finish 50 chapter books a year just by reading Start-to-Finish books for 20 minutes a day.

School-wide access enables each student to have access to an entire library of age-appropriate books tied to the Common Core on their iPads, computers, and smartphones. There are no apps to sync so schools can get started right away.

Despite its name, WriteToLearn, Pearson’s online tool for building writing skills is also designed to help students in grades 4-12 develop reading comprehension. This innovative, web-based tool provides students with the opportunity for repeated, personalized practice in reading, writing, and vocabulary development.

Based on more than 15 years of research and evaluation at the University of Colorado and New Mexico State University, WriteToLearn is the only online writing instructional tool that reinforces the required interplay between reading, writing, and vocabulary – the foundation of strong literacy skills.

The program supports the new Common Core State Standards in key areas across the curriculum, including English language arts, history/social studies, and science.

The latest release includes iPad support, adaptive and personalized support for vocabulary development and additional tools that make it easier for all students, but particularly English Language Learners (ELL) and struggling learners, to build literacy skills.