Hooked on Phonics & Hooked on Spelling Review

As long as people learn to read, the “reading wars” will continue! You may be wondering if you should teach your child through the whole words or phonics method. For me, the answer is pretty clear- use both!

We started our kids on sight-reading when they were still learning to talk. Sight-word or whole word reading is typically easier to begin with when teaching a small baby, rather than introducing phonics right off the bat. It’s like showing them a whole building versus handing them a single brick, which better enables them to see the big picture. After they get a grip that text is a symbolic representation of spoken words, THEN show them the bricks (phonics) and how to build them soon after. Some kids can learn to read from sight words alone, but I believe phonics should not be ignored. You can easily teach both at the same time.

My favorite reading product overall,  Little Reader, combines the whole word method with pattern phonics. However, it is intended for young children and I would say it leans more in the direction of whole words overall. It is simply AMAZING for whole word vocabulary building, in particular, no doubt, and kids are exposed to 3,000 words with corresponding pictures, actual videos, and animations over the course of a year. That vocabulary exposure alone is worth doing the program and most kids end up with a much larger spoken vocabulary and clearer speech as a result.

But for direct phonics instruction, one of my favorite programs is Hooked on Phonics!

If you are a parent that wants a clear cut “cookbook” approach to teaching your child phonics, this is it. The program is broken up into 3 steps: Lesson, Practice, Read. It’s a no-brainer and you truly don’t need to know a THING about teaching a child to read to use this program, just follow the steps in the book. I took advantage of their monthly payment plan and never looked back. To see my daughter finish a SECOND GRADE curriculum at 2 years old and love every second of it makes this program worth its weight in gold to me!

Hooked on Phonics is great to use with young children because it teaches through example rather than explanation. My two year old would never have understood “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking” if I tried to explain it to her. Your child may very well be ready for the DVD’s before the workbooks, and that is fine! And you can use the phonics readers as well and just shelve the workbooks for a while. I didn’t need to “explain” phonics to Lily…with a combination of videos, workbooks, and activity sheets that we used as coloring pages (I wrote in the words ahead of time and we talked about the page while we colored it), just teaching her the words worked beautifully for us! No long explanations needed, just a clear demonstration.

I will never forget when Lily was about 24 months old and she toddled over the drawer where I kept the program. She opened the drawer, which was no small feat for her, and then brought it to me on the couch where I was chatting with a guest and said “do phonics, Mama?”  I told her we could play Hooked on Phonics after our company left but she would have to wait. Her little lip puffed out and began to quiver, her eyes welled with tears, and a fire engine wail soon followed. My friend and I were so entertained by this scene…my 2-year-old was having a temper because I told her she couldn’t do phonics!!

Lily at 24 months old doing her Hooked on Phonics Workbook:

The full pre-K to second grade “Learn to Read” kit:


  • 8 DVDs
  • 36 original storybooks
  • 8 workbooks
  • Flashcards
  • Motivation stickers
  • Interactive online tools
  • The Quick Start Guide Book and video
  • Bonus Fun Pack
  • FREE Shipping and processing
  • Money Back Guarantee

The Hooked on Phonics program greatly improved my daughter’s reading stamina, it naturally discouraged word guessing (something most kids go through), gave her lots of confidence, and allowed me to scan for holes in her decoding skills. As it turns out, there were hardly any! But, the program was invaluable to us. In the beginning, we only did a single *page* at a time but by the time she finished the series, she was speeding through 2 entire lessons in a sitting. It was an investment that was very well worth my time and money, she just grew leaps and bounds.

My son watched the Hooked on Phonics DVD’s from a very young age so I never needed to do the workbooks with him as a result of being exposed to the lessons so young. he already knew how to read all of the words in them so there was simply no need! The DVD portion was actually the main reason I bought the program because at the time Lily was too little for workbook based phonics instruction.

We typically watched one DVD lesson directly in the morning (about 5 minutes long) during breakfast and then I might turn the lessons on in the background while they played using the “repeat all” feature on my DVD player. The chapters do not have a built-in auto-advance as this is not how the program was originally intended to be used. But it works well that way with little kids.

Owen decoded the word “crime” at about 17 months old while watching a Hooked on Phonics DVD before the word was even announced on screen, and that was a word I KNEW I never personally taught him!

Since finishing the Learn to Read program, we are now using Hooked on Spelling and Hooked on Phonics Master Reader. I am happy with all of them! Here’s a Hooked on Spelling video demo and some footage of my son using the software.

The Hooked on Spelling materials:

We adjusted the Master Reader program somewhat to better fit my kids, for example, skipping the chapter books because they are simply too long at the moment. But they are very capable of doing the Master Reader software and my daughter also does the double-sided reading cards.

Hooked on Phonics Master Reader materials:

I think so highly of this company and when the kids finish their current programs, I plan to go hunt down an out of print “classic” version of Hooked On Phonics Reading Power SRA on ebay. I saw it once at a thrift shop and have kicked myself ever since for not buying it! The Reading Power program focuses on reading comprehension and will be the next logical step for them to continue to develop their skills.

All in all, I definitely recommend checking the Hooked on Phonics trial. It’s been an amazing part of my children’s literacy journey and I hope it helps your children, too!

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6 replies on “Hooked on Phonics & Hooked on Spelling Review”

At what age did you start your daughter on the LIttle Reader and at what age did you start Hooked on Phonics

I agree that at least two methods should be used when teaching a child to read. Not all children learn in the same way!

In a clear way that kids can identify, hooked on phonics ensures that a kid’s whole attention is on the lessons. It makes for fun learning which helps a child learn much more effectively. Regards, Daniel Warren

It is true, most people have a problem with pronunciation. It is helpful if parents help their kids learn how to read and speak. I bought theHOP program for my 1year old. My elder one is fluent and could read almost 50 pages per half an hour, without any pronunciation error.

I have a question! Did you start with the alphabet first or did you introduce it later after the phonics and sight reading?

Picture books are good to teach children to read and help increase reading comprehension, too. Thanks for your article and keep sharing the nice work.

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