Hooked On Phonics was wildly successful in it’s day. Hooked on Phonics was also irresponsibly over-marketed which led to legal actions from the government and it’s fall into bankruptcy.

What was Hooked on Phonics and what happened to them? Hooked on Phonics was a home-based learning program which provided a complete system for parents to teach their children to read. While it was heavily phonics oriented, it did succeed.

What went wrong with Hooked on Phonics? Hooked on Phonics was extremely expensive ($600 for the entire package), Hooked on Phonics was aggressively marketed (it seemed for a time in the early 80s that every late night program was there to get the Hooked on Phonics message out), and Hooked on Phonics was deceptively marketed. I have no particular details (although I do notice that the Hooked on Phonics “full refund policy” does not include the roughly $40 shipping and handling fee).

The FTC in the first Bush administration brought a suit against Hooked on Phonics taking them ultimately into bankruptcy. The suit seemed to have to do with Hooked on Phonics deceptive advertising: Hooked on Phonics claimed amazing results which turned out to be: “Too Good to be Believed”. Hooked on Phonics did not die: they just went in and out of bankruptcy and thru a series of acquisitions. More recently, Hooked on Phonics created a set of learning centers which I think were bought by one company while the home-based system was bought by another.

The other problem with Hooked on Phonics was it seems that children did not really do it on their own. It was really a teaching aid for parents.

Hooked on Phonics is still around as a brand with some software products. They’ve branched into Hooked on Math. They belong to a company called Educate.

Today’s choices for online education:

Hooked on Phonics

Learning to read is an exciting time for children and their families. While thrilled by their children’s emerging literacy skills, many parents are surprised to learn that reading is not automatic and that, regardless of family background, many children require support in learning to read.

The Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates the five key areas in becoming a proficient reader: Phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency.

Phonemic awareness* is children’s awareness that words are made up of sounds that can be assembled in different ways to make different words. Children build this pre-reading skill by practicing nursery rhymes and playing rhyming word games. For good examples of exercises to build this skill, try some free sample lessons.

Phonics is the understanding of how letters combine to make sounds and words. Learning phonics starts with knowing the alphabet. Children then learn the sound of each letter by associating it with words that start with that sound. Phonics skills grow as students distinguish between vowels and consonants and understand letter combinations.

Tutoring, workbooks, games, or structured computer programs can help teach or reinforce these skills. Parents help in this process by providing high-quality educational materials, establishing a pattern of daily reading, creating a rich language environment, discussing a child’s progress with teachers, and following up on their recommendations.


Today, there are great free online word lists that parents can use such as:

The history of teaching reading has many lessons for teaching reading today, some of which can be found in the dissenting appendix of the “What Works for Teaching Reading” study.

Homeschool Parents Get a Synopsis of the NCLB Theory of Reading Skills Acquisition…

The Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates a typical sequence for acquiring reading skills for use by parents for homeschools and enrichment. The reading skills are organized using the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) system. See the Reading Skills Pyramid

History of Teaching Reading Quoted with permission from:The History of Teaching Reading
By LEARN. 1611 N Fort Harrison Ave. Clearwater, FL 33755

To understand the History of Teaching Reading, a background on the social context of learning reading and of writing systems is provided. The literacy skills level is linked to educational policy.

Almost daily, there are disturbing news reports about the rising problem of illiteracy. Politicians, business leaders, community organizations and parents are struggling to cope with its adverse and growing effects on society. read more on The History of Teaching Reading…

What Works for Teaching Reading
The mandate and method of the Authoritative “What Works” for Teaching Reading study was to end the “Reading Wars” by reviewing all the existing research on what works for teaching reading.

The charge from Congress to the National Reading Panel (NRP) was to assess the status of research based knowledge, including the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children to read.” Part 1 describes the mandate and how a limited interpretation of it was taken by the Panel. read more on What Works for Teaching Reading…

Learning to Read – Step One, Phenomic Awareness

Research shows that how easily children learn to read can depend on how much phonological and phonemic awareness they have. So what is it? As we know, some words rhyme. Sentences are made up of separate words. Words have parts called syllables. The words bag, ball, and bug all begin with the same sound. When a child begins to notice and understand these things about spoken language, he is developing phonological awareness-the ability to hear and work with the sounds of spoken language. When a child also begins to understand that spoken words are made up of separate, small sounds, he is developing phonemic awareness. Children who have phonemic awareness can take spoken words apart sound by sound (“segmentation”) and put together sounds to make words (“blending”). read more on Phonemic Awareness…

The Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates the NCLB Skill Areas with the Grade Level Expectations.

Leave a Reply