WholeReader for Homeschooling Families

Immersive reading software which combines narration with reading to help children absorb vocabulary and grammar with both ear and eye

Free for Homeschool Use

WholeReader screenshot

This is a sales-pitch without a sale. We are giving away WholeReader for Homeschool families at no cost. I will try to persuade you to take the time to try WholeReader as part of your daily homeschool activity. Your time is limited, so even a completely free app requires explanation.

We’re an educational non-profit focused on reading technology, specifically to encourage classical reading. Personally, I was homeschooled with the old Calvert curriculum and now my 9-year-old son has been homeschooled using early versions of WholeReader. Now that WholeReader is ready for a public beta release, I want to empower homeschool families to be our first users. So I’ve secured permission to give 1-year free for homeschool families.

To get WholeReader free, use this coupon link:

And now for my “sales” pitch:

As technology progresses, it seems that civilization unravels. A recent study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 33% of fourth graders were reading proficiently. Another crazy study found that reading comprehension peaks in the fifth grade and then declines slightly by graduation.

Much of this simply involves ever-lowering academic expectations and ever-increasing entertainment options. With the proliferation of cell phones & video games, kids are simply not spending the many hours they once did reading adventure novels. These hundreds of hours of reading were necessary to absorb the full breadth of English vocabulary. Kids are just not acquiring the vocabulary needed to read deeper foundational literature. In schools, the problem is especially pronounced. For example, schools have started dropping Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” as too difficult for 18-year-old readers. Consider that Mary Shelley was 18 when she wrote that book!

Extensive reading is 90% of all education

Extensive reading is 90% of all education and the rock foundation of civilization itself. People who talk about saving democracy while not being concerned about extensive reading are thinking of democracy as herding cattle. If we discard reading poetry, history, novels, philosophy and sacred texts — then we have discarded that which makes us human. We cannot accept technological progress if technology must be pitted against reading itself.

And yet that is where we find ourselves. Schools are no longer interested in cultivating deeply thoughtful humans. Instead, they are content with promoting a narrow “critical consciousness” — a simple ‘awakening’ of the students to a political identity instead of to understanding. Classical education, with ideas as content and virtue as the goal, has been replaced with narcissistic political indignation.

The solution must come from parents. They are the only ones who care deeply enough about our children’s future to make the necessary changes. And a large part of that change must be to incorporate into each child’s education a much more extensive diet of daily reading.

That is where we come in. Instead of accepting the dichotomy between technology and reading, we are trying to leverage technology to enable classical reading. Our project is “WholeReader” and it’s basically a custom eBook-reader containing an entire library of important K-12 literature, with a twist: immersive reading.

Immersive reading?

animated audio icon

Immersive reading is something very new, but also very old. It refers to linking quality human narration word-for-word with entire books to provide an ‘immersive’ reading experience combining both ear and eye. Why? Because language itself is fundamentally musical. Reading with the eye is powerful, but it’s an abstraction layer over actual language. By combining both ear and eye, we can boost absorption. It is no mistake that even the news was once conveyed in verse, by a musical bard. Modern education has completely stripped poetry, verse, prose, and all the musical elements out of our experience with language. But language is fundamentally a form of music. Consider how you can get a song stuck in your head. That capacity is the same faculty which allows us all to absorb grammar and vocabulary rapidly and effectively. When kids read daily with immersive audio, you’ll notice them constantly trying out new phrases or vocabulary as new patterns rattle around in their heads before settling into their language toolkit. As a parent, it’s magical to witness.

But more specifically, aligned narration boosts reading comprehension because good narration adds significant interpretive explanation. With higher comprehension comes increased enjoyment and natural vocabulary and grammar retention.

The way it works is simple. Each paragraph of text has a little “Play” button next to it which starts audio narration and highlights each word as it is spoken. Students need only read along. You see, low-comprehension reading creates a negative spiral with the pace slowing down and thus becoming increasingly less comprehensible and uninteresting. But by maintaining a correct pace and high comprehension, interest and learning are also maintained. Students quickly absorb figures of speech, grammatical constructs, and new vocabulary with the ear, while picking up correct spelling and punctuation with the eye.

immerive reading screen shot

Give it a try for yourself.

Below is a sample link to a passage from the notoriously difficult King James Bible. Notice how even complex text becomes easily comprehensible when read well. And comprehension is the key to natural absorption.

QR-code “And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. ”

As you can see, well-read, well-aligned human narration adds a whole new dimension of comprehension and enjoyability. And because of this, it’s a 10x learning amplifier.

We have witnessed the most dramatic accelerations in reading capacity in personal use and pilot projects across the globe. And in a recent pilot study on immersive reading, one organization saw kids accelerate an entire grade level in only two months.

At the end of the day, the goal of reading is not just high vocabulary and the ability to communicate effectively. Those are some side-benefits of education. The power of reading is about understanding big ideas — good ideas, bad ideas, and sacred ideas. All kids should read Adam Smith for themselves and understand the Mercantilist arguments common in political rhetoric. They should read Karl Marx and understand for themselves the old pedigree of identity conflict that will be constantly presented to them as novel and new. They should trace for themselves the banks of the Galilee and understand that sometimes truth-telling can be a profoundly sacred act.

immersive reading family

Literary English takes years of daily reading!

Yes, a multi-year pathway of reading is required, an arc of language acquisition from children’s stories to adventure novels to biographies to histories to philosophy and sacred literature. On the practical side, it requires a daily diet of reading from a young age through adulthood.

And that is what we are trying to provide with WholeReader. It is a library, not a curriculum. It’s still up to parents to give reading assignments. The most the software does is to assess student reading level (based on a simple vocabulary quiz) and then suggest level-appropriate books.

A simple recipe to get started

So here is a simple recipe to get your child started with WholeReader in only a few steps:

  1. Create a student account for your child. Use the discount coupon link for free access.

  2. Go to “settings” in the child’s account and add your email address under “Share activity report with parent or teacher”. This will report total reading activity to you daily.

  3. Have your child take the initial vocabulary assessment on the library page. This will allow WholeReader to suggest books that are at the ideal vocabulary level for rapid progress. The first time they take the test, it requires about 15 minutes. Subsequent tests will be much shorter because we are just measuring improvement.

  4. Give your child a daily reading assignment of at least 30 minutes. Ideally, they should pick a book from the “suggested books”. Or assign books. This part is entirely up to you, but try to keep to books which are suggested, because these books are at the ideal vocabulary level for your student.

  5. That said, you can also just let them read whatever they want. And sometimes they will read a book repeatedly. That’s OK. Some kids will choose to memorize poems and striking passages this way. It’s all part of advanced language absorption.

  6. Approximately every two months, students will be prompted to re-assess vocabulary level. Progress is recorded and the suggested books are adjusted to continually challenge their abilities while staying within the ideal comprehension window.

Continue reading daily until graduated!

That’s it. Continue a daily immersive reading diet, gradually expanding assigned daily reading time until they are spending at least an hour a day in immersive reading. The WholeReader library is like a vast book ladder stretching up from hundreds of classical vocabulary-building novels to the great books of philosophy and ideas — the foundation of Western civilization.

To get WholeReader for free, use this coupon link: