Hooked on Phonics: Frequently Asked Questions

If you watched TV at all during the 1990s, you probably heard at least one child exclaim “Hooked on Phonics worked for me!” These ads were everywhere at the time, and although the educational company doesn’t run quite as many commercials anymore, it is still going strong. Despite some financial troubles in the late ‘90s, Hooked on Phonics (HOP) has succeeded and even expanded its offerings in the digital age. This post will address some common questions about this educational program and who it can benefit.

What is Hooked on Phonics?

Founded in 1987, HOP began with a single Learn to Read curriculum that taught children literacy using phonetics. Original Hooked on Phonics complete sets included audio tapes, and later CDs. The idea was that students would associate certain sounds (that is, phonics) with letters or combinations of letters. In 2001, the company started to add programs on study skills and test-taking tips, and then followed a few years later with offerings liked Hooked on Spelling, Hooked on Handwriting, and Hooked on Spanish.

Now, the Learn to Read program is a multimedia learning bundle that includes books, DVDs, flashcards, and an app that works on mobile devices. There’s also a subscription service for the Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read app that comes with supplementary workbooks and storybooks. It comes with a guarantee that your child will learn to read in 30 days. You can also register up to three children per subscription and install the app on up to three mobile devices.

Is Hooked on Phonics research-based?

According to HOP, the program is based in decades of research into how children learn. Reading comprehension begins when a child is able to recognize individual words, which can’t happen until the child can make a connection between sounds and symbols on a page, a.k.a. letters. Phonics is a simple strategy that helps beginning readers make this connection. Hooked on Phonics books then give new readers ample chance to practice and gain confidence in their ability.

Moreover, readers of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds learn well through the use of phonics. When children of all types are able to recognize familiar patterns on the page, they gain confidence in their ability to decode those words and turn them into sounds. After that, the benefits of strong reading skills are obvious. Good readers are less likely to drop out of school or even fall behind in their schoolwork as they age.

What age is Hooked on Phonics for?

Hooked on Phonics reading is geared toward children ages 3-8, or those who read at a preschool to second grade level. Hooked on Phonics preschool Pre-Reader products are made for the very youngest children who are still learning the alphabet. Next, the Hooked on Phonics app and the boxed kit begin at the pre-K level and continue through early second grade. Each grade is split into two levels for eight total levels.

Does Hooked on Phonics line up with my child’s schoolwork?

Yes, you can use Hooked on Phonics for Common Core learning standards. The curriculum teaches appropriate skills like concepts of print, phonological awareness, letter-sound correspondence, and high frequency word recognition. In fact, some parents do homeschooling with Hooked on Phonics. They use the program’s curriculum as their own.

How to use Hooked on Phonics

Hooked on Phonics online outlines a three-step process for using the Learn to Read system. First, the earliest lessons help children develop “phonemic awareness” – that is, the different sounds that different letters make. Second, further lessons will let children practice what they have learned through exercises and Hooked on Phonics games. These games combine familiar sounds with new letters through matching, tracing, singing, and other interactive activities. You can do these activities for as little as 15-20 minutes a day.

Finally, children will be able to use their new skills to actually read a full story. About 90% of words in each story will be within their already-developed comfort range. And for anything not within that range, they can use their reading skills to sound out new words. HOP actually adds a fourth step after this, which is to celebrate the new reader’s progress. The program emphasizes building confidence by recognizing children’s learning achievements.

Does Hooked on Phonics teach sight words?

The Learn to Read system is phonetics-based, which means it teaches children to decode individual sounds rather than identifying whole words by sight. However, HOP does encourage some sight word recognition as part of the learning process. For example, a child might pick out the word “I” or “me” on the page.

Does Hooked on Phonics work?

According to the company itself, HOP is “the Gold Standard in teaching kids to read.” Of course, that’s easy for them to say, but Hooked on Phonics reviews suggest that the program works as promised. On Amazon, the Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Kindergarten System earns 4.1 stars out of 5, and 48% of users give it 5 stars. Similarly, the company gets 4 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot. The Top Consumer Reviews website lists HOP as its highest-ranked reading program for 2021.

HOP backs up its products with a money-back guarantee. Specifically, they promise that your child will improve their reading ability by at least one grade level in 30 days. That speaks highly of the company’s trust in its own products.

How much is Hooked on Phonics?

Since HOP is now trying to emphasize a subscription-based business model, pricing can be a little confusing. Additionally, there are separate packages if you want digital-only or a combination of print and digital materials.

How much does the Hooked on Phonics app cost?

If you want to go digital-only, you can purchase a subscription to the app. It costs $6.99 a month or $39.99 a year, though $49.99 will buy you lifetime access.

Can I purchase Hooked on Phonics all at one time?

If you’d prefer to include print materials, you have two options: buy each grade level individually or purchase the complete set. If your child has already begun to read but is having difficulties, buying individual levels might make more sense. Otherwise, the complete Hooked on Phonics package price will save you money overall.

Here is the current pricing structure. Note that only some of these packages come with app access. With others, you’ll have to buy it separately.

  • The Essential Learn to Read Bundle with Reading Fun Pack & Lifetime App: $389.99
  • Complete Learn to Read Kit (8-level Hooked on Phonics complete set with DVDs ): $299.99
  • Individual Learn to Read level kits: $39.95 each
  • Learn to Read level 2-packs (i.e., Hooked on Phonics Level 1&2, 3&4, etc.): $79.95 each
  • Pre-reader and Learn to Read 17-Practice Pack Bundle with Lifetime App (3 yrs+): $189.99
  • Hooked on Phonics bonus workbook: $6.00 each

There are also some other bundles and occasional discounts to help you save. For example, you can purchase only Hooked on Phonics K-2 (that’s levels 3-8) for $179.95. Occasionally, Hooked on Phonics promo codes can save you even more.

Can I try Hooked on Phonics for free?

Unfortunately, there is no Hooked on Phonics free trial. However, you can get your first month’s subscription for only $1, and there is the 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.

Where can you buy Hooked on Phonics?

The best place to buy HOP is online, on their website. This is especially true now that the company is emphasizing its digital subscription service. Furthermore, the app is available on the Apple App Store, Google Play, Amazon, and Microsoft App Store.

Does HOP have programs other than Learn to Read?

Although the company’s website no longer sells other programs directly, you can still find HOP books and workbooks for other subjects. These include Hooked on Phonics Math, Hooked on Phonics Spanish, and Hooked on Phonics Spelling

However, keep in mind that Hooked on Phonics ratings differ for these different subject areas. Just because they have the same brand name, that doesn’t mean they have the same research behind them. For example, you can’t use the same strategy to teach math that you can to teach reading.

How easy is Hooked on Phonics for a five year old?

Obviously, the specific answer will depend on the five year old. However, that age is right in the middle of the range for which the Learn to Read program is designed. A five year old will most likely benefit from starting with Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read – Level 3: Emergent Readers (Kindergarten | Ages 4-6). The average five-year-old child should do very well with this program.

What is better: Hooked on Phonics vs. ABC Mouse?

ABC Mouse is a Hooked on Phonics alternative that was developed much more recently in 2007. Thus, it was designed for an online platform instead of needing to be converted. ABC Mouse is best for children ages 2-8, and it doesn’t just teach reading. It also provides lessons on art and colors, arithmetic, and basic science.

What ABC Mouse and HOP have in common

  • Help for beginning readers in pre-K to 2nd grade
  • Emphasis on phonics for learning to read
  • Self-contained apps with no ads or outside links
  • Registration for up to three user profiles (that is, three children)
  • Parent dashboards to track children’s progress
  • No contracts or long-term commitments

HOP vs. ABC Mouse

Here are the ways the two programs differ.



ABC Mouse

Trial period 30 days for $1 Free for 14 days
Number of devices Up to 3 Unlimited
Number of lesson levels 8 10
App available offline? Yes No
App graphics Not customizable Customizable
Print materials Books, workbooks, self-print Self-print only
One-time purchase kit available? Yes No
Subjects taught Reading only Reading, math, science, art & colors
Age range 3-8 2-8
Rewards for progress Star stickers Digital reward tickets
Monthly cost $6.99 $9.95
Refund guarantee 30-day money-back guarantee None

The winner

Whether you choose ABC Mouse or Hooked on Phonics will largely depend on why you’re using it. If your child needs help learning to read, HOP is the clear winner. It has longevity and research on its side, and a subscription includes more materials. Additionally, users of both have reported that HOP’s app features a cleaner interface that is simpler to use.

However, if you’re looking for a broader educational curriculum that also includes math, science, and art, then ABC Mouse has what you need. It also gets reasonably good reviews for its educational programming. Nevertheless, keep in mind that some ABC Mouse users have reported glitches with the digital reward system and continued charges after canceling subscriptions.


HOP is a longtime favorite reading program for a reason. Its phonetics-based lessons really work, and the company has kept up with advances in technology to take advantage of the educational possibilities of mobile apps. Given the program’s money-back guarantee, it’s certainly worth a try for anyone who has children who need a little help with reading.


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