Hooked on Phonics
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Hooked on Phonics is a commercial brand of educational materials, originally designed for reading education through phonetics. First marketed widely in the 1990s, it used a particular instructional design to teach letter-sound correlations (phonics) as part of children's literacy. The program has since expanded to encompass a wide variety of media, including computer games, music, and flash cards in addition to books in its materials, as well as to include other subject areas. The target audience for this brand is primarily individuals and home school parents. The product was advertised extensively on television and radio.
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Hooked on Phonics was developed in the 1980s by a father who wanted to help his son overcome his reading problems. The original Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read product was released by Gateway Educational Products in 1987.
The company built a successful business based upon significant advertising, leading to sales of over $100M per year. The product, along with its catchphrase "Hooked on Phonics worked for me!" (spoken by children in the product's television ads) and its telephone number "1-800-ABCDEFG" (now disconnected), became widely recognized during the mid-1990s.
In 1994 the company was featured on the program "Dateline NBC" with an official from the FTC attacking the company for "deceptive advertising." The FTC and Gateway reached a settlement later, with Gateway agreeing to advertising ground rules and disclosure of all research data and consumer complaints. Nevertheless, the negative media coverage caused the company's sales to plummet and for the company to file for bankruptcy protection.
2001 saw the introduction of test-taking strategies and study skills as part of the "Hooked on School Success" program and a new partnership with KinderCare Learning Centers to use materials in KinderCare's private child care facilities.
In 2005 the product line was acquired by Educate, Inc., who also operated Sylvan Learning, and began selling products in retail. In 2006 the company released a new line of educational programs including Hooked on Spanish, Hooked on Handwriting, and Hooked on Spelling, among many others.
In 2007, Hooked on Phonics marked its 20th anniversary by traveling on a cross-country tour during which company donated one million dollars' worth of reading programs to school districts around the country. By 2007, the Hooked on Phonics program had been introduced in over 30 countries.
Hooked on Phonics was taken private in 2007 and the company renamed to Smarterville, Inc.
The flagship Learn to Read product recently underwent a major redesign, featuring DVDs, web customizations, and an entire new line of systematic phonics readers. It was launched in the summer of 2009. Their mobile app for the iPhone and iPad was launched January 2013.
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Hooked on Phonics' products have won several awards over the years, including:
- National Parenting Seal of Approval in 1998, 2005 and 2007
- Teachers' Choice Award in 2004, 2008 and 2009
- Curriculum Administrator Districts’ Choice in 2001
- Aaron Nathans (1994-12-15). "Hooked on Phonics Settles With FTC on Advertising Claims". Los Angeles Times.
- Bob Sullivan (2004-07-07). "Hooked on Phonics fined by FTC". NBCNews.com.