Hooked on Phonics
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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. 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.
The product along with its catchphrase, "Hooked on Phonics worked for me!" (spoken by happy children in the product's television ads) and its telephone number "1-800-ABCDEFG" (1-800-222-3334), became widely recognized during the mid-1990s. However, as of July 9, 2013, this number is disconnected. The phrase was used widely in pop culture to make pejorative tongue-in-cheek jokes about not being able to read or for making incidental reading errors. Modifications (typically phonetic misspellings) to the catchphrase also abound for both comic as well as promotional purposes.
The original Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read product was released by Gateway Educational Products in 1987. The company built a very successful business based upon significant advertising, leading to sales of over $100M per year.
In 1994 the company was featured on the program "Dateline NBC" with an official from the FTC attacking the company for "deceptive advertising." While the FTC reversed its actions later, the resulting media frenzy 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.
Hooked on Phonics' products have won many awards over the years, including The National Parenting Seal of Approval in 1998, 2005 and 2007, The Teachers' Choice Award in 2004, 2008 and 2009, and the Curriculum Administrator Districts’ Choice in 2001.
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 that included New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington Miami, and Baltimore. The company donated one million dollars' worth of reading programs to school districts around the country. 2007 also saw the introduction of Hooked on Phonics programs in over 30 countries around the world.
Hooked on Phonics was taken private in 2007 and renamed 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.