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Review CornerSoftware
Clifford Reading
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
With a gentle pace and a low-key delivery, this program introduces preschool and indergarten-age children to early reading concepts with the appeal of the big, but always lovable, Clifford the Big Red Dog.
 
Ages: 4-6  Subject: Reading/Pre-Reading/Spelling  Brand: Scholastic
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Kids are welcomed into the wonderful world of Clifford The Big Red Dog, where reading challenges are never too big and colorful activities contain plenty of surprises.

Clifford The Big Red Dog is an endearing character who has starred in children's books for many years. He is a bit of an oaf, but he is forever eager to set things right again. Clifford gets in and out of mischief with his BIG body and BIG heart, respectively. His leap to the computer screen is an exciting one, as fans are now afforded the opportunity to enjoy Clifford's (mis)adventures in an all-new way.

After choosing a general difficulty level of Easy, Medium, or Hard, children are taken to Emily-Elizabeth's bedroom where the fun and learning begin. Emily gives children a short, digestible lesson all revolving around a few letters of the alphabet. Then players are off to explore the 6 activities in Birdswell Island.

Kids catch falling letters, help sort out objects in the Grouchy Neighbors' garage, play a Dunk-the-Dog activity at the carnival dunking booth, and more. A stand-out activity can be found at Monique's Easel. Children spell any word they like (comprised of 4 letters or less) and if the program recognizes it as a real word, Monique will draw a picture of it! Monique can paint pictures representing a whopping 600 words. Sometimes Monique will encounter a real word that she can't quite draw, but kids are still praised for spelling out a word. And yes, certain controversial words are screened.

Though kids choose one of three difficulty levels to begin with, leveling does not stop there. The program ingeniously contains seven auto-levels built in, and these levels automatically adjust to children's individual responses. This means that kids will advance only when they display mastery of the learning concepts at hand. Clifford Reading is never discouraging or heavy-handed — kids are not penalized for mistakes made, which is an essential feature in an early learn-to-read program.

Motivation to continue playing this open-ended program is handled with the use of an appealing reward system. Every time players accumulate 6 tickets through short activities, they get to pay a visit to the prize booth. Claiming a prize entails redeeming these well-earned tickets and directing a "claw" to pick up an attractively-wrapped package. Prizes include printable puzzles and activities that kids can also color on-screen. Testers enjoyed returning to Emily's bedroom to look at their "stash".

Books are also earned as children complete activities. In a nice touch, the words encountered in the learning games are featured in each storybook, so children can confidently read them. If so desired, kids can read the books aloud and record their own voices to play back with pride.

The graphics are a bit grainy in spots, and the coloring activities leave something to be desired, but altogether, this program is quite thoughtful and well put together.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98/2000, a Pentium 90 processor, 16 Mb RAM for Win 95/98, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power PC, 120 MHz or faster, with 16 MB RAM, System 7.5.3 or later, and 4X CD ROM. It requires a minimum of 35MB of hard drive space. Printer and microphone are optional.

Skills Covered
phonics, word-object association, letter/sound recognition, word building, letter recognition, letter sorting, visual discrimination, upper/lowercase letters, creativity, sight word recognition, fine motor skills, phonics, sound blending, sound recognition.

Educational Value
Parents looking for a lighthearted approach to early reading concepts will appreciate this title. It provides good practice with simple words, throws in a few sight words, and the storybooks are tied in with the activities very well. Words are sounded out for children as they are read, increasing the educational value of the program.

Entertainment Value
Clifford himself will be the initial draw. Later, it will be Clifford Reading's quiet, gently challenging activities. This title doesn't have video-game-style appeal, but does feature a motivation system that children will enjoy.

Design
While children select a broad difficulty level at sign-in, auto-levels are built into the program and automatically adjust according to a player's performance.

Replayability
We expect average replayability for this title. The featured activities are not spectacular, but they are solid, and the reward system is excellent for children with short attention spans.

Dollar Value
This title is reasonably priced at $19.95 US. We found it to be worth the price.

Released: 2000
Reviewed: October 2000