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Review CornerSoftware
JumpStart Reading for Second Graders
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
A beautifully designed and engaging software title that provides excellent age-appropriate language arts practice for second-graders.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 6-8   Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Brand: Knowledge Adventure
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
JumpStart Reading for Second Graders Product Overview
Kids join the familiar characters CJ the frog and Edison the firefly in an all-new adventure that involves lots of language arts practice. CJ and Edison have found the sacred tablet of the Lost City of Ursulab but Dr. Listick and his evil sidekick steal part of the tablet and trap them in the dig site. Kids must help them escape by solving a series of word puzzles and games in this directed adventure.

Before entering each new location, there is a smaller activity that serves as a gateway to the main challenge. It takes the form of a word puzzle and helps boost vocabulary as well as classification skills. For example, kids may be required to "find words that name things at a vet" and then locate words like "cage" and "bone" in a word search puzzle.

Activities include the following:

  • Egypt: Click on flying carpets to complete sentences by selecting the past tense verbs or plurals. For example, kids are presented with the sentence "Rita ___ her class her pet snail" and asked to find the word that represents a past tense verb from words like "show", "showed", "showd", and "showing".
  • Atlantis: Use arrow keys to move CJ's submarine to coins that have the correct letter combinations (blends, digraphs, and vowel teams) and then carefully try to drop the coins into a vase while avoiding air bubbles and sea animals.
  • Caves of Cumae: Navigate CJ to select specific words that represent the correct parts of speech (ex. adverbs, action verbs, etc.)
  • Ayers Rock: Listen to the dingo's stories and answer his questions that test reading comprehension.
  • Machu Picchu: CJ and Edison need to cross a chasm by hopping on the correct squares to complete compound words or contractions, while avoiding various obstacles. This is a wonderful little exercise, and one of my son's favorites.
  • Dig Game: Help CJ work his way up to the exit to get out by maneuvering him over words in the correct alphabetical order.
  • The Jewel Room: Here, CJ has a face-off with Dr. Listick with a puzzle game that has the goal of spelling words — the first one to spell 3 words wins!
  • Stately Frog Manor: Help CJ open the locks in order to enter the manor by selecting either homophones, antonyms, and rhyming words that match the given words. For example, kids match words like "made" and "maid" for homophones; hate and love on level 1 of the antonyms and "harm" with "protect" on level 3; for the rhymes, level 1 requires rather straightforward matches, while level 3 brings a bit more challenge as kids may be required to find a rhyming word for "grown" from a choice of words like "frown", "crown", and "known".
The final reward is also a challenge — once all the Elders have been rescued, there is a big showdown with Dr. Listick.

The adventure is linear at some points which can help keep interest levels high. Throughout the adventure, there are little sequences that help form the ongoing storyline.

The mission is not totally clear at the outset of the adventure, but kids are guided/directed through the activities. The goal is to collect nine rubies in order to get one diamond that will help rescue one of the 5 Elders. Many sequences can't be clicked through, but they are interesting enough that kids don't really need to bypass them.

There are some truly wonderful features in JumpStart Reading for Second-Graders. Features like the JumpStart Adaptive Learning Technology should probably be the standard in curriculum-based software programs! The difficulty levels adjust automatically based on a child's performance, and can be manually changed as well. JumpStart Tutor Technology means that the software senses when a child is having troubles with any given lesson, and a little book pops up with a tutorial designed to explain this lesson. CJ makes kids feel like it's very normal to be stumbling and provides an example to shed some light on the particular topic. This feature can be turned on or off. There is a menu bar that remains at the bottom of the screen throughout the activities that allows kids to go back, exit, change levels, access the field book, take advantage of the tutor book, see the Jewel Counter to see their progress, and get help.

There is also a Progress Report that is very visual. Included are printable workbook pages that are actually quite fun. They include word searches, crossword puzzles, and even dot-to-dot activities with full words. The worksheets have the same theme as the activities in the game, and cover a very wide range of skills such as matching subjects with appropriate predicates to form sentences, capitalization, and deduction. At the bottom of each of the 30 or so pages is a "CJ Says" section that gives some suggested activities to extend learning even further.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements for PCs are Windows 95/98, a 486/66, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users will require at least a Power PC, 9 Mb RAM available, System 7.1 or higher, and 4X CD ROM. Both platforms require 15 Mb of hard drive space. The graphics are excellent and cartoon-style.

Skills Covered
alphabetic order/alphabetizing words, vocabulary, compound words, contractions, blends, digraphs, vowel teams, reading comprehension, deduction, parts of speech, plurals, past tense verbs, spelling, homophones, synonyms, antonyms, rhyming words, building sentences, short stories

Educational Value
The program provides excellent practice for kids who have basic reading skills and now need to exercise and develop them (in other words, most second-graders). The activities are very appropriate for this age group, and the tutor technology is not too intrusive or intimidating and actually succeeds as being helpful.

Entertainment Value
The storyline will appeal to most second-graders, and the characters are fun and interesting.

Excellent design features that are characteristic of current titles in the JumpStart Learning System include automatic leveling with the option of manually adjusting levels, lots of on-screen help, and tutor technology. JumpStart Reading for Second-Graders is very well thought out.

There is a tremendous amount of content that will keep kids practicing language arts skills for some time. The mission to save the Lost City will be a strong motivating factor for most, and besides that, the activities are actually very fun.

Dollar Value
At a suggested retail price of about $20 US, this program represents an excellent value. It usually sells for about $25 Canadian. Note that if you have more than one child or a younger child, you might consider purchasing the JumpStart Learn to Read package that bundles JumpStart Reading for Kindergartners and JumpStart Reading for First Graders (an excellent title) in addition to this one for a suggested retail price of $40 US ($50-$60 Cdn.)

Released: 1999