Robbie the Raccoon is feeling down because he doesn't know how to read. Happily, Emily Squirrel has the solution to his problem. She encourages him to travel to Letter Island in the "Reading Rover" to embark on a learn-to-read adventure like no other. This is where budding readers come in. Through a carefully sequenced series of activities, children are introduced to each and every letter of the alphabet and the sounds they make, as well as a slew of frequently used words (sight words) and interactive storybooks.
The first set of activities revolve around the letter T. Children must first "call" the letter out of hiding by saying the sound it makes into the microphone. Once the letter T jumps out from behind a palm tree, children move on to a sorting activity that requires them to sort letter-labelled coconuts into baskets - one basket marked with the letter T, and another for any other letter of the alphabet. Both upper- and lower-case T are introduced here. After this challenge, children complete puzzles that visually reinforce the letter's unique shape. Subsequently, they work with sets of shells, each with a sound attached to it, to determine which one makes the T sound. Then it's off to a hut where players collect shirts labelled with words, identifying those that begin with T. Children then return to the Reading Rover, and a cloud in the sky delivers them a storybook they've earned. This first of many interactive - and printable - storybooks is entitled Tall T.
Other consonant lessons play similarly, though as children progress, the activities gradually advance in challenge. For example, while at first children work with beginning letter sounds in the labelled picture word activities, later they need to identify middle and ending sounds as well. The sound discrimination activities initially juxtapose considerably different sounds, then the sounds in each set gradually become less easily distinguishable. As well, new activities are introduced in the journey, including one in which children experiment with simple word building and another that requires them to build "silly" sentences. Both of these feature Edmark's trademark choice between Question and Answer mode and Explore mode. Vowels are also introduced with their short and long sounds (and their corresponding "hats") in separate lessons.
In between letter activities, children fly high in the Reading Rover where they encounter word-labelled clouds. When children successfully read a sight word (such as "the" and "all") into their microphones, the cloud is zapped away with a satisfying poof.
Children already quite familiar with the alphabet and individual letter sounds will quickly tire of the more basic activities that focus on these skills - these can be quite lengthy. The most exciting aspect of the program is its speech recognition engine. Children thoroughly enjoy the power they have to eradicate clouds using only their voice - what a novel reward for their reading efforts!
A second title in the series, entitled Let's Go Read 2: An Ocean Adventure, features a similar format with more complex reading challenges (including letter blends and new sight words).
Minimum system requirements are Windows 3.x/95 or later, a 486 or Pentium 66 MHz or better, 8 MB of RAM, 2X CD-ROM. For speech recognition, users require Win 95 or later, a Pentium 90, and 25 MB of hard drive space, and a high-quality microphone. A printer is optional.
letter recognition (upper- and lower-case), letter sounds, sound discrimination, sight word recognition, word building, rhyming words, beginning, middle, and ending sounds, sequencing
This title contains loads of repetition and a variety of skill-building activities that offer practice with letters and words in isolation, as well as in context. The result is a thorough introduction to basic reading.
Cute animated hosts, plenty of encouragement, and the chance to interact with the program through a microphone add to the entertainment value of this disc. However, some activities last a little longer than we'd like. As a result, some children tire of the repetition easily.
As with any program that incorporates speech recognition technology, children may find it frustrating when they successfully read a word aloud, and the program doesn't accept it as a correct answer. However, as long as children enunciate their words carefully, and are aware of the sometimes flawed nature of speech recognition, this shouldn't be too much of a distraction.
The program is designed exceptionally well with clear instructions, the ability to "click through" chatter, and a "Dear Parents" video on the disc that explains the goals of the program.
Strong content suggests above-average long-term potential, though some children will find a few of the activities too lengthy and repetitive.
This title currently sells for approximately $30 US.
Reviewed: April 2001