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Review CornerSoftware
Phonics Based Reading
Rating: five stars
The Bottom Line
An exceptional phonics-based program that is highly effective. This program is not only appropriate for struggling readers, children with short attention spans, and dyslexic students, but it also helps develop important literacy skills for children with a wide range of abilities.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 5-9   Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Brand: Lexia Learning Systems
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
KidSpeak French Product Overview
Phonics Based Reading is a highly focused software program that helps improve a child's ability to read. An important goal of the program is to help children acquire and develop automatic word recognition skills that are vital to the reading process. It is filled with interactive exercises that branch automatically according to the child's performance.

This program is unlike the edutainment reading software you've likely seen — it is much more focused, which is not to say children don't enjoy doing the activities, either. Phonics Based Reading limits distractions, and puts all of the emphasis where it should be.

There are 3 levels, each containing 5 activities and 1 bonus activity. Each activity contains a number of units which increase in difficulty as children progress.

  • On Level I, kids work with straightforward 3-letter words and single letters. One excellent activity has children sorting the often difficult letters b,d, and p. Touch and Listen (pictured above) teaches kids sound/symbol correspondence of the short vowels through exploration (clicking on the vowel and seeing the object associated with it), then through testing. In Consonant Castle (pictured at left), parts of a castle slowly appear as children provide the correct letters that will complete a word. In Match It!, kids are presented with simple phrases such as "a bat" and "a wet hat" and they must match them with pictures that illustrate those phrases.
  • Level II introduces words with long vowel sounds and the silent "e", like "dime". Kids will learn the difference between pairs like "dim" and "dime" (and sort them accordingly), learn to recognize some four-letter words with blends and digraphs (ex. "belt" and "neck", learn to substitute letters to change the meanings of the words (such as "change 'bun' to 'bug'"), are introduced to words that are not as easy to "sound out" (ex. from, by), and lots more.
  • Level III involves work with two syllable words, vowel combinations (like "oo", "ea", etc.), vowel-r combinations (like "ar", "or", etc.), etc. Children do activities that involve more complex words (ex. change 'stung' to 'sting'), listening to words and choosing the correct vowel combinations, combining syllables to form words in an elevator, and more.
Also included are 2 Alpha Series activities that involve sorting single letters and words into alphabetical order. The bonus activities include a simple creativity exercise in which kids choose different colored shapes to place on the screen, a Mix-Up reward that involves making silly phrases, and Water Works in which children assemble sections of a pipe.

There is a lot of content in the program — too much to list all the activities here.

When children make a mistake, they are told tactfully "That's not quite right", and then are asked to try again. In some activities, after a series of wrong answers, a practice unit is launched. Other times, the correct answer is simply highlighted to help the child, and sometimes the child is bumped out of the activity altogether so that he/she can find a more suitable one. In Bridge (Level I), for example, kids listen to a word (like "ham") then must choose either "i" or "a" within a certain time frame to allow the smiley face to be directed the right way. If they don't get many correct, they begin a practice session that doesn't involve any timing or pressure.

A bar graph provides a visual look at a child's progress made in the different activities. The black backgrounds in the screens place emphasis on the words and the vibrant pictures.

The activities are uniformly excellent. My five-year-old is very motivated to play through them, and is learning far more important reading skills and strategies than with any other software program I have used.

Phonics Based Reading is being used in many schools with dramatic results. Although it is designed for struggling readers and dyslexic students, it can be used in a variety of situations. It works very well as a reinforcement of basic phonics skills for kids of all ages and abilities. The average child in kindergarten or first grade will do well with this program. Many schools use a whole-word approach to reading, but unfortunately there are a number of first-grade children who are missing out. They need real tools and word attack strategies in order to advance. This program is well-suited to these children who are struggling in first grade with reading, or simply need some extra phonics practice that they are not getting at school.

Phonics Based Reading is an excellent, systematic program that helps kids acquire important word recognition skills that are essential to fluency in reading.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are a 486/25, 12 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Mac users require a Mac OS 7.0 or higher, with 12 Mb RAM, and at least 2X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
automatic word recognition, short vowel sounds, visual discrimination of reversible letters (b,p,d), matching sounds of short vowels with a symbol, reading comprehension skills, initial sounds, sound segmenting, short-vowel words with blends and digraphs, long-vowel words with silent "e", visual and auditory discrimination, words with vowel combinations, vowel-r words, word-attack strategies, two-syllable words, sound segmenting for initial, medial, and final position, alphabetical order

Educational Value
The educational content is much higher than other software reading programs on the market.

Entertainment Value
The focus here is on word attack skills, and although designed to be without distractions, kids will enjoy working through the activities.

The program is very well designed and easy to navigate.

There is a lot of content here (even more when a child is making errors). It is recommended to be played at least 45-60 minutes a week in blocks of 15-20 minutes.

Dollar Value
The family version is $119 US. Keep in mind that although you could buy a few other learn-to-read titles with that same amount of money, you won't necessarily get as effective a program as Phonics Based Reading. It comes down to a question of quality or quantity. Read the body of the review to decide whether or not this program will be optimal for your situation. Phonics Based Reading is the best early reading software program I have seen, and is well worth the higher price tag. The school version is $375, and contains some extras (such as more advanced achievement reports), but from the student's point of view, there is no difference.

Released: 1998