Getting ready to read doesn't only mean learning letters and letter sounds. Recognizing similarities and differences, attending to details, identifying rhymes, and understanding sequences are all essential skills required as children begin to learn to read. This CD-ROM presents 30 workbook-style pages that deal with all of these skills and more. Though some of these involve matching uppercase letters with their lowercase counterparts and alphabet sequencing, many exercises focus on following directions and other reading readiness skills.
Crisp graphics, an outer space theme, and exciting mini-games make this software title feel more like fun than work. Buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, and skating polar bears are just some of the animated surprises. Each workbook page is accompanied by colorful illustrations set against white backgroundsvery eye-pleasing fare.
Children are expected to follow directions on each page as they refer to alphabet lines in order to determine letter sequence, find objects that are opposite and others that belong together, or hunt for shapes in pictures. Little color-coded planet icons flag pages that contain mistakes, are complete, or not yet attempted. Though children can follow a linear progression through the program, they can use the planet icons to hop around from page to page if they so desire.
One of the 3 reward mini-games is a memory game in which children take turns with an unseen computer opponent, and work to uncover a hidden picture. The other two are arcade-style, requiring children to carefully time shooting a rocket into space to avoid hitting anything along the way, and keep a snowman from melting by avoiding the sun's rays.
Parents will appreciate the program's emphasis on straightforward exercises that stress skills practice. Because the exercises are automatically graded and the interface is easy, children can work through the program independently. Kids not especially interested in working through the pages of printed workbooks will want to complete these ones.
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98 or higher, Pentium 166 or faster, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 150 MHz or faster, 32 MB RAM, System 7.6.1 or higher, and 4X CD-ROM. This program requires 50 MB of hard drive space. A printer is optional.
visual discrimination, classifying, alphabet sequence, shapes, opposites, rhyming words, sequencing, eye-hand coordination, recognizing objects that belong together.
Parents looking for more explicit early reading training that incorporates phonics should look elsewhere. A typical first-grader will breeze through the program too easily. However, this title is very appropriate for advanced preschoolers as well as kindergarteners in need of practice with following instructions and exercises in visual discrimination and sequencing.
Bright illustrations adorn every virtual workbook page, and children are rewarded with interesting animations and exciting game breaks, helping to keep interest levels high.
A clear interface and a natural progression through the program means children can play independently. At any time, children can skip through animations and instructions, hop to a different workbook page, or bypass a bonus game.
Randomized problems and shuffled pages keep the program rather fresh. Still, children will encounter some of the same exercises, and, at the very least, similar problems in subsequent sessions. This doesn't seriously cripple replay value because the program is very enjoyable; but because the level of challenge does not increase, educational value diminishes over time.
The CD-ROM is packaged with a colorful, high-quality workbook, and sells for $20 US.
Reviewed: April 2001