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Review CornerSoftware
Reading SOS (Strategies for Older Students) Family Edition
Rating: five stars
The Bottom Line
This is a well-designed step-by-step program specifically designed for struggling readers ages 9 and up (including adults). It is a focused and very absorbing software title that students can work on independently and confidently.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 9-up (including adults)   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
Reading SOS (Strategies for Older Students) Family Edition Product Overview
Reading S.O.S. is a comprehensive and excellent program that is designed to help older struggling readers improve their reading and comprehension skills. There is a strong focus on phonological awareness, sound symbol correspondence (connecting sounds to letters) and decoding skills. The program is unique in its adaptability — it adjusts automatically to each user's specific skill levels and performance, which greatly reduces frustration and creates a positive atmosphere for learning. The result is learning exercises tailored to each student's individual needs.

There are 5 activities for each of the 4 difficulty levels each with a good variety of exercises. Some of the activities include:

  • Master bdp (level 1): designed to help students distinguish between the sometimes confusing letters b,d, and p. Students will sort these letters into groups, and repeat the exercise trying to "beat" their previous time. They then sort words that begin or end with these letters into their appropriate groups.
  • Consonant Blast (level 1): students must explode words that they hear spoken, and improve their time.
  • E-Maze (level 2): contains a variety of activities in which kids progress through a maze by sorting words according to their vowel sound, choosing the correct word from two similar words, and building dictated words.
  • Add It (level 3): students sort words into boxes according to their suffixes, select an incomplete dictated word from a list and type in the suffix, and choose the correct suffixes to complete sentences.
  • Winners Old & New (level 4): builds upon the skills learned in all the levels. Students choose missing words to complete paragraphs. If they make 2 or more errors, they will practice the target words.
The above is just a sampling of the many activities and exercises in the program.

You will be surprised how easily users can work independently, as instructions are very clear for each exercise. This is particularly attractive for home users looking to improve skills. We were impressed by the program's ability to get the testers' attention and keep it for an extended period of time. There are no distractions, crisp and fresh graphics, and clear instructions, making this program superior on an educational level. There are a myriad of options and record-keeping as well for many students. Parents or teachers can create a student list and choose a starting level for each student. They can control access to the various levels, and even control the particular units with the levels. There is even a choice between a male and female voice for instructions. An achievement report can also be viewed and/or printed for each student.

An important note: Lexia Learning also produces an excellent program for early readers that is similar in format to Reading SOS, but is designed for younger students — see our review of Phonics Based Reading. Both programs are exceptional. The interface for Reading SOS is more mature than that of PBR, but the material covered corresponds to grades 1-4.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 3.1 or higher, a 486 processor or better, 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
basic reading skills, sound-symbol correspondence (connecting sounds to letters and letter groups), phonological awareness (awareness of sounds), decoding skills, reading comprehension

Educational Value
This program does an exceptional job of improving reading skills. It is focused and well-organized with automatic adjustment of levels to ensure a positive learning environment in which users can confidently work.

Entertainment Value
The exercises are designed to educate without distractions, and, as such, the program focuses on educational content. The kid testers were nonetheless totally absorbed in the exercises, perhaps even more so than their other flashier software games. Many of the activities include a timing feature that is not intimidating at all — in fact, players try to improve upon their own scores.

The care and thought that went into this program is evident in all areas, including its design. There are plenty of customization features, as well as exercises that branch out according to a student's performance. Students can work independently, and the interface is very well-designed.

This program is content-rich with 4 levels of difficulty and different exercises for each level.

Dollar Value
The family version is $149 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 Reading SOS. A school version is available.

Released: 1999