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Review CornerSoftware
Reader Rabbit Learn to Read with Phonics: 1st & 2nd Grade
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
This program is useful for children in need of extra practice with phonics and reading. Children with a good foundation in phonics will benefit most from this title--it is challenging for most early first graders. The variety of activities offered in the game is impressive.
Ages: 6-8  Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Publisher: Knowledge Adventure
Review Sections:  Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
Designed to teach and reinforce early reading concepts through phonics activities and reading and writing practice, this program takes children on an adventure in and beyond Wordville, the hometown of Reader Rabbit and Sam the Lion. Children can choose to play the game in Adventure Mode, which guides them through a series of activities, or in Practice Mode for immediate access to any activity in the game.

If kids elect to attempt the game in adventure mode, they are guided through the activities while participating in the story line. In order to find the "land where lions roam free", children must collect books. The adventure begins in Wordville and the first stop is Sam the Lion's house. Kids sort out his many green shirts according to the vowel sounds of the words attached to each shirt. Listening skills are required in this somewhat challenging game. Another activity requires children to select books labeled with words according to given rules, such as finding a word from a particular word family. A similar game is found underwater, in the Harmony Land, where children play follow-the-leader with a sea lion. Children also "dress" crabs with words that they need to spell, and catch falling nuts in order to create real words.

A nice feature of the game occurs after children collect each "book". For one, the books come in a variety of formats--they are comic books, newspaper articles, poems, journals, and so forth. For another, children are required to read the entries, and then they take part in some activity based on their reading. One requires children to answer questions about the story they have read. Players answer the questions (for example, "What was on the map?") by clicking on the answers in the actual text of the story. Another involves clicking on the rhyming words in a poem; and, after reading a comic book, children create their own comic panel using text and paint tools. These activities encourage children to apply their skills and read for comprehension. At the same time, they introduce kids to a variety of genres.

Whenever a new land is opened up, players must "power up" the Dreamship with words. From a list of words, kids choose one that conforms to a certain phonics rule. For example, they may be asked to find a word containing a particular consonant blend (such as "ch").

We have a few complaints with the program. In adventure mode, it is sometimes confusing as to what children should do next. A little exploration is required to figure out the next step. We also have a complaint about the choice of words in one activity. Children are required to make words given a beginning consonant blend and a number of possible endings for the word. Words like "gloss" and "prop" were difficult for our first-grade tester. Also, once Reader Rabbit and Sam the Lion reach the "land where lions roam free", they return to the ship with Grandpa Sampa only to discover that they must redo the activities over again. Although the activities are replayed on a second level with more challenging phonics games, the idea of repeating the activities was disappointing for our testers.

There is a learning gap between the excellent Reader Rabbit Learn to Read with Phonics: Preschool & Kindergarten and this title, designed to be the next step in the series. Fresh graduates of the first title will have a tough time with this new one, simply because a more solid knowledge base in phonics is assumed.

However, the program has its strong points as well. A second CD-ROM, containing over 100 printable activities, song-videos, and addtional activities, is included. The approach to learning is varied and strong. Children who work through the entire program will come away with stronger phonics skills. The books that children collect throughout the adventure contain words from the activities, and they are printable. There is a record-playback feature that is fun and educational for children who enjoy reading into a microphone--listening to their own reading provides wonderful feedback and can help boost confidence.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, and 100 MB free hard disk space. Mac users require a Power PC, 180 MHz or faster, OS 8.6-9.x and Mac OS X 10.1.5 or higher, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, and 100 MB hard drive space. A color printer and microphone are recommended, but optional.

Skills Covered
phonics, short and long vowels, consonant blends, phonemic awareness, sentences, vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, rhymes, word building, spelling, listening skills, reading aloud, exposure to a variety of literary genres, and creative writing.

Educational Value
We are impressed with the program's blend of activities. The activities, which focus on phonics, are bookended with reading practice, reading comprehension activities, and writing opportunities. The smart feedback in the program is well done--when children struggle with a particular lesson, they receive progressive hints. Also, some instruction is included in the program. The educational content is quite rich, although children just beginning first grade will likely find it challenging.

Entertainment Value
Although the adventure format helps children feel like they are part of a story line, kids will definitely know that they are doing school work as they work through the activities. Our testers were interested in the game, but needed some encouragement to continue through to the end. This title is probably better suited for a school or homeschool setting for this reason.

There are plenty of options available in the game, and variety of gameplay--as well as two different modes of play--are nice features.

Two modes of play ensures that children with different tastes and learning styles will be accommodated. There is quite a bit of content to work through, but many children will need a push to stick with the journey.

Dollar Value
This 2 CD-ROM set retails for approximately $25 US.

Released: 2002 
Reviewed: October 2002