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Review CornerSoftware
Reader Rabbit Learn to Read Success System: Preschool-2nd Grade
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
Families looking for a step-by-step approach to teaching their kids to read will find this program of CD-ROMs, flashcards, microphone, and video quite thorough.
Award
Ages: 3-8  Subject: Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling  Publisher: The Learning Company
Review Sections:  Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
This package, designed to teach base phonics and expand upon the basics, includes 4 CD-ROMs, two sets of flashcards, a Reader Rabbit video, and a computer microphone.

Children as young as 3-4 should begin with the Reader Rabbit Learn to Read with Phonics Preschool-Kindergarten CD-ROM. Children who are not ready for a step-by-step approach to learning to read can play this game in "free play" mode. There are alphabet songs and games that can be attempted as desired. However, the adventure mode of play is where this CD-ROM shines. Children take on a mission to restore the alphabet to Wordville, one letter at a time. Children "meet" each letter, explore its shape and phonics sound, and participate in a number of phonics blending activities. As children progress, they are introduced to basic sight words that will appear in the Letter Land's featured storybook. The storybooks serve as both rewards and reviews of the material learned thus far. Children can record their own voices narrating the storybook pages with the package's included microphone.

The Reader Rabbit Learn to Read with Phonics 1st & 2nd Grade CD-ROM doesn't quite pick up where the Preschool-Kindergarten title left off, but it follows a similar, step-by-step format. Children participate in a wide variety of skill-building activities that reinforce spelling, letter blends, and more. Children collect books as rewards, and these come in a nice variety of styles — comic books, journals, newspaper articles, and so forth. These books encourage children to read for meaning and expose them to a pleasing variety of writing genres. This program also includes 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.

The Dreamship Tales CD-ROM features a set of printable worksheets, songs, and four activities pulled from different Reader Rabbit grade-specific CD-ROMs.

Classic Tales is a re-release of an older title that features two interactive storybooks: The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Children will notice the older graphics in this game simply because Reader Rabbit has undergone a serious makeover since this title was originally released! Children choose a narrator for each storybook for a different perspective on the story. For example, Sam the Lion reads the classic version of The Three Little Pigs, while the Second Pig retells the story from his unique point of view. Children can let the program read to them, or they can select "Read Together" mode which allows them to read when they can. Each book features "clickable" words and each opens with a list of "special" words used in the story. Children can play games related to the stories, such as matching words with pictures and putting sentences into logical order. Express It is a unique activity that involves writing a letter to a character in the stories. The character actually writes back! A not-so-slow snail delivers the outbound and inboound mail.

Two sets of flashcards are included in the package, one set to support the Preschool-Kindergarten program and another set featuring sight words from the 1st-2nd Grade CD-ROM.

Another bonus in the package is a video entitled "Sing-a-Song Adventures". Children familiar with Reader Rabbit programs (such as Reader Rabbit Toddler and the original version of Reader Rabbit Preschool) will recognize these music videos. Children can follow the lyrics to the songs displayed onscreen.

Finally, a good-quality computer microphone comes with the program. This is a valuable bonus for families who don't already own one. Although the feature CD-ROMs in this package can be played without the record-playback feature, using this feature boosts the overall value of the program. When children hear their recorded voices reading the programs' storybooks, they gain valuable feedback. In fact, most children naturally adopt a "practice makes perfect" attitude with this feature, and they are motivated to improve their delivery in second and third attempts.

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 8.6-9.2.2, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, and 100 MB hard drive space. A color printer is recommended, but optional. A computer microphone is included in the box.

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
The program does an excellent and thorough job of presenting activities for the featured skill sets. There is a noticeable learning gap between the featured CD-ROMs, however. Rewards for success in the programs' activities are further reading and creative writing opportunities. The smart feedback in the program is well done — when children struggle with a particular lesson, they receive progressive hints. The educational content is quite rich, although repetitive.

Entertainment Value
Because of the heavy emphasis on learning through repetition, children who are accustomed to fast-paced and playful learning environments may need some encouragement to work through the CD-ROMs to completion.

Design
Nice features include different modes of play, encouraging feedback, and some help for struggling players.

Replayability
The feature CD-ROMs include two modes of play that ensure children with different tastes and learning styles will be accommodated. Strong, valuable, and plentiful content is featured, although the repetition can wear down children's patience over time. Some children will need encouragement to stick with the journey.

Dollar Value
This package retails for approximately $39.99 US.

Released: 2003 
Reviewed: March 2003