Beginning Reading/Grades 1-2, by School Zone
Posted: 3-October-2001

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: School Zone Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Chris Kerian Class: EDUCATIONAL

Beginning Reading from School Zone Interactive is another offering from the software publisher's On-Track Software series of children's educational games. Beginning Reading is geared toward the 5-7 year old in grades 1-2. There are 2 stories that you can choose from in the game, A Different Tune and It's Magic.

The main screen has four sections:

  1. A Different Tune, where you can 'Pick A Page' or choose 'I can read'.
  2. It's Magic, where you can 'Pick A Page' or choose 'I can read'
  3. Dictionary, where you can look up words and find their meaning.
  4. Create A Story where you can create a story by choosing backgrounds, objects, and paintings created by yourself, you can also create sentences from groups of words and add them to the background and scene you have created.
  • Clicking the '?' summons help
  • Clicking the footprint exits the game.


Both stories allow you to chose from either Pick A Page where you can choose the page you want to hear and interact with, or I Can Read, which reads the story to you from beginning to end. Once you are in the story, you can click on objects in the scene that interact, on words to hear how they sound, or choose the dictionary to find the meaning of a selected word. You can also change the volume of the game from within this screen as well as exiting the story.

The Dictionary is laid out with tabs on the side, each one representing a letter. Clicking on a letter brings up a list of words that start with that letter. You can scroll through the words using navigational arrows and select other letters to explore by clicking on their corresponding lettered tab. Exiting the dictionary takes you back to the main screen or the story depending on where you came from (you can access the dictionary via the main screen or from within a story).

Create A Story has four areas to choose from while creating a story.

  1. The painting area is the main 'Create A Story' section. There's a pencil (thin) and pen (thick) tool, a paintbrush for painting backgrounds, a chalk for a spray can effect, a pencil eraser that erases only what you click, a chalk board eraser that erases the entire scene, a finger for moving objects you placed in the scene, a color palette to choose colors from, a printer icon that allows you to print the scene, and a trash can that enables you to remove objects you placed into the scene. You can scroll through different scenes you have saved.
  2. Clicking on the clover brings you to a screen where you can select objects from the stories that you can use in the story you create.
  3. Clicking on the icon of the trees allows you to select from one of 13 different backgrounds from each story that you can use, for a total of 26 to choose from.
  4. The 'Text' section is where you create sentences from different groups of words. For instance:

Adjective Noun Verb
Our Girl Cried
My Brother Disappeared
A Magical Lollipop Got Mad
His Cat Was fast
The Red Magician Went Home

Choosing one group of words from each column will create a sentence.


Conclusion
My 5-year-old son was the real test for this software and it seems to have passed. The software is entertaining and has multiple activities to keep a kid busy for the next year. Tylor absolutely loves to paint and draw using AppleWorks, so I was curious as to how he would react to this and he loves it. This is his favorite part of the game. Tylor is learning to read in school and we anticipate we will be using this software for awhile. The kid has an imagination and is already creating stories using the word groups. The game has a good help system that speaks to you telling you what to do (I used this a few times to determine what a particular tool did) and seems to speak in a language that a 5 or 6 year old can understand. My 2001 500mhz CDR model running OS 9.1 with 310 Megs of RAM was very responsive to the game and I had no freeze up's or problems.

One complaint is that the game doesn't support Finder pop-up windows (i.e., you will not have your pop up windows after you quit the game). It will also re-arrange your icons when the game switches to the 640x480 resolution, forcing you to rearrange your icons after exiting the game. I contacted School Zone support about this and they confirmed it is a problem that they are addressing. To their credit, I also had a problem with an older game of theirs not running and they confirmed the problem and sent me a replacement CD overnight that fixed the problem. They provide great service.

In summary, I highly recommended Beginning Reading for any child learning to read. The game excels with a good imagination due to the drawing and creative writing features.

Pros

  • Great tool to teach kids to read
  • Easy to use, interactive stories and dictionary
  • Creative edge with drawing and story creating features

Cons

  • Does not support Finder pop-up windows
  • Some game resolutions mess up the icons on your desktop


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice