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:
- A Different Tune,
where you can 'Pick A Page' or choose 'I can read'.
- It's Magic,
where you can 'Pick A Page' or choose 'I can read'
where you can look up words and find their meaning.
- 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 '?'
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The 'Text' section
is where you create sentences from different groups of words. For instance:
Choosing one group of words from each column will create a sentence.
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
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
- Great tool to teach
kids to read
- Easy to use, interactive
stories and dictionary
- Creative edge with
drawing and story creating features
- Does not support
Finder pop-up windows
- Some game resolutions
mess up the icons on your desktop
4 out of 5 Mice