reviews\ May 29, 2002 at 8:00 pm

PHONICS 1a Vowel Sounds Beginning Reading - PC - Review

With so many educational programs on the market these days targeted toward schools, it's strange that there are relatively few reading instructional ones. Of the ones available, many are more "edutainment" than "educational". Phonics 1a, from Help Me 2 Learn, is a refreshing entry into this needed field, with an emphasis on teaching rather than surface gloss.

Phonics 1a is the first in a series aimed at the beginning reader. Short and long vowel sounds are introduced and reinforced using phonics. Children see and hear the letters and corresponding sounds, then listen to a song about that letter sound. There is an activity for each vowel sound for practice. The "Learn the Words" section features words that can be sounded out with individual sounds or with the entire word. A variety of activities are included, but for some reason, all the ones linked to the short vowel sounds are the same "flash card" activity with just a different letter. However, the long vowel games are all different. The songs and activities can also be printed out for additional practice.

Designed primarily as a supplement to traditional teaching methods, this program is an excellent way to practice short and long vowel sounds. The songs are original and catchy (written by Twin Sisters Productions) and will have your kids singing along! The activities are simple, but just right for young children. The Learn the Words feature is the best visual and auditory combination I've seen yet in phonics based programs to demonstrate sounding out words. There are a few drawbacks, namely the lack of printable books, using the letter sounds learned. Also, for some reason, the letter "a" used is the sort with the overhanging curve on top, instead of the more usual D'Nealian type that is a circle with a little tail at the bottom. This could be confusing for young children learning their letters. Despite these minor quibbles, Phonics 1a is a worthy entry into the beginning reading field and is a good asset for any school or home setting. Kids will enjoy practicing their sounds, and will come away with a feeling of successful accomplishment at their new-found reading skills. The price is reasonable, and there is a 90 day money back guarantee if the consumer isn't satisfied. Demos are also available at the Help Me 2 Learn website.

Gameplay: 8.5
While simply designed, the activities, songs and sounding out letters all combine for a solid learning experience that is educational and fun.

Graphics: 8 
The cartoon kids featured in this game are cute and likable, very nicely drawn. The backgrounds to the songs and activities are nicely done, as well.

Sound: 7
Grownups will find themselves singing along to the songs, too!

Difficulty: Easy
The interface is easily learnable and features a simple interface.

Concept: 8 
There aren't that many good phonics based reading programs around, and this program is one of the better ones.

Overall: 8.3
Teachers looking for a software supplement to their reading programs would do well to try the Phonics series. With the money back guarantee and online demos, teachers don't have to be afraid of being stuck with an unusable product. But I'm betting that they won't return it.


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