Reader Rabbit's Reading 4-6 is an ambitious program designed to teach reading through "the development of phonemic awareness, letter sounds, word families and sight words in a purposeful, contextual fashion." Or so said one of our teacher reviewers! What does that mean? It means that if you looking for a systematic, phonics-based reading program for your child, this is it.
This entry in the Reader Rabbit series takes our character down the reading path through "Letter Land," a path littered with 40 sequenced storybooks of the genre familiar to those of us schooled before the advent of whole language programs. ("I see. I see Sam. Look, Sam! Look!") In addition to the basic reader books, the user must work through "skill house" games that teach basic encoding and decoding techniques (m + at = mat, h + at = hat).
Reader Rabbit's Reading 4-6 follows a controlled vocabulary approach to beginning reading instruction (i.e. there is a finite set of words used in each book, each used in a progression, with repetition). While favored by many phonics proponents, it is unlikely to be appealing to a whole language purist. Our view is that different children learn in different ways. With some, phonics is the superior approach, with others, whole language may be more successful. But in either case, a child's ability to read well ultimately will benefit from the decoding skills this program teaches.
The program is purposely designed for school use in K-2, as well as at home use. Although our more experienced teacher reviewers felt Reader Rabbit's Reading 4-6 contained "excellent" educational material, they felt it unlikely they they would consider building their reading curriculum around a software package. One thought it had excellent potential for home-schooling a beginning reader.
This is a strong education title, and is lighter on entertainment content than most comparable products. We tried it out with kids 4, 6, and 8 years-old, and none of them were captivated by the program. "I liked it at first because I liked the other Reader Rabbit's," said our 6 year-old. "But this one was boring." Our 8 year-old said, "I didn't see much point in the books. We don't read 'Look, Look' books in school. There are more interesting books than that." This program does not appear to be a good babysitter surrogate -- but that really is not its intent.
Ease of Use / Install
Installation was simple on both the PC and the Mac. Both parents and kids found using the program intuitive, although the older children were frustrated by the structured pace of the program. The consumer manual was very good, and the teacher's manual excellent.
Best for... / Bottom-Line
Reader Rabbit's Reading 4-6 is appropriate for a typical kindergartner. Advanced pre-schoolers would benefit, as would slower 2nd and perhaps remedial 3rd graders. If you want a highly structured, phonics-based program, you've found it! But if you are looking for something the kids will go off and work on by themselves for an hour after dinner every night, you will probably be disappointed.