Wiggle Works contains three stories: Birds on Stage, Peanut Butter Rhino, and Frog’s Lunch. After selecting one, the user is presented with a screen offering five different activities: have the book read aloud or read it alone, write and illustrate a new version of the book or his/her own book, or click and drag letters onto a magnet board to form words and play word games.
One especially neat function of this program is its text-to-speech capability, which allows the program to read aloud whatever your child writes. This feature includes a variety of voices to choose from. Our parents and teacher reviewers thought this was "awesome." The user can also record and play back his/her own voice, which makes reading alone fun for a child. The child can practice reading aloud to the computer and later listen to his or her recording - or save it for you to hear later.
Ease of Install / Use
Setting up Wiggle Works was relatively simple on the Mac: insert the CD, click on the "install wiggleworks' icon, and restart your computer when prompted. The installer will also install QuickTime, Sound Manager, and a Text-to-Speech program if these are not already present on your system. Installation on a PC was also fairly typical: the “install me” icon leads the user through the install process.
A word of advice: Wiggle Works has a lot of features that were not intuitively discovered by our kids and parents; reading the manual is a must, if you want to get all the program has to offer. In addition, you should help your child the first few times he or she uses this program. With younger children, you will definitely need to explain how to use the activity options.
The Read activity resembles many other animated storybooks, begining with the choice of "read to me" or "read along." If the former is chosen, the software presents a screen image, then reads a short sentence, highlighting the text as it is read. Unfortunately, as one of our kids reviewers noted, "this is boring -- the pictures don't do anything." The Read activity also offers users a chance to record their voices reading the text -- most of our kids loved this.
In the Writing and Drawing activity offers an interesting twist on most young children's drawing programs -- it includes a functional text to speech capability that allows the child to hear the computer read back whatever the child has written. All of SuperKids' reviewers thought this was a great feature. The basic drawing and coloring capabilities of the program, however, are unexceptional.
Proxy Parent Value
Based on our tests, once a child knows how to use Wiggle Works chances are reasonably good that the child will be able to entertain him/herself. The trick is in getting your child to that point! The program includes a number of parent-settable options that can help the process, including a neat feature for non-readers that reads button labels when the cursor is moved over them.
Wiggle Works will help a child who is interested in reading, improve his/her reading skills. It is especially suited for children who enjoy reading, yet need a bit of help. Children who have no desire to read will probably not enjoy Wiggle Works -- animated storybooks would be a better choice for them. Younger children who do not yet have any significant reading skills may enjoy certain activities such as coloring, but they will not derive as many educational benefits from the program.
Wiggle Works contains lots of activities for developing reading, vocabulary, writing, and speaking skills, in an entertaining fashion. Most of the activities are creative, rather than drill and practice, and will entertain while they build your child's educational skills.
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