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SuperKids Software Review - The Parent's and Teacher's Guide to Childrens' Software
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JumpStart Phonics

Knowledge Adventure

Ages 3 to 6

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
Kid Appeal
Ease of Use

JumpStart Phonics Screen Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

This early reading software takes kids to Camp Readalot. Here, accompanied by Camp Director Frankie, kids can experience the fun of summer camp as they pursue a variety of phonics activities and games and earn coveted merit badges. Armed with a microphone and the program's "Read 'n' Respond" speech recognition technology, user's can practice sounding out letters and words and receive immediate feedback on their progress.

Educational Value
JumpStart Phonics offers five distinct activities, each with an associated game, and three skill levels to ensure that everything from letter recognition to spelling and rhyming is covered. Kids can choose to read and speak their responses, using the program's "Read 'n' Respond" technology, or simply point and click as appropriate.

Kid Appeal
Despite first rate graphics and animation, our testers only gave JumpStart Phonics a slightly above-average rating for appeal. Scores reflected a lack of richness in storyline and environment. The "Read 'n' Respond" technology was unanimously voted the 'best part' of the program. Users delighted in speaking to the computer, and were surprisingly patient in their attempts to be understood.

The activities included in the program, although not terribly unique, do a good job of drilling kids in phonics, spelling and early reading skills. Our testers especially liked the River Raft 'explore' activity which lets kids combine letters to spell words that are then sounded out by Mount Rushmore-like JumpStart Character visages.

Ease of Use / Install
JumpStart Phonics installed without difficulty on our test machines. The "Read 'n' Respond" technology requires installation of IBM Via Voice, which is included on the CD-ROM. A microphone is also required.

Adjusting the microphone is a bit of an accomplishment and may require some time. On more than one occasion we found that although the on-screen instructions told us that a signal adapter was needed to reduce the incoming volume, retrying with the microphone held a larger distance from the speaker's mouth was sufficient to get it working correctly.

Not surprisingly, our testers complained that the voice recognition technology was far from infallible. Voices were often heard incorrectly or not at all, and as the age of the user declined these mistakes grew in frequency. Fortunately, users can choose to point and click in lieu of enunciating, so that when kids grow weary of attempting to be understood they can use this back up method of communicating with the program.

Best for... / Bottom-Line
This program offers parents and teachers a novel approach to teaching phonics and early reading to young children. Its user-friendly format makes it work with or without parental involvement, however the included voice recognition technology is far from perfect and does not match a care giver's personal touch

See SuperKids' comparisons with other reading software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.

System Requirements
PC: Windows 95/98, 100 MHz or faster cpu, 45 MB hard drive space, 16 MB RAM, (32 MB RAM recommended), 256-color or higher graphics display, 4x or faster CD-ROM, 16-bit windows-compatible sound card.

Mac: System 7.53 or higher, Power Macintosh or faster cpu, 15 MB hard drive space, 32 MB RAM, 256-color or higher graphics display, 4x or faster CD-ROM.

Reviewed on:

  • PowerMac 6400/200 with 32MB and 8XCD
  • Pentium166 with 24MB and 12XCD
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