The 4-part system consists of two educational videos featuring familiar JumpStart characters, learning stories and songs; three (brief) paper workbooks to reinforce onscreen learning; three "Learning Games" CD-ROMs (JumpStart ABC's, JumpStart Spelling and JumpStart Phonics) that include everything from arcade-style games to interactive stories and sing-along songs; and JumpStart Phonics, an early reading program with "Read 'n' Respond" speech recognition technology to provide kids with immediate feedback on their developing skills.
The package's four step approach to learning strives to "expose" kids to phonics through the video component, "develop" needed skills through the "Learning Games" CD-ROMs which provide kids with hours of learning drills and span a large range of ages, "reinforce" skills with workbooks and "sharpen" skills with Read 'n' Respond technology. This goal is met by repackaging individually released titles into a handy Reading System that gives kids abundant opportunity to practice phonics and early reading skills.
The four CD-ROMs are well-produced and each affords plenty of directed learning and fun. Although there is overlap in the target age for each of the programs, they are meant to be used in a progression -- the average 3 year-old is clearly too young for JumpStart Spelling program, while 8 year-olds are likely to be bored by JumpStart ABC's despite charming characters and sophisticated graphics. This makes it difficult to judge the program's longevity value. In general, however, each of the programs received above average ratings from our testers and their parents.
Ease of Use / Install
All four CD-ROMs installed without difficulty on our test machines. The Read 'n' Respond technology portion of JumpStart Phonics requires installation of IBM Via Voice, which is included on the CD-ROM (for more about the installation of this program please see the complete JumpStart Phonics review).
Best for... / Bottom-Line
This program offers parents and teachers a multi-media method of 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. Because this program is meant to follow the child from his or her first exposure to letters through refinement of reading and spelling skills, it is especially recommended for children at the younger end of the age range. Those in the older years would do better purchasing JumpStart Spelling as a single title.