Content and Methodology
For early readers, Interactive Reading Journey 2 (IRJ 2) is a 'must-have-it' program! Built on the model of The Learning Company's well-regarded earlier release for younger children, IRJ 2 utilizes a carefully sequenced learning progression. In this program, the user will progress steadily through 30 storybooks (each approximately 30 pages long), and 15 learning activities. The books are also provided in a hard-copy version for additional reinforcement.
Each story is presented in a consistent manner: the theme is introduced by a narrator along with new words that will be used in the story; a page is read to the user (this default setting can be disabled); then the user is encouraged to read the same passage aloud and record it on the computer.
This requires that a microphone be set up on your computer. If you haven't yet added a mike, this program should be sufficient to drive you to do so, noted one of our parent reviewers.Clicking on a picture of an ear, the user can playback their recording, and compare it to the previously read version. "My daughter absolutely loved this feature," said one father. "And I was especially impressed by how she tried to mimic the voice inflection patterns in the story."
The text progresses gradually from single sentence pages in the earliest levels, to short, multi-paragraph pages by the end. "I was truly amazed at my first-grade daughter's progress in just the first day, let alone the first week, using this program," the father noted in his review.
At the end of each story, the user is prompted to exercise what our educators regard as two crucial reading skills, reading comprehension, and story extrapolation. Reading comprehension is stimulated by the opportunity to answer a "Think Back" question, and record an answer. Story extrapolation is stimulated by a "Use your imagination" question. For example, "if you were a car like Buster, what sounds would you make?"
The 15 learning activities come in three categories. The first is a sound-sorter activity, where the user has to listen to a spoken word, then identify which of three labled containers to put it in, based on correctly identifying sounds with letters. The second activity is a rhyming challenge, where the user stacks rhyming words to build a giant "sub" sandwhich. The third activity is a syllable teaching drill, where the user learns that "sounds come together to make syllables, and syllables get together to make words."
Ease of Install / Use
IRJ 2 was quick and painless to install on both our PC and Mac test units. On the PC, the user simply has to confirm a drive and directory. On the Mac, it was even easier - simply click on the icon to run the program. Not counting the optional electronic registration, total installation time on either machine was less than one minute.
Ease of use is a common stumbling block for many children's programs. Nothing kills a child's interest in a new program more than watching mom or dad studying a manual. IRJ 2 has a small user's guide, but our reviewers reported no need to open it to successfully use this program. (Our editors took a look, however, and report that it provides a brief educational overview as well as information on navigation within the program.)
Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is SuperKids measure of how well a program grabs and holds a child's attention. IRJ 2 scored at the top end of this measure with our children reviewers. "She wanted to continue working with [the program] into dinnertime the first day, and well past her bedtime the rest of the week." noted one mother.
IRJ 2 is not for every 5 to 8 year-old. But it is very well suited for what might be described as a typical first-grader: a child who knows the alphabet and the sounds associated with each letter, can read simple words using a combination of decoding (or "sounding out") and sight recognition, and is interested in improving reading skills. If your child is just learning to recognize letters and the sounds they make, this program will be too difficult. If your child can already pick up and read a book that has more pages without pictures than with pictures, they're beyond this program. But for that crucial level in between, this is an exceptional program.
For it's target user, this is the best reading program we have encountered.
|Operating System||Windows3.1; Win95||System 7.0 or higher|
|CPU Type and Speed||486DX/25 or faster||68030/25 or faster; PowerMac|
|Hard Drive Space||3 - 12 MB||2 - 11 MB|
|Graphics||256 color SVGA||13" color|
|Audio||Windows-compatible sound card||n/a|