Electric Reading Land. (educational software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Peter Scisco
Folks routinely spot Elvis boarding a UFO, but how many parents would think to look for Jimi Hendrix in an early reading program? The phonics-based activities in Electric Reading Land help kids master a basic set of words, which they use to construct a storybook that will recharge an ailing space station. Learning the words means playing three word-building games: Jimi's Phonics Toy, Dino Beach, and Dragon Park.
Jimi's Phonics Toy is a great place for the very youngest kids to begin. This open-ended exploration allows kids to combine beginning consonant sounds with ending sounds. Children can make actual or nonsense words, without penalty. The program won't create profane words. At the same time, it doesn't recognize all possible combinations, such as y and ip.
Dino Beach starts kids off with a picture-word matching game. Auditory reinforcement breaks the words into their phonetic components. When the picture of a jet appears, for example, the word jet is broken into j and et, then spoken aloud. The pictures soon give way to letters, and kids must pick the correct combination of letters (and sounds) to solve the puzzles.
Dragon Park, featuring a dragon named Santana who sounds suspiciously like Jack Nicholson, adds the element of sorting to the word-building skills. Kids must place words into separate boxes according to the spoken directions. At this point, kids are recognizing whole words and are able to distinguish the phonetic components used to create them.
Electric Reading Land isn't as detailed in its animation and graphics as other programs in this genre. Nonetheless, the characters will captivate young children, and the educational component is sound and well designed. A sound card is required for Electric Reading Land to be truly effective.
As kids learn words in the Dragon Park and Dino Beach games, they gain the word power necessary to complete the storybook and repair the damaged space station. Parents will want to go along for the ride in order to explore the hidden references to the 1960s, from Nixon to Easy Rider. Not to mention a bit of "Purple Haze."