Reader Rabbit II. (educational software) (evaluation)
by Peter Scisco
This excellent successor to Reader Rabbit combines whimsy and word skills in just the right measure to keep your child interested and learning. The entire game has fantastic graphics appeal, and its fanciful demeanor hides, but doesn't detract from, its educational content.
Reader Rabbit II consists of four games, all designed for early readers. The first, Word Mine, teaches the formation of compound words and words that begin or end with two-letter blends (like match). Help your bunny pal and his mode miner friends put together words and fill a rail car with word crystals. Youngsters will enjoy the rewards of collecting the crystals, and they will begin to recognize the relationships that lead to a more complex vocabulary.
A second game, Vowel Pond, teaches long and short vowel sounds in the guise of a happy fishing trip. Help Reader Rabbit net a day's catch by identifying words that match a particular vowel sound. For extra assistance, children will also see a word that matches the appropriate vowel sound. For instance, if they are looking for words that contain a short u, they'll see the word stuff. As a parade of fish swim by, the player must select the ones that carry the appropriate-sounding wordsemblazoned on their sides. Pick the correct fish, and it goes into the net; pick the wrong fish, and it's the one that gets away.
Another word sound game, Match Patch, asks kids to identify word patterns and associations. These include simple rhymes among words that share the same letters (like pat and fat), word opposites (like find and lose), homonyms (like to and too), and harder rhymes among words that share the same sound but not the same letters (like time and rhyme). Each of these levels draws upon different vocabulary and pattern recognition skills.
Rounding out this rollicking rabbity foursome is Alphabet Dance, which teaches word order. This is an essential skill necessary for sorting and for working with alphabetized lists and references like dictionaries. The game takes place at a barn dance. The object is to line up the dancing partners as directed. Start out with simple first-letter ordering among words that directly follow one another (like Frank, Gertrude, Harvey, and Ismelda), and move on to harder groups that don't follow in direct sequence (like Alfred, Karen, Paul, and Yolanda). For more of a challenge, kids can order names according to the second letter in the name, and by the first and second letters in the name. Each successive level builds upon the skill learned from the level before. For assistance, a list of the alphabet appears at the top of the screen disguised as a banner above the dance floor.
Aimed at a slightly older audience (from five to eight years of age) than its predecessor, Reader Rabbit II promises to be as much a classic as the original Reader Rabbit. Even in this video age, word skills are as important as ever. Here's a chance to give your kids a head start or to reinforce what they're learning in the classroom.