Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Jumpstart Reading With Karaoke

Jumpstart Reading With Karaoke

Fall 2005 Software
Ages: 4 - 7 yrs.
Price: $29.99
Platform: Windows 2000/XP
Combining learning to read with singing letter sounds is not a new concept in edu-tainment software. Tikes have vocalized syllables with musical animals before, and no doubt will again. But what's nice about this little pre-school reading program is that its learn-to-read karaoke works and it's fun.

The concept: Kids work through eight different reading-skill activities that play like games on HipHop Avenue, earning tickets for their successes with the help of the animated and encouraging JumpStart cat named Val. The activities range from fun stuff like depositing words into talking garbage cans that speak the beginning-letter sounds, to delivering alphabet-marked packages to create words. But, in fact, they are practicing basic skills such as identifying alphabet sounds, learning vowel sounds, rhyming, blending letters, sight-reading words, and reading aloud. Some of the games even use voice-recognition technology to nudge the mispronouncing child in the right direction in reading words.

When they've earned enough tickets, kids cash them in at the Karaoke Clubhouse where they get to record (microphone included) 24 different songs, all karaoke style, that reinforce the games' basic reading lessons. Then they get to play back the songs and hear themselves singing--a remarkable moment of enlightenment for some kids, an embarrassment for others. But certainly fun.

Even the lyrics of the songs the kids sing are designed to build vocabulary and practice reading skills--all of which are tracked in behind-the-games progress reports so parents can check how their young reader's doing.

Never mind that the graphics are pretty standard. The games aren't too challenging (nor should they be). And there's no storyline per se. None of that really matters. Why this software works is that kids who love music will come back to it--to sing more songs while getting in tune with reading fundamentals.

Don Oldenburg   ©2005 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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