by Becky Palmer-Scott
Thank goodness for rich people — especially those who see fit to share their good fortune through acts of charitable giving. In this case, this generosity has given us a completely free, award-winning reading game.
“Teach Your Monster to Read”, a game for Pre-K to 1st graders, was funded by the Usborne Foundation, a charity set up by Peter Usborne, founder of Usborne Publishing. It is browser-based and runs on any computer or tablet.
The game has three levels:
- First Steps is for chidlren just starting to learn letters and sounds. It gives practice for 31 letter-sound combinations, including creation of CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, and a few nondecodable “tricky” words.
- Fun With Words is for children who are confident with early letter-sound combinations and are starting to read sentences. It gives practice with multiple-letter combinations, creation of three- and four-letter words, more nondecodable “tricky” words, and comprehension of simple to complex sentences.
- Champion Reader is for children who can confidently read short sentences and know all the basic letter-sound combinations. It introduces alternative spellings of sounds, alternative pronunciations, more non-decodable “tricky” words, and provides lots of reading for meaning and comprehension, from sentences to little books.
The game allows teachers and parents to add students, monitor student progress, and create reports.
But that’s just the nuts and bolts. The real fun is the game itself, which has beautiful graphics, entertaining sound effects, an engaging story line narrated by an enthusiastic reader with an English accent (which always seems more authoritative somehow), fun game action, and plenty of opportunity for student choice and customization.
Students start by designing their own monster avatar, and are immediately whisked to a locale in which they must perform errands or quests.
The game instructs users, then prompts them to practice their knowledge, using oral cues such as rhymes to draw on the student’s existing knowledge. The game mechanics have just enough repetition to make them easy to learn, and enough variety and surprise to keep them interesting.
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