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Reading Software Reviews

The Busy World of Richard Scarry: Best Reading Program Ever
from Simon & Schuster

For Ages 3 to 6

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Reading software titles, the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions, and previous SuperKids reviews of Reading software I and II.

Reviewed on:
Children's Software Screen Shot PowerMac 6100/60 with 24MB and 2XCD
Pentium166 with 16MB and a 12XCD

This cutely titled program stars the cast of Richard Scarry's charming children's books and television series. Mr. Fixit, one of Busytown's favorite native sons, built a "Storymobile" but forgot to bring along the stories. The player is asked to join Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm as they travel through Busytown, helping with chores so the residents of Busytown can write their own stories for the Storymobile.

Five different venues offer tasks that focus on rhyming, letter recognition, phonics, sorting, sequencing and sight word development. These tasks are of the basic variety found in most early reading software, but they are presented in a decidedly creative way, making them look new and intriguing to the user.

In addition to these reading and pre-reading activities, the program includes a mini word-processor which encourages the player to experiment with written language by creating original stories or completing pre-made silly stories.

Ease of Install / Use
The program installed without difficulty on our reviewers' test PC's. Installation on a Mac, however, was somewhat unusual in that parts of the program - over 7 MB worth - are actually installed on the machine's hard drive, rather than running directly from the CD. In addition, the user must make sure that current versions of Sound Manager and the Sound Control Panel are installed - not too time-consuming or difficult, if you know your way around a Mac.

Although this is an easy to use program, several of our kid reviewers reported some difficulty in navigating through the program. "What do I do now, Dad?" was a frequently heard comment during the first half-hour of use. The problem was two-fold: the slow pace of the dialogue led to premature mouse clicking - which cut off the directions, and the use of some non-intuitive icons to move to other activities in the program.

Richard Scarry's Reading Program incorporates basic pre- and early reading skill development activities into a story-line that is challenging and fun for young users.

Rewards for correct responses include lighthearted bits of animation that please younger viewers and encourages them to continue their pursuit. As children complete larger sections of tasks, by helping the characters with their chores, they collect read-aloud stories which are saved for them and can later be played aloud, or printed. Our parent reivewers noted that, "These rewards offer excellent incentives for further play."

One caution: although the program offers activities aimed at different reading skill levels, they are unsequenced, and intermingled. This means that a child new to the reading process can unexpectedly encounter activities designed for an early reader who already knows the alphabet and the corresponding sounds each letter makes.

Proxy Parent Value
The program scored highly on SuperKids' measure of a title's ability to capture and hold a child's attention. One parent reported that her child wouldn't let her participate with him, but delighted in providing regular accounts of his learning progress.

Best for...
This software is ideal for the kindergarten or nearly kindergarten-aged child who needs to learn and practice letter recognition and beginning phonics. It appeals equally to girls and boys, especially those who are already familiar with Busytown and its many colorful characters.

Children who need fast-paced activities, however, may find the pace of the program somewhat frustrating.

This engrossing pre-reading software interweaves learning and entertainment in a cheerful manner. Although it is aimed at pre- and young readers, older siblings who remember their old friends Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm will have fun with it as well.

Educational Value = 4/5, Kid Appeal = 5/5, Ease of use = 4/5
Ratings key, 1=weak 5=excellent

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Reading software titles, the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions, and previous SuperKids reviews of Reading software I and II.

Children's Software System Requirements


Operating System Windows 3.1, Win95 System 7.1 or higher
CPU Type and Speed 486/33 or faster 68040/33 or faster
Hard Drive Space 7.5 MB 7.5 MB
Memory (RAM) Win3.1 8MB, Win95 16MB 8 MB
Graphics SVGA 640 x 480 x 256 colors 640 x 480 x 256 color
CD-ROM Speed 2X 2X
Audio Sound Blaster compatible sound card n/a
Other Needs

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