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Homeschool software

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS. Dorling Kindersley pound;14.99.

A rip-roaring version of the classic tale, complete with wily Pigs and a truly terrifying Wolf that should be let loose on more sensitive children only with a lot of reassurance. This CD-Rom is full of activities. Children can opt for an interactive version, for instance, which sets riddles and other puzzles so that they can help the Pigs outwit the Wolf. Or they can listen to a reading of the animated story, sing along karaoke-fashion, or create their own tale with the sound removed.

It stands repeated use, is aimed at four to six-year-olds, and would be an excellent way of encouraging emergent readers to pick out words. It also helps problem-solving and encourages observation. One for every infant school's software collection.

BEAR AND PENGUIN'S BIG READING ADVENTURE. Bear and Penguin's Big Maths Adventure. Dorling Kindersley pound;19.99 each

With its fun-to-play games, reward system and jolly commentary, Bear and Penguin's Big Reading Adventure is probably the best CD-Rom on the market for helping to develop infant pupils' literacy skills.

It contains four inviting games which help with word recognition, reading and sentence building, and which children are instantly keen to play - especially when they get something right, get praised by White Bear or Little Penguin and earn points towards a "sticker". There are three levels of difficulty and the program tracks the progress of individual children. A useful advice section for parents and teachers gives extra tips, and there is a printable progress chart. Best of all, it is such fun to play that children are willing to practise their emerging reading skills without realising that they are working.

The companion CD-Rom, Bear and Penguin's Big Maths Adventure, features less fun from the Arctic pair and has a slightly more functional feel to it - but that still makes it a more entertaining way to practise number skills than most of the CD-Roms on the market. Again, it's aimed at three levels of difficulty, for five to seven-year-olds, and would be good for use at home or in school.

MY FIRST CD-ROM: STARTING TO READ. MY FIRST CD-ROM: NUMBER. Dorling Kindersley pound;19.99 each

These sparky titles are also fronted by the ever-encouraging Bear and Penguin in a magical, icy world of games. They are well thought-out and executed, and they are enormous fun for young children. Every nursery and reception class should have copies.

Both are aimed at three to five-year-olds, can be used at three different levels of attainment, and include intelligent software which tracks each child's progress and adjusts the level of difficulty. Children can use the programs independently, clicking to hear instructions, help or numberletter sounds at any time. Teachers or parents can monitor their progress by checking how many rewards they have earned. Praise and rewards accompany correct answers, and each CD has a special area which can be accessed only when all the tasks have been successfully completed.

The games in Starting to Read include the wonderful Monster Lunch (great for practising matching sounds) and Rhyme Time. Other games practise the skills children need to read successfully, and there is an alphabet at the top of the screen for constant reference. Number uses the skills needed for later maths learning, including counting and sorting.

Susan Young

Order enquiries for all titles: 0870 840 4400

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