We're talking books;Literacy;Education

15th May 1998 at 01:00
A gentle, reassuring program has been devised to help reluctant readers. Nicola Jones reports

WITH THE National Year of Reading starting in September as the millennium draws near, it seems appropriate to use computers to encourage children to pick up a book. Semerc, now part of Granada Learning, has produced five CD-Roms to support materials from Wellington Square, a familiar reading scheme designed to motivate reluctant readers from 7 to 11 years old in key stage 2.

The Wellington Square level 1 title, for children aged up to six and a half, consists of six full-colour talking books, taken from the scheme's "Set A" booklist, together with two animated cartoon texts taken from the "Set B" booklist.

Level 2, for children aged up to seven, is also available and levels 3, 4 and 5, for older pupils, will be ready in June.

The stories are read in a pleasant voice, with animated illustrations to help give pupils a better understanding of the plot.

It is important that reluctant readers are able to move at their own pace. Children can listen to the text in different modes so that individual words can be selected, or a story can be read slowly or at normal speed.

For assessment purposes, it is important the teacher has some idea of where the pupil is experiencing problems, and this program allows the teacher to set up user areas for individual students. This will guide pupils to start working through from the easiest book, and will enable teachers to print out a report of their progress. Several activity packs are included with the disc, all of which support reading skills and which are presented in a gentle and enjoyable format.

Activities include tasks involving the alphabet, phonics and sequences. A section also allows pupils to meet the characters, with a brief description of who they are and what they do.

Generally, the design of the program is very user friendly, although my young tester had a few technical problems filling in the missing words in a clozed activity, as some words seemed to slide away rather than go in their proper place. But we were using an unfamiliar laptop, with touch control rather than a mouse.

Overall, this is a gentle and reassuring title, which moves at an appropriate pace for students having difficulty getting started with reading. Used in conjunction with the Wellington Square reading scheme, it should help to meet some of the objectives for the National Year of Reading.

Wellington Square Level 1. CD-Rom for Multimedia PC only. pound;59 (ex Vat). Semerc 0161 627 4469

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