When it comes to kids and technology, I’m a Luddite. My Wii is gathering dust. We don’t have a DS or an iPad, and I certainly can’t tell you what Angry Birds is. Typically, I limit the boys to a couple of PBSKids shows per day, but they can only watch when I’m getting ready for the day or cooking dinner at night. Still, I give the Starfall computer program 100% of the credit for teaching my son how to read at age 4.
My mom, an elementary school computer teacher, bookmarked the program on our computer a couple of years ago, and she’s played it with my son from time to time. I upgraded to the subscription version of the Starfall program last year ($35 per year).
My son became obsessed with “Word Machine,” an animated game that helps children learn short vowel sounds. The word machine starts with a word, for example, mat. Pull the lever, and a boot squashes the “m” and replaces it with an “r.” The game then has the child sound out “rat.” The colors are bright, the characters are silly, and I think my son enjoyed pushing buttons, pulling levers and watching what happened.
Before I knew it, he was sounding out words left and right, and I was struggling with how to teach him long vowel sounds. I even bought a set of Starfall early reader books. We had been using Bob books, but the black and white pencil drawings were no match for Zac the Rat and his jam or Peg the Hen (who flies a jet, by the way).
My son is now showing his little brother how to play Word Machine. It’s pretty funny to watch him coach. Pretty soon my husband and I won’t be able to spell words in front of them, when we don’t want them to know what we’re saying.