Teaching young children to read and write is one of the toughest jobs in education. While some children learn to read easily, the challenge lies with the students who don't—with some never seeming to pick up the knack. Additionally, it can be overwhelming to ensure that 25 or so children are making progress, along with receiving adequate oral reading time and the specific instruction each child needs to progress to his or her potential.
These days ... young children are becoming increasingly sophisticated computer users and computers and Internet access are becoming less expensive, more powerful, and faster. In addition, a number of software developers have created software that can serve as the core to a complete early literacy program with very attractive features and advantages. Enormously improved graphics, illustration, and sound make these programs more effective as well.
Cutting-edge, computer-delivered early literacy instruction generally focuses on beginning reading, not intervention or reading for older students. These programs offer a full literacy curriculum, working with pre-, beginning, and emergent readers, and provide some features that reinforce writing development. Many of the newer programs offer Internet delivery as an option as one—if not the only—way of accessing the material.
Finally, all of these programs feature adaptive assessment and instruction to one degree or another. That is, the programs monitor student responses, offer instant real-time progress reports, and may even modify instruction to suit student needs.
This article examines a sampling of cutting-edge early literacy products for a variety of uses: full curriculum, limited computer access, adaptive computer-based instruction, large and Web-based programs, Reading + Writing and ESL, and home or school. Keep in mind that this is not an attempt to cover the entire category; these programs were selected as good examples of their types.
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