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Kids Learn to Read Using Starfall
What is Starfall
If you have children, you know what it's like to go through the stage of learning to read. First trying to understand the sounds each letter makes, then trying to put these sounds together to make words. For some children, this comes fairly easy, but for others, this is a major challenge. When my third child was going through the process, I was introduced to a website called Starfall. A friend was sold on this website and to explain why, she sat her almost one year old in front of my computer and pulled up the site. She made a few clicks and the letter "A" appeared on the screen, and immediately her baby made the sound of the letter. She did this a few more times with different letters, and I was amazed. My daughter was about three at the time, a new three year old. I began using the site with her, and very quickly she knew sounds of letters and was sounding out simple words. By the time she was in Pre-K, she was reading sentences.
So what is Starfall? It is a free educational website that uses bright colors, music, and animation to teach reading to children using phonics. The site states that the main audience is Kindergarten through 2nd grade, but it is evident that children can begin to read earlier than this if they have the right motivation, and I believe Starfall provides this motivation. There are four levels provided: ABCs (getting ready to read), Learn to Read (provides simple to somewhat more complicated stories), It's Fun to Read (moderate level where children can answer questions about themselves, etc), and I'm Reading (which provides plays, non fiction, and other fun content that children enjoy). Within these levels and in other areas, there are games and challenges that give children an opportunity to practice word understanding, word/picture matching, and other fun activities.
What Makes it Fun?
Starfall is interactive. When a child chooses a story to read, the words appear on the bottom of the screen with a picture above. The child is able to click on the words and they are sounded out for the child, thus teaching the child how to sound out words in the process. The child can then click on the picture and it is in some way animated. For example, Zac the Rat has problems with ants, so he takes a big fan and it blows them away. How fun is it for the child to watch the story played out as they work on reading.
Starfall stories are creative and fun. From Peg the Hen in her jet to Gus the Duck finding a bug in the mud, to a Car Race and many more, children will become engaged with the funny antics of the characters. While clicking on the screen, colors can change, races take place, and surprises occur.
Young children believe they are playing computer games, and well, they are. My daughter wanted to be allowed to play on the computer like her older brother and sister, but there were just not many opportunities for a very young child. Once I found Starfall, I was very happy for her to be on the computer. She thought she was playing and I KNEW she was learning.
Today my daughter is in Kindergarten and is in the highest reading group in her class. She loves to read and is so proud when she begins something new. She understands letter combinations, silent vowels, and so many other reading concepts. She is even trying her hand at chapter books. She still enjoys going back to Starfall though. I commend Starfall on a well created website and very much recommend this for any child learning to read or struggling with reading skills.