Starfall for Reading

Many parents express to me that reading with their children is comparable to war. Parents know full well the importance of reading and want their children to be beyond comfortable in this area. My theory is that children want to be perfect for their parents; when learning to read, the child feels that the amount of mistakes he or she makes equates to imperfection in their parents’ eyes. Therefore, I look for ways for children to take control of their own reading; Starfall offers this experience to children—approximately ages four to eight—and their parents.

At Starfall, children can enjoy vivid pictures and accompanying music or sounds while practicing an array of reading levels—from letters and beginning sounds to full stories. The beginning books focus mainly on the short and long vowels, while the advanced stories cover Greek myths, Chinese fables, folktales, comics, and plays. In all stories, rather than being corrected by Mom or Dad, the child uses the mouse to click on a word he or she doesn’t know, which then lets them hear a voice sound out the word. This website keeps the child engaged because the pictures and sound effects are fun and enticing. For instance, in the short story Peg the Hen, children work on the short “e” sound. On the first page, each time the child clicks on the hen, the hen changes colors. The child can choose the color of the hen, and as the color is chosen, the correct color is reflected in the reading below the picture: “Peg is a red hen” or “Peg is a blue hen.” Once the child chooses a color, such as red, the hen will remain that color throughout the story. My students, absolutely intrigued, can’t wait to continue reading. Also, as a child, I would think, “If I can change the color of the main character, then I can do just about anything…especially sound out the words on the page!” As children shape the story, they also shape their own reading.

The main reason that Starfall is so successful in helping children read is that the pictures actually move when the child clicks on different areas of each page. In Peg the Hen, on page one, not only can the child determine the hen’s color, but also the child is also able to dress the hen with goggles, a scarf, and a pilot’s hat before turning to the next page. On the following page, the child can change the color of the plane and send it flying through the air. As the plane soars, so does the child’s confidence and reading! On the page that reads, “The jet is fast,” my student clicked on the plane and it sped into the air. Moments later, my student clicked on the plane flying through the clouds in the background, and the hen made a full-circle in the air while making an incredibly funny squawk. Only a child would have thought to click on that plane; the unexpected movement of the picture excites the child, who feels even more control over his or her own reading. Self-correction, manipulating the mouse, and choosing where to click on the page leads to the child’s great sense of accomplishment.

Starfall was designed by someone who had first-hand experience struggling to read and wanted to change the process for others. This website will help your child progress in reading and increase fluency, while promoting independent thinking, problem solving, and independent, pro-active learning. The stories and accompanying artwork are playful, funny, and clever, and the site is user-friendly. After reading the stories, children or parents can go to the Download Center and print out accompanying Phonics pages.