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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Visually chaotic but surprisingly effective
on March 19, 2009
My 3 year old begs to watch a "movie" every day, so when I give in, I try to choose something instructional. He knows his letters and their sounds, and is starting to put words together, so this was at the right level for him.
The good: The video is almost non-stop phonics lessons without much filler. This means that in two 30-40 minute sessions, they cover vowels, consonants, special consonants with more than one sound, vowel blends, digraphs, silent e, consonant blends, digraphs, and common phonics "rule-breakers". It is actually an astounding amount of material.
My child has seen limited videos that weren't educational, so his entertainment standards aren't high, but the video keeps his attention enough that he asks for it and wants to play one particular segment over and over because it has a scene transition that mimics breaking glass, and the narrator says, "Oops!" which is highly comic, in his opinion. Granted, he watches the video while jumping off and on the couch, and literally sometimes standing on his head, but after a week, he startled his father by singing, "A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y, sometimes Y." Obviously something is trickling in.
He can also apply some of it to sounding out words already. He knew tonight that "ur/ir/or/er" could make the same sound, and we used it to sound out "tractor," "bird," and "flower." This is after only 1 week, mind you, and this lesson comes late in the video, far past the "oops" lesson that he has watched repeatedly.
The Leapfrog Letter Factory IS very helpful and educational, but it had him firmly convinced that vowels only made short sounds, and there was no mention of any letter making more than one sound (I know they get there in Code Word Caper, but he was very mistrustful of that video as heretical). He wouldn't believe me that letters could make different sounds, but he'll believe a video over a parent any day.
The bad: Visually, this production is a graphic design nightmare. The words are set against a primary kaleidoscope, and there are these computer-generated characters with abnormally wide-opened eyes that make them look hyperthyroid on No-Doz. The storybook characters on another video by Rock-n-Learn have those same weird eyes, and my son won't even let me get the video out of the package. (They're scary, Mommy.) Fortunately, the comp-gen people aren't on-screen most of the time, although their annoying little voices are heard "off-stage" frequently. Of course, their little jokes are meant to appeal to the preschool crowd, and I think they succeed there.
The actors remind me of a line in an Edith Wharton story, Roman Fever, "that rare accident, an extremely pretty girl who somehow made youth and prettiness seem as safe as their absence." They're not quite as adept at lip syncing and mimicking guitar playing as one would like, and the dancing reminds me of my first middle school dance, but I'm sure it's better than hiring Janet Jackson as the song/dance consultant.
Most of the video focuses on the words (as they should) and an inset of the actor's mouth, which is useful for pronunciation, but unfortunately, the color balance is off (compared to the full frame people scenes, which look fine), so that the skin looks sallow and the teeth yellow. It's just a little weird when the mouth dominates the screen.
All of this is to say, it's rather a painful video to watch with your child if you're visually sensitive. If your kids are used to watching more sophisticated entertainment, they may very well not find it meets their standards. There is no engaging story line, no endearing characters, no songs worthy of immortalization in Hal Leonard sheet music.
The bottom line is that it was made to educate, not to win an Academy Award, and it does work, at least with my relatively entertainment-naive preschooler.