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SideDoor Publishing, LLC

740-F Sierra Vista Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043-2576

PictureWord-Books has come up with a great idea for practicing reading skills with children ages 3-8. They have created sets of cards and books that pair beautiful, vivid pictures with the matching word on cards. Each set ($23.40 each) has a spiral-bound book that has a page for each item, such as a picture of a dog and the word "dog" written at the bottom. Then there are three sets of cards, similar to flash cards, for various stages. The first set contains exactly what is in the book - the picture and the word paired together. Then there is a set of cards with just the pictures, and a separate set with just the words. All of the cards and the book, plus a card with suggestions for using the set, fit into a small plastic case, making these sets very portable. Some sets are slightly different depending on the particulars for that set of items. The idea is to help your child build from reading about the items in the book, to matching the pictures, to matching the word when they can see the word on the card, to matching the word to the picture when they cannot see the word, etc. There are many ways to use this innovative product depending on your child's needs!

I reviewed four sets, including Animals, Bugs, Time, and Colors. The Animals Set 1, which has 21 different animals, and the Bugs Set 1, which has 23 "bugs and critters," are both designed as described above. The Time set includes 21 different cards featuring a particular time of day, with five sets of cards showing the time on an analog and digital clock, and written out and then as it would be spoken, plus a book showing all of the times, and one card for each time with all four items. The Colors set covers the three primary (red, yellow and blue) and three secondary colors (green, orange and purple), further breaking them down into light and dark shades.

I've been using the animals set primarily with my 6-year-old, Benjamin, who has Down syndrome. He knows his letters and their sounds but can't sound out words yet, and he struggles to pronounce words due to a speech problem known as apraxia. We started with a couple of cards and reviewed the animal, sounded out the word, and then started matching the pictures to the cards in various ways. After working with these sets for a couple of weeks, he is able to consistently match ten animals with their names and pronounce their names as we go, which I think is wonderful progress. They have held his attention enough that he is willing to work hard to learn the words.

These sets are a wonderful tool for homeschoolers because they are so portable and the pictures are interesting and bright. Having the different sets of cards makes it easy to create many different learning activities or games to keep the child interested and to keep increasing the difficulty slowly. There are some minor problems with some of the cards printing off-center and I think the price is a little bit high, but overall the quality is very good. I would like to see the company expand the selection to include some everyday item cards, such as household items that would be useful with younger children just learning basic vocabulary. However, there are several other sets made by PictureWord-Books we may have to try, including the Adjective-Noun set, the Foods that Count set, two different money sets for learning about coins and bills, and the Outside-Inside Name that has pictures of the outside of fruits and vegetables and of the inside for practicing this difficult concept. The cards and books are made of good quality paper that should last through several children, the printing is bright and interesting, and the concepts are well thought out. I would recommend these sets for homeschooling families with young children, especially for children with developmental or learning challenges who need additional practice!

-- Product review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, January 2006

Picture Word Books

SideDoor Publishing LLC

740-F Sierra Vista Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94043

Picture Word Books are a beautiful tool for learning starting with preschoolers all the way through elementary school. I had the opportunity to try out four different sets; Real-Abstract, Mammal of Africa, Musical Instruments and Language set 1. Each set consists of about 25 photo picture cards, and in the case of Real-Abstract, there were also black and white drawings based on the picture cards. As well there were word cards corresponding with the picture and drawing cards and whole cards which included all three to be used as a reference. Included are a reading book which matches the whole cards and instructions for use. Having read up on the Montessori method I knew they used such photo cards for sight word match ups, for classifying elements of nature and even for fine art study.

Another way I used the cards was for auditory and visual sequencing activities with my younger, and learning disabled children. The publishers recommend the cards for use with non-verbal youngsters (a great language acquisition tool) and young children who are learning proper speech. With the Real-Abstract cards you could also use them as a jump off for sentence writing or just copying down new vocabulary words. I was really excited to use them. They are beautiful as flash cards, especially compared to many of the silly cartoon pictures sold on flash cards in teacher supply stores. The rest of the sets were equally fascinating. With the Mammals of Africa set your child will have the opportunity to learn Latin classifications, a good start on taxonomy, Latin and for younger children, vocabulary. In the Language Set 1: ?a? or ?an?, there are included rule cards for determining which to use, and picture cards which correspond to a sentence. This would be a good independent language exercise for an elementary student with much more interest than simply filling in blanks in a workbook.

Again the photos are beautiful, which I believe lays a foundation for your child to appreciate that which is lovely, and have their tastes trained to enjoy a job well done. Finally the Music Set 1: Instruments has seven heading cards which correspond to the seven types of instruments such as woodwind, brass and voice. The child is then able to classify 26 different photo cards according to family and name. In the information book, there is a picture with the correct classifications as well as a facing page with information on the structure and origin of the particular instrument. These could be used in a group music class, for enrichment, or again for vocabulary development. My children were all quite taken with the cards and I was pleased with the heavy duty packaging and clear pictures. There is an available divided tray which would have been helpful in keeping them from sliding around, although this shouldn't be a problem at a table (I was doing my testing from bed while in the last weeks of pregnancy). I was really happy to find these though. I have a few preschoolers who are benefiting from them and many uses for them with my elementary students, especially my boys who often seem allergic to workbooks and in need of variation in their school routine.

-- Product Review by Jennifer Pepito, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, January, 2007

PictureWord-Books: Vertebrates of North America

Sidedoor Publishing, LLC

740-F Sierra Vista Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043-2576

PictureWord-Books: Vertebrates of North America is a boxed set of Picture Cards, Common Name Cards, Class Label Cards, and Whole Cards (28 of each); a 56-page spiral bound book; an instructional pamphlet; and a plastic box to keep everything organized. An additional "Learning Tray," which can be purchased separately, is useful for laying out the cards for activities. There are many other PictureWord-Books in various subject areas: from animals and bugs to time and money.

The spiral bound book contains a two-page spread for each animal. One page is identical to the corresponding Whole Card, showing a color photograph of the animal, its common name, and its class label. The facing page gives additional facts about the animal and lists the animal's kingdom, group, phylum, class, order, and family. The last pages of the book include a pronunciation guide for the more difficult scientific names.

The set is designed for ages 6-9, but younger students might enjoy matching the Common Name Cards to the Picture Cards. The child who learns best when manipulating objects should enjoy this activity set.

The storage box has rubber feet on the bottom (as does the Learning Tray) and does not move around on a table while in use. The hinged lid is top quality, and the box itself is very sturdy.

Although I generally like all things flash card related, I was not immediately enamored with this set. I was a bit intimidated by the many labels and cards, and I also wished that there were more suggestions of ways to use the cards. We ended up using the cards to play a simplified version of Concentration. We placed four or five of the Whole Cards face up and placed the Picture Cards, Common Name Cards, and Class Label Cards face down in three separate sets. My son would turn over one from each of the three sets until he succeeded in matching up the three cards as shown on the corresponding Whole Card. My son was a little young to get the full benefit of the set, but we will be using it as he gets older. We found the Learning Tray to be a wonderful addition but not absolutely necessary. If I were purchasing multiple sets of PictureWord-Books, I would definitely invest in the Learning Tray since it does help to keep things organized, particularly for students who become easily distracted.

As we played with the set and I watched my son investigate the cards and spread out the labels, I began to appreciate the depth of learning designed into PictureWord-Books. Even though I still wish there were more suggestions for using the product, I can see that the company has designed the set to be flexible so that the educator can implement his or her own ideas according to the needs of the student.

For some, the cost may be a little too high. In our homeschool, we would probably have opted not to spend the money on this product, choosing rather to rely on encyclopedias, simple animal flashcards, and high-quality books to learn more about animals. Nevertheless, it is a quality set with a wonderful storage system, fantastic photography, and durable materials. And the opportunity to manipulate the cards and labels and match them up may be very useful for certain types of learners. It is obvious that much thought and professionalism have gone into the PictureWord-Book sets. Overall, they are a very informative, flexible product that will encourage children to learn more about specific subject areas.

-- Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, October 2006

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