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Word World Review by Donna Campos

Word World, LLC
155 Spring Street, 5th floor
New York, New York 10012
212-219-7666
http://www.wordworld.com/

WordWorld is a new half-hour program airing on PBS Kids beginning in September of 2007. Designed for preschoolers from three to five years old, this computer-animated program presents various characters and parts of their world in word form. For instance, the letters "p," "i," and "g" form the body of the pig; and the letters "b," "a," "r," and "n" are incorporated into the bright red barn. The WordFriends include Pig, Sheep, Frog, Duck, Dog, Ant, and additional animals. Each character has a distinctive personality (shy, incorrigible, serious, funny, a leader, etc.). Even though Dog happens to be nonverbal, he is still a very expressive member of the group. The program develops reading readiness skills in a playful, word-rich environment. Season One will consist of 26 half-hour episodes, each containing two 11-minute segments and an interstitial.

Each story will invariably present some sort of problem that the group needs to overcome. As they do, it will be necessary to "build words" by combining letters. Once the word is placed together correctly, it morphs into the form of the item it represents while still keeping the letters of the word intact. Character development is also included; both of the stories we reviewed included situations where the characters had to deal with the care of someone else's possessions. At times, the announcer interacts with the characters, offering reminders and pointing them in the right direction in moments of possible errors in judgment. Children's voices yell out the item names when words are correctly put together. The backgrounds and bright colors are engaging, and the graphics are simple animations; yet they include enough detail to ensure children understand what the word represents. A playful song that begins "It's time to build a word . . ." is played each time the WordFriends are presented with an opportunity to spell a word. This program is being funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Although it was not particularly created for homeschool use, it is appropriate for any homeschool that is comfortable utilizing television in their program or that desires an educational option during regular television viewing. DVDs of the program will be available for purchase on November 1, 2007.

Our family found WordWorld to be very enjoyable. Our two-year-old was mesmerized by the constant activity and vivid characters. We found the idea of using words to represent items a good one, and it was very well done with this format. The letters are sounded out as words are formed. For instance, when building the word "nest," Frog brought together "n" and "est" while sounding them out. We had older preschoolers make a word list from the words presented in the program, and homeschools could easily use such a list for early spelling practice.

Unfortunately, the words on the moving characters are sometimes distorted as the characters move. For instance, if Dog is standing and facing left, the word will present correctly. But if he sits or looks to the right, then the word is distorted. We suggest having older preschoolers write the words correctly in order to solidify accurate learning. Another disappointment was the lack of any Biblical content, which is not surprising for a program airing on PBS Kids. Nevertheless, it was sad to see such a creative idea completely lacking any reference to the Creator.

The WordFriends in WordWorld invite children to interact with the program while learning new words, or building words they already know. This program will become a new favorite for many children and will offer a higher level of learning value than many previous children's programs. Creative homeschoolers could easily build upon this program by adding spelling activities, story starters, character development, and more. Older children will find the idea of turning words into pictures great fun for art projects and may even be willing to make picture flashcards for their siblings with this new twist. WordWorld is an enjoyable program that can offer a bit of schooling for preschool children while retaining the animation so many children find pleasing.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2007

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