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AceReader Pro Deluxe Review by Cindy West

StepWare, Inc.
320 Dakota Drive
Grand Junction, CO 81503

AceReader Pro Deluxe is a very interesting software program indeed. Its purpose is to improve reading skills and reading speed while training your eyes through various exercises, games, and drills.

It's not meant to teach reading; however, even a first grader can use some of the easier drills to begin improving reading speed. There is no age limit to the program. Even adults are encouraged to use it to make them more proficient, speedy readers. As reading speed is improved, comprehension is too, since the whole point of reading fast is to understand what you're reading!

Here’s the way the program works in a nutshell. Each time you log on, the program determines your current reading speed as you take a self-paced comprehension test based on a reading selection. You are then automatically sent to appropriate leveled drills and games on which you are to spend 15 to 25 working. The drills are essentially eye exercises that teach your eyes how to move quickly across a page or screen. The games give your eyes a break from the drills (which can make your eyes tired). During the drills, you are told to worry more about eye movement than comprehension.

There is constant encouragement to keep a positive attitude, to have patience, and to practice, practice, practice. They probably tell you this because, very honestly, the practice sessions can be tedious. The drills are very clear in their directions but are hard--at least in the beginning. I suppose the whole purpose of the program is that the drills get easier, though, right?

What I found unique about the program is that you can opt to set your own practice for the day or even add your own text from which to practice. So, once you get the feel for how the program works in the automatic mode, you can easily switch to manual mode and practice what you want.

You can choose from warm-up drills, performance drills, an eye span comprehension game, a search and scan game, a flashcard game, and more. During drills you can choose to allow the program to move you from slower to faster speeds automatically or you can jump right into whatever speed you choose. Speeds range from reading 184 words per minute all the way up to 736 words per minute!

Another interesting factor is that the screen can display text in various column styles. For instance, you can choose to read in one, two, or five columns or even a diamond shape. You can also choose from simply reading x's or actual words. A yellow highlighted area moves over the text as you try to keep up with it. Obviously, the faster the speed, the faster the highlighter moves.

So, to review, the program allows you to work in "course mode," which is a step-by-step progression through all exercises based on your reading comprehension scores. You can also work in "menu mode," which allows you to make several choices about the particular activities you want to complete. The final mode is called "expert mode." This section allows you to customize by adding your own text. In this mode you can also do things like changing font, color, word size and your speed.

I definitely recommend beginning with the course mode. It will give you a feel for how the program works. To be honest, I never felt the need to work through any of the other modes since the course mode put me right where I needed to be.

The company offers add-on programs too. The American History Test Set, Earth & Space Science Test Set, and Famous People Test Set add-ons contain 130 tests each. There are 13 different levels within each set, ranging in difficultly from first grade material through high school material. The same purpose of improving reading skills is the main reason behind these programs, but you can learn or review academic facts at the same time.

One other add-on is called Text-To-Speech; it uses human voice to say words. The company believes this program to be useful as a multi-sensory approach to learning, as well as helpful to ESL students.

Upon using the program the first time, you must register your information and create a password. Depending on the program you buy, it may be used by either one person in the house or up to five users. The version for five users costs approximately $40.00 more than the one-user version.

If you're interested in improving the reading speed of anyone in the house, this is a thorough program. It's a bit overwhelming at first, but once you figure out where to start, it becomes easy to implement.

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2008