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8 Classic Card Games Review by Deborah Burt

Washington Reads
4602 Harling Lane
Bethesda, Md. 20814

Homeschooling families naturally understand how games can make learning fun. Washington Reads also recognizes children's inherent instinct for games and, with this in mind, has designed 8 classic card games to reinforce a variety of reading and spelling skills. Each of these 8 card games consists of a deck of professional quality, brightly designed cards enclosed in a cardboard case printed with full-color charming graphics. The actual cards are sturdy, have a comfortable feel to them, and appear to be built to last.

The card games target progressively more difficult concepts related to phonemic awareness and the alphabetic code, helping children become fluent readers and confident, capable spellers. The games cover skills such as sounding out little words with short vowel sounds, recognizing high-frequency sight words, practicing long vowel sounds with letter patterns, reading multisyllabic words, practicing correct spellings and pronunciations for various word endings, and building sound-symbol associations for various vowel patterns. The 8 classic card games may be purchased separately or as a complete set.

Don't Be Greedy is the easiest of the games; it can be played by anyone who can sound out simple consonant-vowel-consonant words. During a player's turn, he draws a card, reads it aloud, and puts it into his collection pile. He may draw as many cards as he dares, but if he draws a Wild Card he must discard all of his recently acquired cards! My Turn, My Turn and Outlaw are played the same way, each one increasing in reading difficulty.

Fish for Endings is played like Go Fish. For example, a player may ask another player if he has the ending "-sure" as in "measure." If that player has the same ending (for instance "-sure" as in "leisure") he would need to give up his card so that the first player could make a pair. If not, the first player would "go fish."

Crazy Sounds, New York Minute, Sound Off 1 and Sound Off 2 are all spin-offs of Uno. Crazy Sounds is the easiest of the Uno-type games, allowing players to match the sound on the card or the color of the text. The player says the sound he is playing ("o" as in "home") as he plays his card, giving him lots of practice in identifying and pronouncing various sounds. New York Minute is like Speed Uno, where players race to get rid of cards by matching color of text or number of syllables in the words. Sound Off 1 and Sound Off 2 get a little tricky! The idea is again the same as Uno, but this time players match either sound or spelling. For example, if the word "flow" was face up on the discard pile, a player could match it with either the word "boast" saying "I'm playing the 'o' sound as in 'boast'" or he could play the word "brown" saying "I'm playing the 'O-W' as in 'brown.'"

My budding reader adored Don't Be Greedy and My Turn, My Turn. Playtime became enjoyable reading practice for him without feeling at all like drudgery! Sound Off 1 and Sound Off 2 really helped me see spelling patterns I had not noticed before! I was forced to really consider spellings and sounds as I searched my hand for matches. The card games in between these easy and harder sets were just perfect for my 9 and 11 year olds. In fact, these cards were useful and fun for everyone in our family!

When I first received these 8 classic card games, I had the expectation that each game would be a variation of a different classic card game. I was surprised that so many games were alike. Although they are all fun games, I would like to see the company develop games based on other classic card games. Of course, I have never tried to develop phonics games based on classic card games, and it is probably much more difficult to do than it looks! To be fair, Washington Reads does provide a link to extension ideas to use with each and every one of these card games. You simply have to type in your email address on their website to have access to the extra ideas.

The biggest drawback to Washington Reads' classic card games is the price. The decks range from $13 to $19 each, or the whole set can be purchased for $115. Personally, I would expect to pay no more than $8 to $10 a deck (but I am a bargain shopper).

Overall, our entire family enjoyed the 8 classic card games. I kept a deck or two in my purse at all times, and we would play while waiting for dinner at a restaurant or waiting at the doctor's office. Washington Reads has created educational card games that truly are "powerful portable play!"

Product review by Deborah Burt, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2009