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Artsy Animals Learn to Read / Artsy Animals Workbook 1 Review by Courtney Larson

By Sharon Jeffus
Visual Manna

Artsy Animals is a series of e-books that teach children reading skills, social skills, and art skills. I received Artsy Animals Learn to Read and Workbook 1, Artsy Animals Being Kind, and Artsy Animals Parties. These books are aimed at early elementary children or children with learning differences.

Artsy Animals Learn to Read is a 75-page book based loosely on The New England Primer, which was a book used in early American history to teach reading. There are suggestions for how to use the program with children in preschool through 3rd grade (and reluctant readers). For each letter of the alphabet, there are one or two animals that represent the letter, a catchy sentence about the animals, simple instructions for how to draw the animals, and a short art lesson. For example, the letter "f" is represented by a frog and a fox, and the catchy sentence is "I saw a frog flip on a fox." There are instructions for how to draw a frog and a fox, a fact about a frog, and instructions for coloring the frog green and the fox red, since these are complementary colors. There is also a second lesson for each letter, and it introduces a more complex phonetic skill. For example, the second lesson for the letter "f" centers on drawing a "frog in a bog," and the emphasis is on the -og sound.

The workbook for Artsy Animals Learn to Read includes additional activities for each letter. It is 53 pages long. For the letter "f" in the workbook, the student is introduced to Aesop's fable "The Fox and the Grapes," and the moral is discussed. There is also a picture of a painting by Monet, an introduction to cool colors, and instructions for drawing a frog.

Artsy Animals Being Kind is a 59-page book that introduces students to the Artsy Animal characters through rhyming stories and activities. There are nine stories included, and they teach children how to be kind to one another, even if someone is different. The Artsy Animals have differences. Oscar Octopus is kind of clumsy, but when he bumps into Walter Whale, Walter is very kind. The Dragonfly doesn't like being very small, but a Hummingbird reminds him that it's okay to be small. The Sloth isn't happy being slow, and he doesn't like his stutter, but the Turtle teaches him that being slow gives him time to appreciate all that is around him. For each story, there are pictures to color as well as a Bible verse. There are also photographs of all the animals, along with "Questions for Comprehension and Creativity." There are discussion questions that promote conversation about the character quality presented, websites to visit to learn more about the animals, and suggestions for drawing pictures or writing sentences and stories about the lesson.

Artsy Animals Parties is an 88-page book for throwing parties based on the Artsy Animal characters. Each party focuses on a different Artsy Animal and has a different theme. For instance, Leo the Lizard has a music party. Suggested activities for this party include making a top hat, making a cake in the shape of a drum, playing freeze dance, and making a tambourine, drum, and horn. Children are introduced to Laurence Welk, Louis Armstrong, and others. Stradivarius violins are introduced as precious, and children are taught that we should treat others well because they are even more precious than one of these violins. There are pictures and websites throughout to help you with each activity. There are nine parties in all. Other party titles are "Bard Buzzard Throws a Bird Wingding," "Polly and Paddy Have a Teaparty," and "Syl Sloth Throws a Cowboy Party."

Artsy Animals Learn to Read and the corresponding workbook would be a fun supplement to another phonics program for a student that likes to draw and color, but I don't think it is a program that could be used to teach a student to read. Artsy Animals Being Kind and Artsy Animals Parties would be a fun way to teach character qualities to your elementary children. However, I didn't find them easy to navigate, and a color printer would be needed to print them out because of the photographs in each book. Overall, though, these e-books are cute and have some good ideas. They would be enjoyed by children who love animals, art, and hands-on activities.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2010