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Sound Reading Solutions Software: Boost / Remedy Review by Stacy Rocha

Sound Reading Solutions
379 Turkey Hill Road
Ithaca, NY 14850

Sound Reading Solutions is not your basic phonics instruction reading company. It is based on the premise that struggling readers are deficient in phonemic awareness and have auditory problems that prevent them from interpreting sounds into written symbols. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds in speech. Auditory skills are essential to being able to hear and distinguish these individual sounds and then link them to print. Instead of focusing on print to sound, the program focuses on hearing the sounds and then linking them to phonograms. On this premise the developers at Sound Reading Solutions have developed great software targeting these troubled areas to help all struggling readers not only learn to read, but read with fluency and comprehension. Using fun interactive activities, the student practices phonemic awareness and auditory skills before and then along with reading instruction. I was able to review two software packages: Boost (for ages 6-8) and Remedy (for ages 9 to adult). Each kit comes with one CD-R om and two readers.

Installation is easy; however, even after installation you will still need the CD-R om to use the software. The software itself is very user friendly. No matter the age, your child will be able to use it without your assistance. It is recommended that headphones be used so that your child is hearing the sounds being made without any outside interference. It also helps if it is quiet where your child is working. Background noise and distractions may be detrimental to your child's progress. My son really struggled with the program when there was too much commotion or noise. He would get very frustrated, so we had to keep everyone outside or quietly occupied while he worked.

It is recommended that the software be used two to three times per week for 20-30 minutes per session. You should not try to rush your child through the program. To insure success your child should focus on what is being presented and not how fast he or she can complete the program. After your child is familiar with the software, you can introduce the readers. You can use the readers as one of your weekly sessions or any time you wish.

There are 12 levels with approximately 33 activities per level in the software. The main screen has six level markers across the top and bottom with 23 hexagons in the middle. By clicking on a colored hexagon, your child will begin the next activity in the program. Once the activity is completed, the hexagon turns transparent. Your child may click on a different hexagon on the screen to go to the next activity or repeat a previously completed activity if desired. As each activity is finished, a small part of the background screen is revealed. Once the level is finished, the whole scene is shown with brief music. Then the scene is moved to the level marker, and a new set of hexagons appears with a new background. If at any time your child is struggling with an activity, he can click on the red X icon at the top of the screen and return to the main screen. The hexagon for that activity will turn red. If your child exits out of five or more exercises in one level, he will be blocked from moving on to the next level until enough of the exited activities have been completed. The parent or teacher can also unblock the child by clicking on the report icon at the beginning of the program to access the blocking feature. This isn't preferred, as it is important for your child to complete the activities to fully master the skills required for reading success. You can also monitor your student's progress by clicking on the report icon on the main interface screen.

Boost is for ages 6-8. Some examples of the 25 activities on the software are:

Letter Manipulation: You child will move blocks with letters in them to make the word that is spoken. After the first word is made, your child will be asked to change the word into another word by removing the block of the sound that has changed and replacing it with the new sound. The sounds can be heard by scrolling over each block. If your child doesn't get the correct spelling the first time, he will need to try again.

One Sound Spelling: In this activity your child will practice working with multiple spellings of the same sound. Depending on how many sounds a phonogram has, there will be that many circles with the different phonograms above them. A word is shown with one of the spellings of the phonogram. Your child will click and drag that word to the circle with the correct spelling of the phonogram.

The activities in the readers help reinforce the skills in the software. There are a few short stories throughout, but the main emphasis is on phonemic and phonological awareness. Fluency is practiced with Fluency Squares. There are four rows with four squares in each row. Each square has either a word or a nonsense word in it that is to be read. Once your child can read each line smoothly, then he or she practices reading the entire box more and more quickly. Changing Words has three columns of words. The words are to be read vertically, with one letter changing in each word to make a different word. Read-Sound Out-Read has a word at the beginning of the line, then the letters of the word separated, and then the word again. Your child will read the word, sound it out, and then read the word again. At the end of the program, your child will be able to read sentences like: "Then Greg remembered that the store is closed today." and "Patch and I like to run through ditches."

Remedy is for ages 9 through adult. Many of the activities are the same as in Boost, but they are at a higher level. For example, with Letter Manipulation the words are longer. Students will begin working with longer multi-syllable words as well as with higher-level phonograms. The readers have an activity called Timed Repeated Reading that helps to develop fluency. The student will read a short story, around two pages long, while being timed. The time it took to read the story (as well as the words per minute) is recorded. Students will do this three times per story to help with fluency. There are Stop and Think and Relate questions in the story to help with comprehension. Grammar is also introduced in the readers through small exercises. At the end of the program, students will be able to read words like absolute, sensation, attendance , and hopefully .

I have seen improvement in my 9-year-old son who has been struggling with reading. At the beginning of the program, my son was very excited about the software and enjoyed it. About halfway through he started to get bored with the activities, so we took a little break and then resumed. This program is very easy to implement and is not teacher intensive. Besides familiarizing myself with the software in demo mode, there was nothing that I really had to learn. No schedules to figure out, no lesson planning--everything is open and go. The only downside I found to this program is the cost. When it's on sale you can buy it for $189; however, the regular price is $249. The software is not reusable, so once your child has completed it you will have to buy another code for $50.00 if you want to use the software again. Domestic shipping is free, and the company offers a payment plan. If you decide you are not satisfied with the program, there is a 30-day, two grade level money-back guarantee. For a beginning reading program, this software is impressive. So many programs focus on the wrong things (learning the letter names, sight words, etc.). Sound Reading Solutions has got it right.

Product review by Stacy Rocha, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2010