Review of Reading HorizonsMay 2002 | JoAnne Gerding, ESL Special Projects Specialist | Adult Education Learning Center
Reading Horizons is a comprehensive program that is practical for the teacher and the student. It is designed to help both succeed. The program has a detailed format that addresses all the verbal communications skills: listening, speaking, and pronunciation.
Learning phonics is often a slow and steady process. The design of this software demonstrates this. Students' progress from level to level, developing new skills, becoming more self-assured, and improving in areas where they are deficient. The package includes 46 lessons that have been edited from the 1988 teacher's edition of Discover Intensive Phonics for Yourself. The lessons clarify the 42 sounds of the alphabet: categorized into consonants, vowels, dipthongs, digraphs, and special vowel sounds. Instructions also include training in the 5 phonetic skills that aid in encoding and decoding words.
Lesson 1 is intended to evaluate the student's existing phonetic proficiency and is also a tutorial in how to make the most of Reading Horizons. It might be useful if this lesson was designated on the management system for teachers as a pre-test of either existing skills or as a tutorial. It is recommended that the lessons be used sequentially during the initial learning process. This is encouraged by the instructions to teachers to follow procedures in manually overriding specific student lessons. The software is not as user-friendly as some because of the sequential requirements but again, this can also be seen as a positive feature. Perhaps if the user follows the advice offered in the manual, "be calm... smile ... be positive", patience will follow.
There are two hardware problems that Reading Horizons warns us about. The first is that the screen saver needs to be turned off so that it will not interfere with the program while it is running. The additional glitch is found in the relationship between the graphics mode and processing speed. The program uses videos to illustrate both proper pronunciation techniques and the formation of letters in writing, and the student can choose whether or not to access them. There is a technical incompatibility that occasionally causes a delay between screen display and user's keystroke, but again, users are forewarned in the literature.
Reading Horizons is a versatile tool with a wide range of applications. As a software specialist in an ABE/ESLIGED learning lab that has made Reading Horizons available to all three student populations since 1994, I feel that I can comment on its adaptability. The program can be used where there are no textbooks, where students have little or no education in their native language, where students enter and leave the educational setting at any time, and where there are multilevel groups. From an instructor's standpoint, it is practical for facilitating the work of an individual or a group.
Following are the system requirements for Reading Horizons:
- Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, or ME
- 133 MHz processor (minimum 20D Mhz recommended)
- 32 MB RAM (minimum 64 MB RAM recommended)
- 10MB hard drive space
- SVGA 256-color 640x480 monitor or better
- Stand Alone or Network
- CD-ROM drive
Reading Horizons software users will not be overwhelmed with a glitzy multimedia experience. Instead, they will be challenged by a solid computer software program that does exactly what it promises to do.