Review: Nessy Tales
Iain Laskey looks at an interactive reading book system for reluctant readers
|Company||Net Educational Systems Ltd.|
|We like||cheap, amusing stories, presentation|
|We don't like||A bit short, limited replay value|
We recently looked at Nessy, a structured learning system to help children with dyslexia and other reading problems. From the same stable comes this related title, Nessy Tales.
Nessy Tales is aimed at young readers and particularly those with reading difficulties or who have been put off by previous failures. Nessy Tales comprises of five stories of increasing difficulty but done in a way that will hopefully have a better chance of capturing a child's imagination.
In terms of difficulty, to quote the developers web site:
"Reading ability 5-7 years (key stage 1), age appropriate content up to 12 years (key stage 2)."
Make of that what you will!
All five stories follow the same basic structure. On the left hand side is the story text itself. The child can have it read for them in which case the words are highlighted as they are narrated or they can read it themselves. On the right hand side is a picture. Once the text has been covered, the picture can be clicked on to trigger a short funny animation. When that has finished, the child is then encouraged to click around the picture looking for hotspots to cause more animations to play. When they have finished with the page, they click on the next page button and repeat it all over again. At the end, there is a short 5 question multiple choice quiz to test how much of the story they took in or to check for things like rhyming words.
Our tester (aged seven) found it easy to use and completed all 5 stories (using the being read to option) in a couple of sittings. They laughed at the animations and got a kick out of getting the questions right at the end and were very keen to share things they'd seen as they played it. However, having played with it once, they were initially reluctant to have another go. A couple of weeks later they returned though, this time with more interest and spent several sessions repeating the stories, this time trying to read them themselves rather than having them read as before. This time they seemed far more engaged and especially enjoyed the quizzes, trying to get five out of five in each one. They also made much more use of the hotspots reveling in ones like a pet bug being bashed by a gran with a frying pan.
From an adult's perspective, we thought the stories were funny and well narrated by none other than Bill Bailey. The sound effects were great and just the sort of things kids love, especially the splats, crashes and the noises the various character animals made. We felt that for all but the most basic readers, it was perhaps a bit too short and some more or longer stories wouldn't have gone amiss but then for the price, this is a small quibble. We'd certainly like to see subsequent 'volumes' with an increasingly difficulty level being made available in due course.
On balance we liked Nessy Tales. The presentation was great and the idea is sound. Our main gripe was that we felt it was all over a bit too soon and had potentially limited replay value. However, a single child's book can easily cost the same as this piece of software which puts a perspective on things somewhat. Here you get five stories with animation, sound effects and a format which should encourage children that are otherwise put off by reading from previous difficulties. To help make your mind up, downloadable demos are available for both Windows and Mac OSX so you can buy with confidence if your child is interested in Nessy Tales.