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Software for revving up reading

There's a fair amount of software out there for children just starting to read or having trouble doing so. Despite the relative simplicity of the programs and graphics, many options do a good job of allowing kids to explore the sounds and meanings of words at their own pace, and with a straightforward interface. Pictures come alive, games make the exercises fun, and, on the whole, the classroom experience is complemented in a compelling way. We've highlighted a few of the more successful options out there.

By Chris Colin

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Clifford book

Clifford Interactive Storybooks

Clifford Interactive Storybooks
Online, free

When you're exploring a new realm — like reading — there's sometimes comfort in a familiar face. If your kids are Clifford the Big Red Dog fans, they'll enjoy this straightforward series of online, interactive stories. By selecting a word, choosing a missing letter, or matching a sound, the reader gets to advance the plot of these simple Clifford tales. They're brief but well done.

The bottom line: Clifford's big, lovable mug guides kids in online word games.

Chris Colin is the author of What Really Happened to the Class of '93 and writes the "On the Job" column for the San Francisco Chronicle as well as stories for the New York Times, Mother Jones, McSweeney’s Quarterly, and GOOD magazine. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

Comments from readers

"Where are Headsprout and Funnix, which are far better than any of these? "