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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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Online, free

Not all reading software must be installed on your computer — more and more websites are popping up, letting kids do their reading online. offers four separate programs, each with their own activities to facilitate reading in kindergarten-age children. In "Ten Little Snowmen," kids follow written instructions for building an animated snowman. In "Four Leaf Clover," they click on animals when prompted.

The bottom line: Starfall's fun, free games can help teach reading.

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? "