Friday 3 February 2012

My Phonics Kit from Oxford Learning Tree / Oxford University Press

With the introduction of the new Phonics Tests due to be rolled out to six year olds later this year, parents have been presented with a dizzying array of different phonics resources. For a while we've been visiting the Oxford Owl website ( which contains both reading and maths resources, fun games and some of the best presentation I've ever seen on a children's website.

Through this site we've become familiar with the adventures of Biff, Chip and Kipper (and of course Floppy the dog) so it was great news when we were contacted with an opportunity to review the new Phonics Kit from Oxford University Press.

The kit, which is on sale for £9.99, contains three activity books, a glossy "Floppy" activity poster and a CD ROM (which is compatible with PC and Mac). Though it's aimed at older children than Charlotte, it's still an excellent way to kick off your child's interest in reading, the recognition of words and sounds, and taking their first steps towards literacy.

We started with the CD ROM (installed fine on Snow Leopard / Mac OSX). The lively and bright graphics follow the designs of the Biff, Chip and Kipper books.

Menus are fairly easy to navigate (even for tiny hands just getting used to a mouse) and various stories are presented in e-book format, all read through the program's self-contained viewer. Children have the choice of reading the books themselves or listening to the audio tracks to help them through the difficult bits.

Each e-book is complimented by a range of activities designed to back up what they've just read with useful exercises and tasks to complete.

The CD ROM was a massive hit with Charlotte, in fact it was extremely difficult to convince her not to race through all the books on offer in one go!

Also contained in the pack are three phonics workshop books, one each for Biff, Chip and Kipper. These books are beautifully laid out and presented with fun activities, stories and stickers to reward a child's efforts. Complimenting the workbooks is a large glossy fun poster featuring Floppy the Dog. As children progress through the workbooks, they can find additional stickers to stick on Floppy's chart. As any parent knows, stickers are a great way to reward a child and provide the incentive to engage with phonics or other learning activities (and this is definitely something that's widely recognised in schools too).

For an inquisitive (nearly) four year old who hasn't yet learned to read, the kit is still worth picking up simply because parts of the kit present something that children can go back to again and again as their levels of literacy improve. The only drawback (and it's not really a criticism as such) is that once the stickers are all used up and the Floppy Wall Chart and workbooks are completed, children might lose interest in revisiting them. However, there are a multitude of ways around this, like making your own wall charts and progress sheets or diving onto the Oxford Owl website's "Fun Ideas" section for more brilliant resources.

Without a doubt, this is a top quality product and even if children haven't met Biff, Chip and Kipper before, they're sure to become huge fans of the books - and once they engage with the stories and characters, you'll find they'll become hooked in no time.

Charlotte's best bit - Floppy's activity wall chart

Daddy's favourite bit - Simple installation of the CD resources, and superb presentation of the kit throughout

Rating - 5 out of 5 stars