Reading up

The best-selling Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip and Kipper book series offers a unique learning experience tailored to UK schools not only in the style of teaching but the characters and books used to help children learn to read.

The global nature of video-games warrants the investment that brings us some of the best experiences, but it also makes for poor educational experiences unless you live in the US. As a parent I've often appreciated games that encourage my kids to learn to read or enhance other skills, but these are usually mismatched with their learning in school.

A new series of educational games for the 3DS changes all that by delivering a learn-to-read mechanic that not only uses familiar terminology and teaching methods but does so with a series of characters and stories my children read every day at school.

Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip and Kipper — as any self respecting parent with school age children in the UK will tell you — is a game that works on the Phonics theory of learning to read. Here children build up their understanding of sounds and letter combinations rather than simply spelling each word. It works because it gets them reading quicker and, for my kids at least, grants a real sense of progression and being a reader from a young age.

The game comes in three different levels that match different ‘key stages’ children may be at. These can be purchased separately in the eShop and in store to match your child.

Through these increasingly challenging levels children work through the phonics tasks through reading, repeating and listening to their progress. As you can see in the video here, taking the game into a family to try it out for real it was this listening feature that was the biggest hit.

The game records the child while they are reading the different sentences for the story. Once complete the child can listen back to themselves to hear how close they were to the original narration.

Along with this there are a series of games that work different related skills. At the same time each challenge is rendered as if it is part of the Biff, Chip and Kipper world with similar art style. This ensures the experience feels coherent.

Another nice touch is the ability for parents to check in on progress with the game. They can see not only which books have been read but what the progress has been like through them. Being able to automatically track this information meant that I felt more in touch with my son’s reading progress and could focus on areas in which he needed to improve.

Perhaps the only downside is the temptation to replace reading homework time with a physical book with the game. This really isn't the intention as reading from a page and working with the printed page is an essential part of learning. Also, there is something good about sitting down and reading a book together with your child.

As said by the family I tested the game with, this isn't a replacement for reading the Biff, Chip and Kipper books with children. Rather, it is a different related activity that can support the learning that is going on with the books and in school. Used in that way it really is an excellent aid.

Having tried out a variety of educational games, I can safely say that these Biff, Chip and Kipper games for the 3DS are the best I've come across. I already find myself raving about them to other parents at the school gate, as well as teachers in my local primary school.