Review and Giveaway: Word World

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When my girls were toddlers, we happily watched the educational programs aimed at their age group – and I worried about what kind of options were out there for when they got to be older. Unfortunately the shows aimed at school-age kids don’t always seem to focus as much on educational value as they do entertainment, which is something that I have long been frustrated with.

Which is why I have been ecstatic to see PBS coming out with shows like Super Why and WordGirl that take educational programming to a new level and start introducing kids to actual reading skills. My girls love these shows – and we recently have discovered yet another that they adore as well, called WordWorld.

What it is:

WW_logo WordWorld is an Emmy-winning PBS KIDS television series that is aimed at children who are ages 3-5.  The show was developed in collaboration with top literacy experts from around the US  and targets areas identified as the most critical for supporting early reading success.

A child learns the alphabet. Then what?

A large gap exists between children recognizing letters and learning to read.  Parents and educators struggle with how to bridge that gap. Now they have help.

WordWorld, the latest innovation in the children’s literacy landscape, playfully brings words to life through a patent-pending methodology that embeds words into the objects they represent. Imagine a picture of a word. With WordWorld, pre-readers immediately recognize both the object and the letters used to spell the word. It’s an Ah-ha! moment that keeps children engaged and wanting more. WordWorld empowers kids by making the abstract concepts of literacy tangible to them; the connection between letters, words and meaning is crystallized before their eyes. WordWorld is a vibrant, wordrich place where kids play with and build words, which then come alive and become WordFriends.

The show is funded in part by the U. S. Department of Education and uses computer-generated 3-D graphics to bring the WordFriends and their world to life. The adventures of the WordFriends focus on age-appropriate socioemotional lessons – while also introducing key literary skills. In every episode, the only way to save the day is to “build a word”. And the novelty of the show is that when a word is built correctly, it actually morphs right into the thing that it represents, making learning to read both fun and rewarding.

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The toy industry quickly realized the significance of WordWorld’s exciting, playful, new approach to literacy through “WordPlay”, and has resulted in a broad assortment of products that feature the WordFriends and encourage kids to “build” and love words. The WordWorld toy series was designed to bridge the gap between letter recognition and learning to read.

Now, a U.S. Department of Education funded study has found that WordWorld significantly strengthens early literacy skills in preschoolers, providing the building blocks essential for learning how to read. The initial findings conclude that “regular exposure to WordWorld resulted in children experiencing significant increases in oral vocabulary, reading and recognition of words featured in the show.”  Specifically, children doubled their oral vocabulary skills of words featured in WordWorld, tripled their ability to read specific words featured and built in WordWorld, and children in disadvantaged households where English is a second language showed gains in phonemic awareness, as well as oral vocabulary and reading words featured in WordWorld.

WordWorld

We received a WordWorld DVD as well as one of the toys, the Magnetic Play Set: Things that Go, to try out.

Here’s my our take on it:

I had heard of WordWorld before but hadn’t actually seen any of the episodes on PBS, although my girls had. They were quite excited as soon as the box arrived and immediately sat down with the magnetic play set. The first thing I noticed is that it (thankfully!) has an attached pouch that fastens shut with velcro in order to store the twelve magnets that come with the set. I’ve disliked other magnetic sets that we’ve had in the past just because it seemed like we were always losing the magnets, but this one makes it easy for the girls to gather them up and put them away, and since it’s attached right to the play mat, everything stays together.

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The other thing that struck me right away is that the play mat is flexible, and two-sided. With handles on both ends, kids can just fold the mat up and take it wherever they need to go. It’s very soft for little fingers to handle, and the magnets stick right to the mat. It’s not a strong magnetic connection – but I think that’s more so kids can actually move the magnets easily around and along the mat. We haven’t had any problems with keeping the magnets on the mat, so it seems to be just strong enough.

Six of the included magnets are 3-D and six are flat. There’s a variety between different kinds of vehicles, characters and signs or other things found along a roadway. The two backgrounds shown on the double-sided mat provide a colorful backdrop with several road ways to place the magnets on and along.

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All three of my girls love playing with this set, from my oldest at 7 years old to my 2-1/2 year old. The older girls already know how to read, so they have fun sounding out the words and get a huge kick of seeing how the words are formed to look like what they spell. And since it’s easy to tell what each piece is supposed to be, even for kids who can’t read yet, my youngest can easily play with them as well. She has fun zooming the pieces along the ‘roads’ where her big sisters carefully place each magnet in a specific location.

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They love watching the DVD as well. The one that we received is called Welcome to WordWorld, and contains four episodes of the show. My doggie-loving 6-year-old is especially fond of the “Happy Birthday, Dog!” episode, but all three girls happily sit through each of them. I am thrilled that they are excited about watching something that’s so educational, and have found myself drawn into the stories as well.  It’s really well done and entertaining to watch.  🙂

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The bottom line:

This show is incredibly creative, both in the concept and in the way in which it encourages kids to sound out words and learn – without being overt about it and while entertaining them immensely. The toys build on the concepts in the show and allow kids to ‘build’ their own worlds and interact with objects while seeing the letters that make up their names. Although aimed at preschoolers, even school-aged kids can enjoy the show and toys as well.

Where can you find it?:

WordWorld airs on PBS Kids – you can check your local listings for times in your area. The products are sold exclusively at Target stores and are available online through both Target.com and Amazon. They range in price from $14.99 for the DVDs to around $10 to $25 for the toys.

Would you like to try it?:

I have the opportunity to give away a WordWorld DVD like the one we received to a lucky reader! I’m not sure if it will be the specific one that we have, but it will be of a WordWorld episode. If you’re interested in sharing this fun and educational series with a child in your life, here are the rules:

  1. Enter by visiting Target.com and checking out the line of WordWorld toys. Then leave a comment here to let me know which one is your favorite. Please don’t just say ‘choose me’, or your entry will be discarded.
  2. The contest will run until Saturday, January 17th at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be selected through random drawing, contacted by e-mail, listed on this post and also submitted to PRIZEY.Fetch. US entries only, please.
  3. Please leave a valid e-mail address or other way to contact you! If you don’t wish to leave your e-mail address, please make sure that you leave a unique name and check back with PRIZEYWinners to see if you won. If the winner hasn’t responded within 3 days, an alternate winner will be chosen by random drawing.
  4. If you’d like extra entries, you can:
  • Subscribe to my RSS feed (click on the orange icon in the upper right sidebar) or subscribe via e-mail – leave me a separate comment to let me know.
  • Mention this contest on your blog with a link back to this post, and leave a separate comment with the link to your post so I can find it.
  • Either Twitter about, ‘Stumble’, ‘Digg’ or ‘Kirtsy’ this post – leave me a separate comment with your username at whichever site(s) you chose (one extra entry per method).

So that’s a total of 7 comments/entries if you do all of the extra entry options.

Good luck!  :)

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED – the random number generator has chosen comment #79 as the winner:

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Congratulations to CJStewart who said, “Our favorite WordWorld toy is Zebra.“! I will be e-mailing you shortly to work out the details.