Go on...say it. Ooka Island. Ooka Island. Ooka Island. How can you not love a product named Ooka Island? And in this case, the game is every bit as much fun to play as the name is to say.
Ooka Island Adventure is a downloadable reading program that includes "an e-reader with 85 leveled e-books, 24 levels in 15 learning activities, full 3D graphics, an original musical soundtracks, voice recognition, and much more." It's an amazing virtual world designed for children ages 3-7 to teach them the phonics skills necessary for reading comprehension and fluency. Ooka Island uses the "Ooka Method", which is explained below.
With the OokaMethodTM, children progress to the most sophisticated phonological level. First, they must understand that words are made up of individual sounds (or phonemes) that they can hear and manipulate. Second, they learn to associate these sounds with letters and blend them together to make words, thus breaking the code that speeds them through the foundational levels of reading development and beyond.
The OokaMethodTM includes the language-rich Ooka Island Book Series with comprehension and vocabulary activities. Children progress through a leveled and sequenced flow of books that follow recurring characters in familiar, every day activities. Children then bring their own language knowledge to the reading process and emerge into reading while developing vocabulary and reading comprehension.
The pros: Ooka Island is a truly amazing educational site. In fact, I'd say it's by far the coolest and most educational program my family has ever used. The game is really geared toward young children, and that is evident from the very beginning with your student having a password PICTURE and not a word. Brilliant! As they begin the game, your student creates an avatar to use and customizes it to their liking. Since we've been studying American History, my daughter was thrilled to make hers look like Pocahontas. Then Zobot- a robotic character who serves as their guide- leads them through 20 minutes of purposeful "games" designed to teach them phonics skills. After each 20 minutes of game directed instruction, the student gets 7 minutes of "free play" where they can revisit game activities or do other fun things like visit the "pencil playground" or shop for items for their avatar. My 6 year old has totally loved every minute of this game-free time OR game directed. She is a beginning reader for sure, and Ooka Island has definitely improved her reading skills. She would play Ooka Island for hours and hours if I would let her, and never once feel like it's work, whereas a simple 10 minute reading lesson leaves her squirming and begging to be done. In fact, right now the only begging going on is her 10 year old brother begging to be able to play because the game looks so cool!
The cons: The download is 2 GB. Really. That's big, and it takes a LONG time depending on how fast your internet speed is. But it's worth every minute. The only other real con I have is that in some of the games, words are said that I feel are difficult to understand, and sometimes, I think they are not even real words. My older kids picked up on it too, so I know it wasn't just me. I wish I had written down the examples, but none of it interfered with the playing of the game (because the target phoneme sounds themselves can be understood even if the entire word isn't clear). I just found it strange that in a reading program, everything wouldn't be exceedingly understandable. Another thing to be aware of is that there are "elves" in Ooka Island, and you help free them by earning points that you get from completing each activity. I personally had no issue with this, but I know some people aren't into elves and other similar creatures, so it's something you might want to consider.
The bottom line: Ooka Island is very, very cool. And from as I have seen so far, it's also effective. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's been a huge bonus for my youngest by giving her a way to learn her phonics sounds in a fun environment that doesn't feel at all like "work". And as a bonus for YOU, there is currently a 30% discount available to sign up, and you can try it free for 14 days!
Regular pricing is below:
To check out Ooka Island's website and learn more, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about their experiences with Ooka Island, go HERE.
Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received one 6 month subscription to Ooka Island in exchange for my honest review. This membership is the only compensation I received.