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Larry Ferlazzos Best...

The Best Web Sites for Helping Beginning Readers

I believe the best way to teach people to read is to provide them with accessible and high-interest text. All the sites here (except one) have talking stories" that show images and provide audio support to the shown text. The images and audio provide a high degree of accessibility.

These sites fit the high-interest" criteria by virtue of the large quantity of stories they provide. (Of course, if youd like more, you can find several thousand more throughout my Web site). They also provide countless supplemental online reading activities.

Here, then, are my picks for the fourteen best Web sites to help beginning readers:

Number fourteen is the Woodlands School Interactive Stories page. This site basically takes some of the best talking stories" from many of the Web pages I highlight later in this list (and from others not on this list) and displays links to them on a well-designed page.

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Im picking Raz-Kids as number thirteen. This is the only site on my list that costs anything, but its worth it. For $60 per year, a whole class can gain access to very high-quality fiction and nonfiction talking stories" with follow-up online exercises. You can access five free samples to try it out. Older students might find this site particularly engaging.

Scholastics well-known series of online Clifford Activities is number twelve.

Number eleven is Story Place from the Public Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has a number of excellent interactive and animated talking stories and follow-up activities.

Childtopia is ranked tenth. Its a site from Spain that has more than a thousand great literacy activities in multiple languages, including English.

Number nine is Kiz Club, a Korean site that has a ton of talking stories on a wide variety of topics.

A newer site, Leading to Reading, is number eight. It was begun by the respected Reading Is Fundamental organization to target very beginning readers, and so far has about ten excellent stories on its site.

Storyline Online is number seven. This site has been around for quite a while, and has had celebrities reading stories. I never used the site, or wrote about it, or even added it to my Web site for student self-access because, as nice a service as it is, it didnt have closed captions. That absence really limited its use for English Language Learners.

However, learning about Speakaboos (below) prompted me to check out Storyline again. I was going to contrast it with Speakaboos use of closed-captions. Much to my surprise, though, I discovered that Storyline now offers closed-captioning with all its stories. I have no idea when they began that feature, but it now definitely makes it a worth addition to The Best" list.

Number six is Tar Heel Reader, an exceptional reading and writing site. It has 1,000 simple books with audio support for the text immediately accessible to Beginning English Language Learners. And it makes it as simple as you can get for students to create their own talking" books using images from Flickr.

Number five is called Speakaboos. It provides excellent quality talking stories" on video with closed captioning -- often read by celebrities." They say they also are going to add the ability to record stories, as well as offer other online activities. You can watch the stories without registering, though it appears as though you will have to sign-up (for free) in order to record stories.

Number four is BBC Bitesize Literacy. This is the one without any talking stories, however, it has a number of great activities related to basic literacy.

Number three, too, is from the BBC, and here is where their talking stories come in. CBeebies has a large collection of those types of stories. In addition, if you look at the bottom of the page, youll see links to a bunch more BBC sites that have even more.

Number two is Literactive. It has hundreds of talking stories and other interactive activities. Its free, though you have to register (it only takes a minute to do so). My students really enjoy this site.

And the number one Web site to help beginning readers is -- no surprise -- Starfall. Starfall has been helping people learn to read for years, and its still the best. Its scaffolding is great, and its stories -- both fiction and nonfiction -- are engaging. Id particularly recommend its Im Reading section for older students.

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Larry Ferlazzo
Education World®
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