Educational video games for young children are nothing new; however there’s something cool about a children’s educational tool being released on one of the most popular and accessible handheld video game platforms in the world, with the latest advances in interactive gaming, all transparent enough for a four-year-old to follow.
For the most part, educational games used to suck. I hate to say it, and I’m sure threre are exceptions; but I mean, Big Bird’s Hide and Speak? Mario is Missing? Small children are not going to enjoy an awkward, bad game. But now that Nintendo has broken some of the video game market’s demographic barriers by making controls more intuitive and games more interactive, we have a new audience and a new array of games aimed at mature adults and small children. It’s kind of great to think that as a result of these improvements in video game technology we might be able to actively engage younger and younger audiences, helping them grow in ways we’ve never experienced before.
That’s what companies like Colorado start-up Mentor InterActive going for. After years of research and development, they have partnered with 1st Playable Productions to announce the release of their new Children’s title for the Nintendo DS, My Virtual Tutor – Reading. With it, moms and dads have an effective solution to aid children in learning to read on a system they already love.
Derived from a teaching system and proprietary software developed by faculty from the University of Colorado’s Center for Spoken Language Research, My Virtual Tutor lets children from pre-school to second grade practice reading skills on Nintendo DS through interactive books, fun reading and word exercises and quizzes that allow the child to earn a prize. The child holds the DS vertically like a book and is guided through the different game modes by an animated tutor that reads, repeats and provides encouraging words. It focusses on five areas of reading: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Comprehension, Fluency, and Vocabulary; all recommended by the Department of Education to improve reading proficiency.
“Mentor InterActive’s mission is to be the digital solution to learning worldwide” said Hank Kaplan, CEO of Mentor InterActive and 25-year children’s interactive entertainment industry veteran. If Brain Age and Brain Games are suddenly popular with adults, here’s hoping games like My Virtual Tutor can break that tough age 3-5 demo. In this increasingly bizarre technocentric civilization, they may yet prove useful.