“ OUP - Reading site with games and activities, free e-books for kids as well as advice for parents „
Oxford Owl is one of our favourite free sites. this site is developed by Oxford University Press. This company is one of the leading publishers of English language teaching materials. While they publish a wide variety of books their main website ( http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/ ) states that "The main criteria in evaluating a new title are its quality and the contribution it makes to the furtherance of scholarship and education. " I would say that while this site does promote the publishers own line of books, the furtherance of education does seem to be the primary goal here.
There is an absolute wealth of information here, for parents and teachers, as well as books and activities for the children. Some of the articles for parents include an in depth explanation of phonics, accompanied by two videos, tips for getting boys reading, encouraging reading over the holidays, and tips on choosing books. I found all of these articles helpful, and none were shameless attempts to promote oxfords own products. There is a whole section devoted to 'Fun Ideas' games and activities for parents to share with children from . While some of Oxford's series have drawn heavy criticism for not teaching phonics, the emphasis on phonics found on their websites makes their position quite clear. Some of their series do teach phonics directly, others do not. I have found all of the books can easily fit into a good phonics based programme though.
'Find a Book' is our favourite part of this website. It has a brief information on the main series which will be featured on these pages Read With Biff, Chip, and Kipper, Oxford Reading Tree, Read Write Inc, Read Write Inc Phonics and Project X. But the really good part is the library of complete books they have that can be read online for free. I count 110 full books which a child can listen to or read themselves online. These look just like the books we own, with full illustrations. The only real drawback to this section is that it does not clearly display the reading band, or level of each book. However you can find this if you carefully read through the back over for each book. I really like that you can sample these books with your child, to help determine which reading band is most appropriate, as well as which books capture your child's interest. There are also two educational activities for each book, such as story sequencing. Finally there are a number of other books to sample, often chapter books. You will only be able to read a section of these books, usually one chapter. This is enough to get an idea if you will like the book, but would require purchase.
The next section on this site is titled 'At School', and is designed for parents. It gives a very brief explanation of leveling, different ways to teach reading, assessments and use of technology., but in all honesty I found this section to simplistic to be of much use. some things like reading to your child at home, speaking to the teacher if you have any concerns and attending school meetings seem a bit obvious. Likewise, I am sure you are already aware that reading may take place via computer as well.
The final section of this site is called 'Kids' Barn'. There are a few games, such as a centipede type one where you build words. The graphics are not the best, and game play is pretty simple, but it is free. You can also find printable pages, mostly colouring in, download and print character cards. You can also link directly from this page to the kids' library discussed in ' Find a Book'. Finally there are a couple of links to Oxford series, 'Winnie the Witch', 'S.W.I.T.C.H.' , and Dinosaur Cove. These do strike me more as an attempt to promote their product, but the books do look interesting, and you will find more games and activities on each of these sites.
My children are now ages 3 & 6 but the youngest was two when we first starting using this site. Both have really enjoyed the E library section. They will play the games occasionally but not for any lengthy period of time or with regularity. The majority of the sections of this site I find to be pretty standard fare for literacy sites. Some of it was quite useful and informative, some fun activities to try at home but nothing that would have inspired me to write this review. What makes this site worth checking out though is the virtual library. Although I had already purchased a number of the Project X Books, like the Pirate series when I found this, it still adds a good number of books to our available reading material. It also gives you and your child a chance to see which books you like. My children both enjoyed listening to the stories online and playing the activities for each book. My oldest could also turn the sound off and read them himself. I am so impressed by this feature that I am giving the whole site 5 stars, although I do not rate the all of other sections quite so highly.