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A Child's History of the World on CD-ROM

by Calvert School

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: A Child's History of the World CD-ROM. $25 Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, Pentium, 32 MB of RAM, sound card, 8X CD-rom drive. Not compatible with Vista, XP, or 2000. Available from Calvert School.

Designed as a stand-alone history curriculum or a supplement, A Child's History of the World CD-ROM combines the charm of Virgil Hillyer's book with simple computer graphics and animation to engage students who have attained fluency in reading.

The program begins with an introductory segment and a picture similar to the one on the front of the book. By selecting "Begin," the student will be taken to the main menu, called the "Story Finder," a page with rich colors and a huge globe in the center of the screen. Children may select to go through the book in chronological order using the chapter list on the right or the timeline on the bottom of the page, or they may find stories on a particular country by turning the globe and clicking on the country or region. They may also move the timeline bar to the era desired to select stories from then.

A help screen is available from the "Story Finder." The options are "Story Finder," "Story Pages," "Program Overview," and "Exit help." The "Story Finder" and "Story Pages" show an example of each, and when the mouse is rolled over locations on the page, instructions appear. The "Program Overview" is a spreadsheet-style chart of each chapter and the features, quizzes and games, that are available for it.

When a story has been selected, the narrator appears, either sitting in a chair in front of the fire or on the back porch of a home. His face is never shown, but his hand gestures as he introduces the story and some quiet music plays. After he finishes, the child must click to go to the next screens where he reads the text of the book. Colorful pictures illustrate each page, and "Take a Closer Look" boxes enlarge the pictures and provide more information and occasional simple animations with sound effects or moving figures. At the end of the chapter, the narrator finishes the story from his chair.

Then a "Let's Review" screen follows. On it are "Who," "When," and "Where" icons that give the child the opportunity to answer easy questions about the material. Not all of the chapters include these questions. The "Staircase of Time" icon allows the student to select whether to answer comprehension questions on a timed or untimed basis. In a few of the chapters, a "Fun with the Story" option is available. The student thinks of words by part of speech in the fashion of "Mad Libs" to create a postcard from the era under discussion.

Recommendation: A Child's History of the World CD-ROM offers an easy way for parents to introduce or reinforce the story of world history with their children. Games and the silly "Mad Lib" style postcard activites build interest, and the colorful illustrations stimulate imaginations of those who might not have previously found history appealing.

With the narrator animation, the program attempts to capture some of the charm of the book's style, but the awkward movement through the screens and older technology may prove frustrating to more computer literate children. A Child's History of the World CD-ROM would not run on my newer Windows ME machine, and it was very slow on my older Windows 95 computer. Of bigger concern is the political correctness that is evident in the 1997 revision of A Child's History of the World, the source of the CD's material. (See the review.) Parents should preview and discuss the entire book, but particularly the later chapters. resources related to this review:'s History Resources Section for ideas, links, living books, and more!
Review of Child's History of the World by Hillyer
Review of Ancient Greece CD-ROM by Calvert School
Review of King Arthur Through the Ages CD-ROM

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