Read&Write Gold

Company: Texthelp Systems;
System Requirements: Mac: OS X 10.2.8, 800 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM. PC: Windows 98, 350 MHz processor, 256 MB RAM
Price/Grade: $645, Grades 3-12
Pros: Integrated application suite features electronic highlighters, word prediction, dictionary, spell checker, PDF read aloud, scanning, and OCR capabilities; Quick Reference Card with clear description of program icons
Cons: Manual (43 pages) must be downloaded; Safari Reader won't work with Safari versions 2.0.2 or 2.0.1; PDFaloud works only with Acrobat Reader 5 or 6 (it comes with Reader 6); ReadIris 9 works only from inside Read&Write

NCLB requires that all students, even non-native speakers and those with learning disabilities, pass statewide standardized language arts tests. But some students need help with reading or putting words on paper. Read&Write Gold provides several levels of integrated literacy support to help children of all ages and abilities achieve reading and writing success. Its built-in text-to-speech technology reads aloud text pasted in the application window; students can adjust the talk settings for voice and pronunciation. A convenient Speechmaker applet converts selected text into an MP3 audio file for playback either on or off the computer, while a PDFaloud applet works with Adobe Acrobat Reader so that users can listen to words, sentences, or paragraphs read aloud.

Other assistive technology tools help with writing and research. Read&Write Gold comes with a spell checker and a 180,000-word dictionary, as well as a homophone checker. A word prediction feature assists students with typing words and sentences. Text can be digitally highlighted for visual emphasis. A Fact Finder uses the installed Web browser to look up translations of French or Spanish words, general information, news, and more. Finally, Read&Write has optical character recognition capabilities to convert scanned images to read-aloud text that can be saved in HTML, PDF, or RTF format. Read&Write is an excellent multifunction language arts toolkit capable of supporting the needs of a diverse student population.

Carol S. Holzberg is an educational technology specialist, anthropologist, and journalist in Greenfield, Mass.