by Danielle Niemann

SUBJECT AREA: Language Arts/ Creative Writing


TROUBLESHOOTING: MECCTECH Line (Automated Support System) 1-612-569-1678 available 24 hours a day or call the same number from 8AM-5:30PM Central Time to speak with a Technical Support Representative.

COST: $62.95 School Edition

AGE LEVEL: Ages 6-12

REQUIRED HARDWARE: Macintosh computer: 13" or larger monitor (640X480, 256 colors), 4MB RAM, System 7.0 or later, a CD-ROM drive and a printer.
IBM-compatible: 25 MHz 386 CPU or higher running Microsoft Windows version 3.1 enhanced mode or higher, 4MB RAM, 256 color display, a mouse, a CD-ROM drive, a Windows-compatible sound card and a printer. A 486 CPU or higher is recommended.

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: To challenge children to use their creativity to write and illustrate stories; to enhance vocabulary by associating words with their pictures; and to teach skills in story-sequencing. Most importantly, Storybook Weaver Deluxe allows children to create stories of which they can be very proud and can share with an audience.

DESCRIPTION: Storybook Weaver Deluxe is designed to make writing about anything easy and fun. Children have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of images to create the background scenery and objects in the scenery for their stories. There are more than 140 scenery combinations ranging from ski mountains to under the ocean scenes. After choosing the scenery with a simple mouse click, children can select objects to go along with the scenery. There are more than 1550 images from which to choose, which are organized by categories such as real or make-believe people, real or make-believe animals, decor, kids, nature, shelters, things and vehicles. The people choices include astronauts, weight lifters, Arabian princes, arctic explorers, hobbits and wizards. Under the "other object" categories are teddy bears, wheelchairs, hot dog stands, adobes, elevators and poinsettias, to name just a few. Colors and page borders can also be manipulated. The sound effects button can be used to assign over 95 sound effects to any objects If a child wants to hear drum rolls, babies crying or people laughing, it is all there. Another bonus of the software is the music button. With this a child can assign one of 55 songs to each page of their story. The user will then hear that particular song every time they are on that page of the story.

STRENGTHS: Storybook Weaver Deluxe encourages children to use their imaginations. They can choose to write stories of folklore or fantasy or they may decide to write about modern life and ideas that are well known to them. So many times, children see writing as a chore or an assignment. It is a pleasure to see software that takes away that negative image. They can just sit down, relax and write a story to their own liking. At the same time, they are improving their writing skills and learning to be creative. For a child who is apprehensive in fromt of a blank screen, there are several "story starters" which have preselected backgrounds for the first page of the story with a short phrase in the text section to get the child started.
The software is very user friendly. The tool palette is easy to use, the choices are easily identified, and little reading is required. For a child who has problems with spelling, the program features a spell button. The child can simply click on an object on the screen, then click on the spell button, and the word is automatically added to the text. There are also options for a spell check and thesaurus.

WEAKNESSES: The hardware requirements for the software to run efficiently and effectively are rather demanding and beyond the capability of many classrooms.

SUMMARY: With its thousands of graphics, sound effects, and music, Storybook Weaver Deluxe is a terrific upgrade to the orignal version. It gives children an opportunity to practice writing in a way that they will enjoy. It is well designed and easy to use. The software can be used by students with a variety of abilities and is particularly appropriate for reluctant writers. The most beneficial aspect of this program may be the final product. When a child is finished writing his/her story and printing it, s/he will have a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Danielle Niemann is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at Trenton State College.

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