BOOKS; TECHNOFILE

On the assumption that new media should be evaluated by new people, I recruited Benjo, aged 7, and Ena, his three-year-old sister, to play with an assortment of CD-Roms aimed at younger children. The deal was that they got to keep the ones they liked, while the ulterior parental motive was to improve their command of English - they are from Bosnia - and their computer skills.

This proved chastening for me, since Benjo is not only fluently bilingual, but demonstrated a level of software sophistication very similar to my own. Kid Pix Studio (Broderbund, pounds 29.99) is based on the sort of painting and drawing arrangements familiar to any adult who has used programs such as ClarisWorks or Adobe Photoshop. You can go about it two ways: read the manual, or click on various icons and see what they do. Benjo and I favour the latter strategy, and get pretty much the same results.

Perhaps the children needed time to settle in, but Kid Pix didn't quite get the party going. That happened when we loaded up Math Blaster Junior (ABLAC, pounds 34.99), an ultra-American disk in circus idiom, all hurrahs and slapstick, with an arithmetical subplot. A typical episode involves hitting purple space aliens over the head with a hammer. Whatever the ultimate educational benefits of this disk, it's certainly possible to play with it for a long time without actually doing any sums.

Ena, who is radiantly shy, warmed to The Great Green Mouse Disaster (Macmillan Interactive Publishing, pounds 29.99). The scenario is charmingly disjointed. Green mice, members of an orchestra, have scattered through a hotel. The task is to catch each mouse, then to find its proper musical instrument so that it can play in the band. The rodents are vexed by incorrect choices. If you select the piano for the mouse trombonist, for example, it bangs its head against the keyboard.

This scheme proved to be a happy way of providing entertainment for children of different ages. Although Ena couldn't keep up with the scampering mice, she was able to enjoy choosing the instruments. There's also plenty for adults in this disk: the sophisticated graphic style shows the kind of droll detail that passes over children's heads, but gives grown-ups amusement and fleeting reminders of their own world.

Its real value for parents, however, is the extent to which it allows them to share information with their children; and that goes for the genre as a whole. Reading a storybook to a young child is rarely a linear process. A parent will stop and discuss individual features - "Look, see the piggy? What noise does a pig make? Oink!" The peculiar genius of CD-Rom storybooks is to reinforce this tendency by rigging such features so that they move or make noises when clicked. Benjo and Ena's mother soon started to make use of this facility as the children explored Baba Yaga and the Magic Geese (ABLAC, pounds 34.99).

Benjo and Ena themselves seemed most impressed by the musical broomsticks, which Benjo was moved to imitate. Unlike the adults present, they were untouched by the cultural ironies of a Russian folk-tale, rendered in a garish American idiom, on a CD-Rom from the United States with a credit- list largely composed of Russian names, being viewed by Bosnians in England. As I listened to the naming of things, in both English and the children's mother tongue, it occurred to me that CD-Roms could be magnificent vehicles not only for telling children stories, but for teaching them about the languages in which the tales were originally told.

Marek.kohn@mcr1.poptel.org.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on