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Software Evaluation

Start-To-Finish Books

Publisher: Don Johnston Incorporated
Age Group: 9 - 15, Students who are two grades behind in reading and who are slow readers.
Curriculum Area: For struggling students with poor reading abilities.
Year of Publication: 1999
Specifications: Windows
Windows '95 + '98
486/100MHz PC or highe
4MB hard drive space
256-colour,14-inch monitor
CD-ROM drive (2x)

Macintosh LC111 or Higher (includes Power Macintosh)
System 7.5.3 or later

4MB hard drive space
256-colour, 14-inch monitor
CD-ROM drive (2x)

Recommended Price: Purchase directly from Don Johnston Special Needs Ltd, 18 Clarendon Court, Claver Road, Winwick Quay, Warrington WA2 8QP.


The Start-To-Finish Books provide an enjoyable literacy experience for struggling students and helps them to know the feeling of reading success. There is a great variety of reading material from Mysteries, Sport, and Classic Literature to US History etc. The Start-To-Finish Books contain controlled vocabulary and sentence structure to eliminate the barriers that cause students to stumble or misunderstand. The program provides the story in three formats CD-Rom, Audio Cassette and Reading Books. It also allows teachers to assess students reading progress. Students can listen too and read the book at their own pace that eliminates anyone trying to best another or any student feeling embarrassed because of their poor reading skills.

Overview of Teaching with this Title

With this program I worked with students who have reading difficulties. These students were between the ages of 13 to 15 with a reading ability of a 7 - 8 year old. The books I choose were from The Nick Ford Mysteries, 'The Graverobber' and 'Alcatraz, The Rock'. This program was used in two different formats, firstly the students listening and reading the story from the CD-Rom and secondly, with their English Teacher reading the book in class and writing out the story in their own words. The best way to use this program is on an individual basis as the students can work at their own pace. The main strength of this interactive software is that the software remembers where the student finished reading during the last session. The story lines that I used were appropriate for the age level of my students.


The content of each book makes it easy for each student to understand the story. It is written in carefully controlled vocabulary and sentence structure to eliminate the barriers that cause students to stumble or misunderstand. The student can either listen to the story or read the story for him or herself. The computer highlights each word individually as it is said and the student can go back to any word and listen to it spoken over and over again.

The books are fictional and are not gender, culturally or racially biased. The language is appropriate for the poor readers. The software supports visual, aural and linguistic learning approaches. After each chapter in the book there is a cloze test that the reader can complete.

Design and Navigation

This program is very easy to follow and allows the teacher access to print out the student's progress. It is easy to by-pass the introductory by simply pressing the space bar. When you have finished reading one or more chapters it is book marked so the next time you go to read your story you will know where you left off. You must use the same PC at all times (if using the package as a standalone version) so that you will know which chapter to continue on with and for the teacher to print out your reading and cloze test results.

Installation and Use

Loading and operating instructions are very clear.

We only used this on a standalone basis.

It launches very quickly. When the cloze test is completed the incorrect words appear as red on the screen. The software responds quickly to input from the child. Teachers can read or print out student's progress at any time.

Supporting Documentation

The story can be read in three different formats, by CD-ROM, Text Book and Audio Cassette. There are very easy step-by-step guidelines to access the CD. A teacher materials folder is included on the CD. This folder contains files for multiple-choice tests, additional worksheets and other helpful materials for teachers using Start-To-Finish-Books in the classroom. Many are portable document format (PDF) files that can be viewed and printed with Adobe Acrobat Reader. If a teacher wants to view existing titles or find out about new releases throughout the year you can go to

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