Reader Rabbit

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Reader Rabbit
Reader Rabbit logo.gif
Genre(s)Educational
Publisher(s)Encore Software
Creator(s)Leslie Grimm[1]
First releaseReader Rabbit and the Fabulous Word Factory
1983
Latest releaseReader Rabbit: Jumpsmarter
2018
Spin-offsThe ClueFinders

Reader Rabbit is an educational game franchise created in 1983 by The Learning Company. The series is aimed at children from infancy to the age of nine.[2] In 1998, a spin-off series called The ClueFinders was released for older students aged eight to twelve.

The games teach language arts including basic skills in reading and spelling and mathematics. The main character in all the titles is named "Reader Rabbit".

History[edit]

Reader Rabbit media release years
1983Reader Rabbit
1984
1985
1986Math Rabbit
Writer Rabbit
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991Reader Rabbit 2
1992Ready for Letters
1993Reader Rabbit 3
1994Interactive Reading Journey
Reading Development Library 1
1995Reading Development Library 2
Reading Development Library 3
Reading Development Library 4
Let's Start Learning!
1996Interactive Reading Journey 2
Math Journey for Grades 1–3
1997Toddler
Kindergarten
19981st Grade
2nd Grade
Math Ages 6–9
1999Thinking Adventures Ages 4–6
Playtime for Baby
Learn to Read with Phonics Preschool and Kindergarten
2000Learn to Read with Phonics 1st & 2nd Grade
2001Capers on Cloud Nine!
Mis-Cheese-ious Dreamship Adventures!
Sparkle Star Rescue
Bounce Down in Balloon Town!
2002Dreamship Tales
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011On a Mission to Help the Lion Flowers
2012
2013Kart Racing
Smart & Jump
2014
2015
2016Math Race
2017
2018Jumpsmarter

The first Reader Rabbit computer game was conceived by the Grimm sisters and titled Reader Rabbit and the Fabulous Word Factory. It was released initially in 1983[3] and featured in the 1983 holiday special The Computer Chronicles.[4] Later versions were released in 1984.[5][6] In 1986, both Reader Rabbit 2.0 and Math Rabbit were released. In 1987, Writer Rabbit was released with the intention of having a Rabbit series that featured different academic subjects. Ultimately, the developers decided to have a Reader Rabbit series that explored subjects beyond reading.[7] With this directional change, Math Rabbit would later be renamed Reader Rabbit with the game title Reader Rabbit's Math.[8] Many critics and gaming historians erroneously assert that the Reader Rabbit series officially began in 1986.[9] The 1990s saw an audio cassette release of some of the game's most popular music, titled Reader Rabbit's Sing Along Favorites,[10] and by 1996 the Reader Rabbit series included a wide variety of titles, including Reader Rabbit's Reading Development Library which allowed players to experience fairy tales via animated storybooks.[7]

In 1995, The Learning Company was bought by SoftKey after a hostile takeover bid. Softkey adopted the name The Learning Company. Softkey embarked on a cost-cutting exercise with the aim to sell cheaper software.[11] The Platinum line of budget titles pushed the retail price for edutainment down to $12.99 in the US, and swapped the fancy packaging for a simple jewel case.[12] At the time, SoftKey founder Kevin O'Leary recalled, "I’d get a $12 million order for "Reader Rabbit"...it would blow up behind me, the logistics. I couldn't deliver", noting that he gave Mike Perik half his equity to solve the problem.[13] In 1998, The Learning Company was acquired by Mattel in a $3.6 billion deal.[14] The toy-maker was looking to enter the interactive market. Mattel planned to expand the Reader Rabbit franchise into a series of interactive electronic plush toys that could download new content from the Internet.[14] Mattel was forced to quickly sell off their properties the following year to avoid bankruptcy, and the Reader Rabbit brand was sold to Riverdeep.[14] From 1998 to 2002, a series called The ClueFinders featuring a Scooby-Doo-like gang of mystery solvers was released with similar subject matter aimed at a more advanced student base, from the third to the sixth grade.[citation needed] The Reader Rabbit Workbook Series was released in 2003, and consisted of three 320-page comprehensive workbooks and five 32-page single-subject workbooks, aimed at children ages three to seven.[15]

The early 2000s, saw the last major PC releases of the franchise. New games have since been released on platforms such as Nintendo Wii, while some parts of older games have been uploaded to the Internet Archive.[16] By 2003, the Reader Rabbit series had been sold in over 40 countries and translated into 12 different languages:[17][unreliable source?]

  • Chinese (titled 瑞德小兔 / Reid Bunny)
  • Danish[18] (titled Fætter Kanin)
  • Dutch[19] (titled Robbie Konijn)[20]
  • Finnish[18] (titled Jussi Jänö)
  • French (titled Lapin Malin)[21] first translation 1998
  • German (titled Billi Banni)[22]
  • Japanese (titled リーダーラビット / Reader Rabbit)
  • Norwegian[18] (titled Labbe Langøre)
  • Polish (titled Królik Bystrzak)[23]
  • Portuguese (titled Coelho Sabido;[24] ClueFinders titled Os Caça-Pistas)
  • Russian (title Школа Кролика / School Rabbit)
  • Spanish (titled El Conejo Lector)[21] first translation 1998[25]
  • Swedish[18] (titled Kalle Kunskap).

There is a Reader Rabbit themed attraction at Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna, Sweden, which replaced the longstanding and successful Phantom Land.[26] Various audio-books have been released by Prelusion Games and Nordic Softsales, including titles such as Kalle Kunskap i Vilda Västern (Reader Rabbit in the Wild West) in 2010. The Brazilian Reader Rabbit, Coelho Sabido, is a trademark of Divertire Editora, a company active in the educational games market since 1998.

In March 2004, LeapFrog and Riverdeep entered into a publishing and distribution agreement for Reader Rabbit. They planned a series of five e-books about phonics that would be released for the LeapPad learning system. However, only three e-books were released by fall of that year.[27][28] In 2011, a game for the Nintendo Wii console was announced.[29] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the successor to Riverdeep after acquisitions and mergers, currently owns the license for the series and continues to sell the products through various distribution networks.[30]

Design[edit]

Plot and gameplay[edit]

The series centers on the adventures of Reader Rabbit and his friends, including Sam the Lion and Matilda the Mouse. The grayish-blue Reader Rabbit is the protagonist of all the games. His wardrobe has included a red T-shirt and a red and blue striped sweater (similar to the Montreal Canadiens jersey, but without the logo).

Generally, the series consists of point-and-click adventure games where the player must use their inventory and interact with characters to solve a series of puzzles. These puzzles were originally reading-based challenges but different titles focus on other subject areas. Visually, the game consists of a series of static screens which the player can navigate through by clicking on certain "travel" hot spots. Other hot spots can trigger an interaction with a character, item, song, or mini-game.

Art[edit]

In the early 1990s, artist Shaowei Liu hand painted backgrounds and animations which were then digitized for the games.[31] In the mid-1990s, artist Frank Cirocco drew the characters and foregrounds in pencil,[32] hiring Mick Gray to ink the line art.[33][34] By 1997, the characters were redesigned for Reader Rabbit Toddler by Tracy Reynolds of Class 6 Entertainment.[35] For some of the games at this time, the art was provided by Chester Aldridge's company US Equity Holdings.[36] For the later games, Fred Dianda was made Lead Artist.[37] Some line art was worked on by Gerald Broas, who used a 2B pencil to hand draw the backgrounds and characters on 12 field animation paper.[38] For the story books included in the interactive journey and library games, artist Marc Diamond used a LeapPad tablet to sketch the pictures before coloring and shading.[39] The most recent art for the iOS games was done by concept artist Federico Miniaci.[40]

Music[edit]

Each game contains songs that guide the narrative and provide the internal monologs of characters. Composer Scott Lloyd Shelly was particularly proud of composing the music for Reader Rabbit: 1st Grade in 1998.[41] Foreign language versions were created for many of the games to give the franchise global appeal. This extended to the games' songs; one song from Reader Rabbit Preschool was translated into French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Swedish.[42] A VHS video called Reader Rabbit Sing-A-Song Adventures was released in 2000, featuring a compilation of the series' best songs.[43]

Educational goals[edit]

Education has always been a key part of the games' design, seeking to find a balance between learning and fun. The titles in the series are researched by educators, parents, children and reading specialists to ensure the software is educational, engaging and easy-to-use.[44] The software aimed to promote the use of computers as teaching tools in the classroom.[45] The games covered a range of subjects such as reading, phonics, math, and memory.[46] The A.D.A.P.T. Learning Technology was introduced into Reader Rabbit titles in 1999. The system contained a series of customization features that would facilitate the player's learning by assessing abilities, developing skills, adjusting levels, providing help, and tracking progress.[47]

Products in the franchise[edit]

Video games[edit]

Games Platforms, Release Years and Versions
Reader Rabbit and the Fabulous Word Factory


(aka Reader Rabbit)

Math Rabbit
Writer Rabbit
Reader Rabbit 2
Reader Rabbit's Ready for Letters
Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey


(aka Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1)

  • Re-released as Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey For Grades K-1
  • Re-released as Reader Rabbit Reading Ages 4–6
  • Re-released as Reader Rabbit Personalized Reading Ages 4–6
Reader Rabbit's Reading Development Library 1
Reader Rabbit's Reading Development Library 2
Reader Rabbit's Reading Development Library 3
Reader Rabbit's Reading Development Library 4
Reader Rabbit and Friends: Let's Start Learning!
Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 2
  • Re-released as Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey For Grades 1–2
  • Re-released as Reader Rabbit's Reading Ages 6–9[68]
  • Re-released as Reader Rabbit Personalized Reading Ages 6–9
Reader Rabbit Presents: Math Journey for Grades 1–3


(aka Interactive Math Journey)

Reader Rabbit Toddler
(Titled Reader Rabbit's Nursery in UK)
Reader Rabbit Kindergarten
(Titled Reader Rabbit's Junior in UK)
Reader Rabbit: 1st Grade
(Titled Reader Rabbit's Key Stage 1 Year 1 in UK)
Reader Rabbit: 2nd Grade
(Titled Reader Rabbit's Key Stage 1 Year 2 in UK)
Reader Rabbit Math Ages 6–9
Reader Rabbit Thinking Adventures Ages 4–6 Macintosh, Windows (1999 – V1.0)
Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby Macintosh, Windows (1999)
Reader Rabbit's Learn to Read with Phonics: Preschool & Kindergarten
Reader Rabbit Learn to Read with Phonics 1st & 2nd Grade


(aka Reader Rabbit: I Can Read With Phonics)

Macintosh, Windows (2000 – V1.0)[71]
Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Capers on Cloud Nine![29]
(Titled Reader Rabbit Year 1: Capers on Cloud Nine! in UK)
Reader Rabbit 2nd Grade: Mis-Cheese-ious Dreamship Adventures!
(Titled Reader Rabbit Year 2: Mis-Cheese-ious Dreamship Adventures! in UK)
Reader Rabbit Preschool: Sparkle Star Rescue
(Titled Reader Rabbit Nursery: Sparkle Star Rescue in UK)
Reader Rabbit Kindergarten: Bounce Down in Balloon Town!
(Titled Reader Rabbit Junior: Bounce Down in Balloon Town! in UK)
Reader Rabbit Dreamship Tales Mac OS X, Windows (2002 – V1.0)[83]
Reader Rabbit: on a Mission to Help the Lion Flowers Nintendo DS (2011)[84]
Reader Rabbit Kart Racing iOS (2013)[85]
Reader Rabbit Smart & Jump iOS (2013)[86]
Reader Rabbit Math Race Android, iOS (2016)[87]
Reader Rabbit: Jumpsmarter iOS, Apple TV, MacOS (2018)[88]

Compilations[edit]

Year Title Games
1999 Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby and Toddler
  • Reader Rabbit Toddler (1997)
  • Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby (1999)
1999 Reader Rabbit Math & Reading Ages 4–6
  • Reader Rabbit Math Ages 4–6
  • Reader Rabbit Reading Ages 4–6
1999 Reader Rabbit's Complete Learn to Read System
  • Disc One – Compilation of various Reader Rabbit titles plus parent's guides, workbooks, and storybooks.
  • Disc Two – Reader Rabbit's Reading Development Library 2 (1995)
2000 Reader Rabbit KS1 – 5 Pack
  • Reader Rabbit Year 1 (1998)
  • Reader Rabbit Year 2 (1998)
  • Reader Rabbit's Math Ages 6–9 (1999)
  • Reader Rabbit's Reading Ages 4–6 (1998)
  • Reader Rabbit Thinking Adventures Ages 4–6 (1999)
2001 Reader Rabbit: I Can Read! With Phonics[89]
  • Reader Rabbit's Reading 2 (1997)
  • Reader Rabbit's Reading Ages 6–9 (1999)
2001 Learn to Read with Phonics
  • Reader Rabbit Preschool (1997)
  • Reader Rabbit Kindergarten (1997)

Cassettes and DVD[edit]

  • Reader Rabbit's Sing Along Favorites (music cassette)
  • Reader Rabbit: Sing-A-Song Adventures (VHS – 2000)
  • Reader Rabbit: Wordville Soup (DVD – 2004)
  • Reader Rabbit: The Great Alphabet Race (DVD – 2005)

Reader Rabbit Giant Workbooks[edit]

These workbooks were published by The Learning Company and each were supplementary material to a corresponding game. They were republished as Reader Rabbit: Let's Learn by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  • Reader Rabbit Kindergarten
  • Reader Rabbit Kindergarten: Rhyming Words
  • Reader Rabbit Preschool
  • Reader Rabbit Preschool: Reading Readiness
  • Reader Rabbit Preschool: Colors & Shapes
  • Reader Rabbit Preschool: Sounds
  • Reader Rabbit Preschool: Alphabet
  • Reader Rabbit Starting School Level 1: ABC
  • Reader Rabbit 1st Grade
  • Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Spelling
  • Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Phonics
  • Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Writing Mechanics
  • Reader Rabbit K-1st Grade: Math
  • Reader Rabbit K-1st Grade: Math – Money, Time & Measurement

Reader Rabbit Leapfrog e-books[edit]

These e-books are about phonics and were released under the LeapPad learning system.

  • High Flying Circus
  • Sam's Sweet Surprise
  • The Great Word Chase

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

In 1991, The Chicago Sun-Times noted that Reader Rabbit was "one of the most effective edutainment gaming franchises" and that it had helped many children learn how to read.[90] Computer Shopper appreciated that the games filled a gap in the market; it found that while most reading comprehension titles were aimed at older children, Reader Rabbit uniquely offered games to the preschool age.[91]

In 1995, The New York Times noted that the flagship title of The Learning Company was "unusual in crossing over from home use to in-school, curriculum-based learning".[92] The newspaper noted in 2002 that the series had become an "educational staple in schools and homes" with a long tradition of "quality educational software".[93] The Boston Herald argued that the games' replayability and enjoyment made their costs immediately justifiable.[94] Krystina Madej of Physical Play and Children's Digital Games highlighted the series as an innovator in the budding edutainment genre during the 1980s, following in MECC's The Oregon Trail footsteps to create play-based educational games aimed at young children.[95]

In 2012, PC Mag listed the debut title as one of the 10 Educational PC Games of the 1980s and noted that new titles were still being released.[96]

Sales[edit]

The premiere game in the series, Reader Rabbit and the Fabulous Word Factory, first entered the Billboard Charts for Education Computer Software at number six in May 1985[97] and re-entered at number 10 two weeks later.[98] The game continued to feature on the charts in following weeks, selling 250,000 units by 1989.[99]

The series was commercially successful throughout its run. By 1991, the series had sold 500,000 copies.[90] The Learning Company had a gross revenue of $27.5 million at the end of the 1993 financial year and 41% revenue growth from 1992–3, largely due to the Reader Rabbit series.[100]

Between 1993 and 2001, the series sold six million copies.[28] Around 2001, prices of the products were tapering and the sales were declining around Europe.[101] By 2002, the series had sold over 25 million copies.[102]

Awards and nominations[edit]

As of 2017, the series has won over 175 awards.[103]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1991 Reader Rabbit 1 Technology & Learning Magazine's Language Arts Program of the Decade Won[104]
1991 Reader Rabbit 2 Parents' Choice Foundation Award Won[104]
1992 Reader Rabbit 2 Software Publishers Association's Award for Best Elementary Education Product Won[104]
1992 Reader Rabbit 2 CODiE Award for Best Elementary Education Program Won[105]
1992 Reader Rabbit 2 Technology & Learning Magazine's Award of Excellence Won[104]
1994 Reader Rabbit 1 The National Association of Parenting Publications Awards Gold Medal Won[104]
1994 Reader Rabbit 2 Technology & Learning Magazine's Software Award for Excellence—Next in Series Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1 Home PC's Award of Excellence Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1 Parenting Magazine's Software Magic Award Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1 The Parent Council's Seal for outstanding product Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1 Technology & Learning Magazine's Award of Excellence for the School category Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1 The Parents' Choice Foundation Approval Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1 Mac Home Journal's Reader's Choice Award Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1 CD-ROM Today Magazine's Best Children's Program-Reading Award Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 1 Home Computing & Entertainment Magazine's Best Educational Program Award Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit 1 Newsweek Magazine's Editors' Choice Award Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit 2 Only the Best: The Annual Guide to the Highest-Rated Educational Software/Multimedia, 1994/95 Won[104]
1995 Reader Rabbit 3 Only the Best: The Annual Guide to the Highest-Rated Educational Software/Multimedia, 1994/95 Won[104]
1996 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 2 SuperKids Software Award for Best Reading Software Won[104]
1996 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Math Journey Curriculum Administrator Magazine's Top 100 Districts' Choice Award Won[104]
1996 Reader Rabbit Reading 1 Parents' Choice Foundation Best Software of the Year Won[106]
1996 Reader Rabbit Reading 1 Language Art's Technology & Learning Magazine Program of the Decade Won[106]
1997 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 2 The National Educational Media Network Silver Apple Won[104]
1997 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 2 Newsweek Editor's Choice Award Won[107]
1997 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Reading Journey 2 Parent's Choice Gold Award Won[107]
1997 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Math Journey Home PC's Editor's Choice Top 100 Software Award Won[104]
1997 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Math Journey Bologna New Media Prize for Best Math Title (cosponsored by Children's Software Revue) Won[104]
1997 Reader Rabbit's Interactive Math Journey Family PC's Recommended Software Seal Won[104]
1998 Reader Rabbit's 1st Grade Parents' Choice Foundation Award Gold Award[108]
1998 Reader Rabbit's First Grade Interactive Achievement Award for Computer Edutainment Game of the Year Nominated[109]
1998 Reader Rabbit's 2nd Grade Parents' Choice Foundation Award Silver Honor[110]
1998 Reader Rabbit – 2nd Grade Newsweek Magazine Editor's Choice Award Won[111]
1998 Reader Rabbit's Math Ages 6–9 Parents' Choice Foundation Award Gold Award[112]
2001 Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Capers on Cloud Nine! Parents' Choice Foundation Award Approved[113]
2001 Reader Rabbit 2nd Grade: Mis-cheese-ious Dreamship Adventures! Parents' Choice Foundation Award Approved[114]
2001 Reader Rabbit Kindergarten: Bounce Down in Balloon Town! Parents' Choice Foundation Award Approved[115]
2005 Reader Rabbit series – "Sam's Sweet Surprise", "High Flying Circus", "Great Word Chase" – for LeapPadBrad (Fuller, Don Diekneite – Music, Sound Effects, Voice Overs) GANG Award for Best Audio – Other Won[104]
2005 Reader Rabbit: Wordville Soup (DVD) Parents' Choice Foundation Award Recommended[116]
2011 Reader Rabbit: The Great Alphabet Race (DVD) Parents' Choice Foundation Award Recommended[117]
2011 Reader Rabbit Kindergarten Academics' Choice Won[118]
2011 Reader Rabbit – Kindergarten Parents' Choice Foundation Award Approved[119]
2011 Reader Rabbit – 1st Grade Parents' Choice Foundation Award Approved[120]
2011 Reader Rabbit – Preschool Parents' Choice Foundation Award Approved[121]
2011 Reader Rabbit – 2nd Grade Parents' Choice Foundation Award Approved[122]

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External links[edit]