Takobe O'Neal sat at a computer at Carver Recreation Center and switched letters around to make words. Each time he switched a letter to make the correct word, a character on the computer screen slowly climbed a tree. When the game is successfully completed, the computer character parachutes out of the tree.
"I like watching him parachute," said Takobe, a 9-year-old boy participating in the city's summer camp.
The computer game, called Super Change, is designed to help Takobe and other children learn to read better. The computer program is now in place at five recreation centers across the city. Carver, the first center to use the program, received it about three months ago.
Lurone Jennings, administrator of Chattanooga's Youth and Family Development Department, said the Lexia program will work. He used it for years when he was executive director at the Bethlehem Center. About 93 kids are using it, city officials said.
"We'll see results in the program this summer," Jennings said.
The city, along with private corporations and community foundations, bought the licenses needed to run the computer literacy program.
Jennings said each child is given an assessment, and the computer program caters to the child's particular needs. Instructors can then print assessments on the child at the end of the day.
"You see the kids progress on a daily or weekly basis," Jennings said.
The idea is to keep the program going even after school starts in August.
Jennings said there are not enough computers to distribute to all of the city's 17 recreation centers.
"We need computers," he said. "If we can get computers, we can get more up and running."
Charles King, 14, started using the program three months ago. Now he's teaching it. He said it's definitely a program that can help improve reading skills and literacy.
It's been fairly easy for him, but there was one lesson on phonetics that stumped him for three days. He finally mastered the concept and moved on.
He encourages younger children and anyone who has trouble reading to try it.
"For the elementary kids, they should at least try it," he said.
Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.