I’m sitting at my computer working on a blog post and listening to myself read Sunshine and Lily a story in the living room. Yes, I just said I’m writing and reading at the same time. No, I’m not crazy or bilocating. I simply got them a Sparkup Magical Book Reader. We spent about an hour one night reading their favourite stories together, and they’ve been rereading those stories with the Sparkup whenever they want ever since.
The Sparkup Magical Book Reader is a little device (a bit smaller than two hands together) that attaches to the top of any book. A little camera scans the page while you read and then, when your child wants to read the story again later, the camera recognizes each page and plays the recording. Sunshine and Lily love holding the book themselves and turning the pages; they feel like they are reading themselves (Lily even tried to tell my husband this was going to help them learn to read).
I like the fact that the Sparkup is encouraging them to read books more. It’s also a big help when I’m trying to get supper on the table (you know that whiny, hungry, 4:30 pm phase that hits most kids? Yeah, now I just give them a book to read) or when I need them to be quiet for twenty minutes so I can get Jade down for her nap.
The Sparkup was also super easy to use. The girls were very excited to get it in the mail and almost tore it apart in their excitement to start using it, but I managed to hold them back so that I could carefully read the instructions and figure out each part. The Sparkup came with a cute little kids’ book about how to use it, and then also gave us instructions as we read on what to do to record books. I carefully followed the instructions and recorded several books for them to listen to.
As soon as Daddy got home, they had him reading a book. I vaguely thought from the next room over that I should show him the instructions or tell him what to do, but the Sparkup did that. And then the next day they had their babysitter recording books for them. The machine is pretty self-explanatory; if you show it a book that it hasn’t read before, the voice tells you what buttons to push to start recording. Next time the grandparents visit, I’m going to get them to record some books for the girls too.
I found the Sparkup easiest to use with hardcover books, which give it a good surface to clip onto. The hardcover books also tend to have pages which lay flat. My husband read the girls several soft-cover books, but I noticed we had to sometimes hold the pages flat so that the Sparkup could recognize it and read it. My husband was a bit frustrated by the fact that the Sparkup had troubles reading several books in the same series, because the covers had the same banner across the top which made the Sparkup think it was the same book.
You can save the stories onto your computer using the handy USB cable, thus preserving your memories. The Sparkup reads each book title as you click on it so that you can rename the .spk files on your computer. You can also download pre-recorded books from the Sparkup website. Our Sparkup came with two books, Shrek and Tikki Tikki Timbo, which sounded like more professional audio books (complete with music).
Overall, I’m quite impressed by this little reader. I’ve stayed away from other book readers because I dislike computerized voices and like reading with my children myself. I like the way that the Sparkup still encourages connections by using familiar voices; e.g., they could listen to grandparents reading to them, even though their grandparents live far away, or they can have Daddy read a book to them even when they’re at work. They’re rediscovering some of their old favourite books again. This could also be great for in the truck when we’re doing a long road trip they can read while I drive.
The Sparkup Magical Reader would be a great Christmas gift for any pre-reading child. To find out more about it or order one for your child, check out the website. You can also find Sparkup on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Do your children enjoy reading? How do you encourage them to read?