Jul 012008

Despite my family suspecting me of early-onset dementia, I do have some remnants of working memory and, like most people over the age of about ten, once I have read a book, I’ll only read it again if it was a jolly good read and some time has passed.
But as any parent knows, once your pre-schooler has decided a particular book is a favourite, you’ll be up for a recital several times a day for the next six months or until you hide it somewhere they would never look (like their wardrobe).

US-based toy company Leapfrog scored a winner with their LeapPad kids own laptop reading system, launched a few years back, which appealed to a broad range of parents: the pushy parent wanting genius advantage before little Johnny got to kindergarten; the time-stretched parent whose kids had learned the alphabet from Sesame Street; and the desperate parent who had to buy themselves a new laptop following a trip to the sandpit.

The LeapPad’s successor is destined to be an even bigger winner, apparently; called The Tag Reading system, it is based on a chunky plastic pen-like stylus, in green or pink, that will read a paper-based book aloud and never has to do the washing-up first.

The Tag stylus contains an infrared camera that scans dot patterns on the books and then reads out the appropriate text to the child. Magic, I told my two-year old (though it probably uses an inbuilt MP3-like audio file.)

A USB connection allows you to plug the stylus into your PC to track your child’s progress and additional phonics-based activities at the back of the book can be useful to promote reading. Or you may have the kind of child who just wants to make chicken noises hundreds of times in a row. (Maybe that’s just my offspring!)

At least there’s a range of books to choose from – 18 books have been rolled out with the initial launch with the promise of more to come. And though aimed at 4-8 year olds, this would make a great present for stressed-out parents of 2-6 year olds. Just add batteries.

Where: http://www.leapfrog.com/tag
How much : Basic tag and book kit from Au $99, with extra books starting at around $22