Saturday, January 5, 2013

Product Review: Leap Frog's Tag Reading System

"Learn to read with the #1 selling reading system" brags the Leapfrog website.  Well of course.  Watch the demo and you would your child to have one of these too!  But just like any system there are positives and negatives.

These are my observations simply from Christmas until now.
Positives:
1)  From a parents point of view, children are engaged in an activity on their own.  Our lives are busy and we have lots we need to do.  This system will keep them ENTERTAINED on their own long enough that you can get stuff done.  It reads to them and is interactive with the pictures and the text.  I highlighted entertained for a reason in the negatives.
2)  In English we read from left to right and while it may seem like a given, it is something that must be taught.  The Tag reading system will enforce this concept as children interact with the words.
3)  Large memory.  The 15 MB Tag will hold five books and the 32 MB Tag will hold 10 titles.  That is a lot of information considering other gaming systems like Fisher Price iXL only hold three gaming titles in its memory.  But this could also be a negative if you have children like mine.
4)  Teaches phonics.  I believe phonics is very important in learning to read.  I learned to read at a very early age through the use of phonics and am using it to teach my children.  Some educators disagree and feel that other methods are more appropriate, but from my own experiences and what I have learned in the process of earning my Master's I love phonics and its application.
5)  Other options than just reading.  There are lots of activities that interact with the Tag system.

Negatives:
1)  Younger children equate the Tag with it being okay to write in books!  I keep catching my one and a half year old niece trying to write in books with pencils and pens.  She is able to make the same motions with her Tag, why not with a pencil or pen?
2)  It only teaches children to read if they are self-motivated to explore each letter and word or are being supervised by a parent who directs them to explore.  Most children just want the story read to them and as they run the Tag over the words and the Tag is reading the words, the actual word is covered up.  There is not a direct correlation between the word and what the Tag is saying while the story is being read.  Being read to is entertaining.  Touching the pictures is entertaining.  If you can get them to explore the letters and sounds and then the words then it becomes more; otherwise, they are just being entertained.  There needs to be a line under the words where that is the pen's guide and that way children see the word while it is being said.  I feel that this would promote learning to read for even children who are not self-motivated.
3)  Yes, the Tag holds either 5 or 10 books, but I don't know how many parents love having to unload and load books.  My children aren't satisfied with five books.  They love being read to.  Several times a day they bring me books to read.  Abbie is being potty trained and while she is sitting on the potty she wants me to read books to her.   Harrison sits for hours on the couch and "reads" his books.  Perhaps it needs to have a micro SD card slot added for additional room.  Imagine how many more books and activities could be store!  Especially if you plan to buy some of the additional products that are out there.
4)  Need lots of batteries.  Be prepared!  It would be really nice if it were rechargeable or had an AC adapter or one for the car.

My conclusion:  I feel like it is really something that entertains more than it teaches.  I just can't get past the fact that the words are covered up by the Tag Reader.  I've tried using it just below the word, but it picks up the line beneath.  I really think this thing holds potential.  Reading the review on the LeapFrog web page people seem to feel that it really teaches their child to read.  Until I see results, I remain skeptical that children cannot learn a word that they cannot see!  We were taught to read to our students while pointing at the word.  Students see and hear the word.  Covering the word up does the opposite.  Would I give this to my kids in the car or to keep them busy so I can get some stuff done?  You bet!!!  Would I spend my own money on this educational tool?  NO!  As an educator I just cannot endorse it as something that teaches a child to read.

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