Life of a Southern Mom recently had the pleasure of working with SparkUp for a review of The Magical Book Reader. This is an incredible device that was developed to encourage reading in even the youngest children. The Magical Book Reader combines a tiny camera and audio recording to create an interactive reading experience.
SparkUp has done a fantastic job of providing instructional videos which can easily be accessed by scanning a QR code on the instruction manual. They can also be accessed via the SparkUp website. From how to change the batteries to syncing with your computer, their video tutorials are very straightforward and easy to follow. This was one of the first things I did after receiving my SparkUp The Magical Book Reader.
The device itself is very easy to use. It only has three buttons: power, record, and volume. Pressing the power button is simple and will begin reading the cover of a book if it is one the device “recognizes.” Whether it has a downloaded recording or one you have made yourself, SparkUp The Magical Book Reader has to have information about the book in its database to be able to read the book. Also, if you have a different version of the same book which has different pictures or even different placement of pictures, SparkUp will not be able to provide a continuous reading experience. It depends on views of the pictures in the book to identify which page you are reading, so changing versions of a book could throw it off.
I am a huge fan of children reading along to an audio recording. As a child, I had many books on cassette with the accompanying picture book. I read those stories over and over again and absolutely loved them. So, I was very excited to see a more modern version of that idea and have the opportunity to try it out.
Back in the old days, there would always be a chime or other indicator that it was time to turn the page and if you wanted to linger on a page longer, it was necessary to manually stop or pause the recording. If you turned two pages at once or lost your place, it was quite a task to get back on track and in the meantime, you weren’t paying attention to the story itself. I think this is where SparkUp has done a really great job. Because the camera “sees” which page you are on, it won’t continue the story until you turn the page. If you skip a page or two, it skips those pages with you and reads the page you are seeing. If you notice that you skip a page and go back, it will go back with you and start reading that page. Even if the reader is in the middle of a sentence, it will stop and begin reading which ever page you turn to see.
I wondered if there were any parameters to what books I could choose to use with SparkUp The Magical Book Reader. There are a few restrictions as far as size and content. There is no book that is too large for SparkUp. As long as there are images on the pages, SparkUp can follow along. On the small end, a book has to be at least 7 inches wide to be able to clip the device on and be able to turn the pages. I found this to be a reasonable restriction. Even the smallest board books that we own were able to function properly with it. As far as content, the only restriction is that there not be too much text without images. The camera has to have identifiable features for each page and pages of text do not provide enough distinction for it to work well. We did not have a problem with any of the young children’s books we attempted to use.
Recording a book is very simple. The device itself provides audio directions as to what to do and the tutorial online shows step by step how to perform this task. I think SparkUp has done a really great job with their video tutorials. I had no trouble at all reading a book aloud in “continuous mode” and then playing it back with my daughter. It really is as simple as sitting down and reading the book aloud. It can even be done with picture only books where you record by naming objects that the child sees. Older children, grandparents, or anyone else can record a book because it truly is very simple to do.
I was incredibly impressed with SparkUp The Magical Book Reader. It takes independent reading to a whole new level. Children can be exposed to more challenging texts than they are ready to read on their own, you can ask questions during the recording to encourage them to think more deeply about a story, and they have the excitement of hearing a familiar voice reading their favorite stories. This is a great way to encourage early literacy and I think SparkUp has hit a home run with this Magical Book Reader. To get your own, visit SparkUp The Magical Book Reader here.
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