Wednesday 6 August 2014

How LeapReader is helping my little Miss E

I've hinted before on the blog that Miss E finds reading incredibly hard and we have been wondering for the past few years if she has dyslexia. She is such a bright little girl and really wants to do well, learn and fit in but reading just will not click for her - d's are sounded as p's. Z's are written backwards and she tries to read right to left.

For quite some time she was so negative about her reading skills that she used to hit herself and call herself stupid and it has taken a lot of praise, reinforcement and even stern words to help her realise how clever she is and that just because she finds reading hard she is not stupid (as she suggests). It must be extra hard for her having a brother and twin sister who are both book worms and read at far beyond their years.

As a keen reader myself I do want all my children to enjoy books and of course it is a skill Miss E needs to master as best she can but I don't want it to become a chore so I have been looking for ways to make it fun for her. We did in fact find out earlier this year that Miss E does display some classic signs of dyslexia and she came up as mild risk as there are many tasks which involve fine motor skills that she excels at and this lowers her risk of dyslexia (for some reason!).

Over the last few months some of the things we have tried with Miss E that have helped have been to read together - she reads a page and then I read a page, we use a paper cut our cursor, so she just reveals one word at a time and can stay focused on that one and listening to audio books whilst following the paper version with her finger.

But the thing that seems to be making her smile, the one she is going back to time and time again and the one that made me want to cry is the LeapReader.  I better start by explaining why I wanted to cry.... as Miss E was exploring the Tangled book and playing the games after the story had been read to her, she was answering the questions with the help of the LeapReader pen and she got them all right and it congratulated and praised her and I could just tell as she turned to me with a big smile that she felt good and it had hit a chord with her that has taken me a long time to convince her of. She felt capable.

What is the LeapReader?
It is like a jumbo pen that you charge via your computer USB port and you can store audio books, trivia quizzes and music on it and is aimed at 4-8 year olds. Your child can wear headphones to listen in privacy or listen aloud but the best thing is to use the LeapReader with one of the compatible interactive books and they can decide how to listen to the story. The purple book icon reads the page to you, the yellow triangle will read the whole book and you can glide over a word for that to be read to you.  This is perfect for Miss E as she does not feel forced to read and I've watched her let the LeapReader read a page or two to her and then she will try and sound out some words and follow the written word.

The LeapReader was easy for Miss E to control herself, it took just moments to explain to her about using the home button to choose between modes and then the backward and forward button to choose what book to listen to and of course the play/ pause button too. Also being a pen like device it did not matter that Miss E is left handed and Miss M right, they could both use it with no issues.

There are literally hundreds of different downloads and books that you can purchase to use with your LeapReader and from what I understand if you had the books that worked with the older tag reader these also work with the LeapReader. The books are broken down into four series so that you can easily identify where your child is at - Get ready to read, followed by Early Reading, then Read on Your Own and Learn through Reading too.

It certainly is a system designed to help your little one learn to read (by sounding out the phonics with them), write on the special paper with mess-free ink magically appearing and develop good listening skills which also improve comprehension and imagination.

The LeapReader came with a sampler activity book which my children really enjoyed and the ability to download an audio book, music album and trivia challenge and of course the USB charging cable. The RRP is £40 but I found it for as low as £29.95 and it is available in green or lilac colour.

Setting up the LeapReader was simple. I had to charge it via the supplied cable and then install the LeapFrog connect application onto my PC or Mac, this did not take too long and it guided me through what to do. It now means I have a parent portal to be able to keep track of what progress Miss E is making and I can manage which content is current on the LeapReader and which is stored in my account.

Reviewing Tangled Interactive Book
LeapFrog have launched a book club on their Facebook page and the book of the month for August is Disney Tangled. This can be purchased for £12.99 and it is a great book, hardbacked to last and 25 pages long. The classic story is still there but it has been compacted to make it easy for the recommended 4-7 year old reading age. Although my daughters are at the oldest part of the age range it still captivated them, Miss E was nowhere near the point where she could read some of the words but Miss M could read it and enjoy it easily.

The pages are glossy and thick and feel durable and the characters look endearing and captivated my girls. It is not too samish and there is something nice to look at one every page. The text is clear and easy to read and the pages do not feel too cluttered with words, it is a good balance and I imagine if you get the book at the younger age range it will grow with your childs reading skills over the years.

On numerous pages throughout the book there are games and Miss E loved these, they were often questions which checked her comprehension of the book and at others they looked for her to use her common sense to answer a question. At the back there is a maze which times how long you took to take the right route and the twins liked to challenge each other and see who could be the fastest.

Probably the part that made Miss E laugh the most was the 'Wanted! Flynn Rider' poster. You can fill in the blanks by choosing words from a list of adjectives and then it will read it out to you and she got some really funny combinations, like Flynn's nose being green and his hair being scary. It was great to hear her laughing at something that was also helping her with her reading difficulty.

There really does seem to continually be new things to learn and explore from the book, I just figured out that if you touch the characters on the pages with the LeapReader you get to hear aloud what they are thinking, which gives a nice extra element to the story.

When you first purchase the book you will need to download the audio which accompanies it, you do this by plugging in your LeapReader to your PC and choosing the relevant book in your LeapFrog Connect application, it was easy and quick to do.

The girls and myself were both impressed with the LeapReader and I will definitely invest in more books. The next on the hit list is the Human Body discovery pack as the girls really enjoyed the taster page that came with their Leapreader.

Disclosure: We were sent a LeapReader and the Tangled book free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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