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LeapFrog Tag Reading System

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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LeapFrog Tag Reading System

The LeapFrog Tag Reader

Courtesy of PriceGrabber
The Tag Reading System by LeapFrog is an optical pen that can read aloud from specially designed story books. Touch the pen to any word in the book and it says the word out loud. It can read a page of the story, the entire story, or just one word at a time. The pen also interacts with pictures in the book and can be used to play simple reading comprehension games. This is the up-to-date version of those read-along records (or tapes) many adults remember from their own childhood (when you hear the beep, turn the page).

Pros

  • Encourages independent reading
  • Fun and easy for kids to use

Cons

  • Requires Internet access to download audio for new books
  • Limited storage on pen
  • Each pen holds one user profile

Getting Started with the LeapFrog Tag Reading System

The only cumbersome part of the Tag reader is the installation of a new story. The pen comes with one story installed (ours had one called Ozzie and Mack about an otter and his insect pet). Additional books can be purchased separately. Each new book requires that you run a program called “LeapFrog Connect” to download the audio file to the pen. It’s a simple process, but not ideal for busy parents on the go or those who need a distraction while on vacation away from the family computer or Internet access.

Once installed, the pen is simple to use. Turn it on and start reading. The pen has volume control and a headphone jack, which makes it appealing for long car rides.

Learning with the Tag Reading System

Boy Playing with the LeapFrog Tag Reader

Having Fun with the LeapFrog Tag Reader

Photo Courtesy of LeapFrog

The LeapFrog Tag Reading System is a fun way to engage kids in independent reading. While not designed to replace the one-on-one reading time with Mom or Dad, the Tag Reader allows kids to explore a book without help. They can make a guess at a particular word and see if they are right. Or they can memorize the words, which is an early stage of learning to read.

Kids love that it reads for them, and even older kids will enjoy trying it out. The games will be fun for emergent readers, as well as those with those with more advanced reading skills. The books are printed in a special way to interact with the pen, but are otherwise the same as other books you have in your home so you can just as easily grab one for a bedtime story. This is definitely a versatile item.

The Tag Reader and the LeapFrog Learning Path

The Tag Reader interfaces with LeapFrog’s new Learning Path online. The Learning Path allows you to see what your child is learning and how they are progressing based on the LeapFrog products they are using. For example, the Learning Path data for the Tag Reader will tell you how long your child spent with a particular book, what questions they answered correctly, and what types of skills they are working on.

The LeapFrog Tag Reading System only has one user profile, unfortunately, which means it tracks data for one person. In order to get an accurate sense of how your child is doing, they are the only ones who can use a particular pen. This is a major flaw in the design of this product to go along with the Learning Path. It is simply not practical to allow only one child in a house to use a particular item. You’ll need to have a pen for each of the kids and label them accordingly.

Tag Reader Memory and Batteries

The most common complaint about the Tag Reader is probably going to be the limited memory. The pen holds about 5 books at a time. If your child loves the Tag Reader as much as mine, you’re going to be spending some of your time swapping books in and out. I’d like to see the pen come with expandable memory. On the other hand, there are no little cartridges or memory cards to lose.

The other limitation, which is common among electronic toys, is that you are going to go through a lot of batteries. The Tag Reader only requires two AAA batteries, but you’ll still probably wish you had stock in one of the major battery manufacturers. I’m hoping ht LeapFrog designs a pen with a rechargeable battery. Since it already has a USB port, that would be a handy way of charging it up, at least while at home.

The Bottom Line

The LeapFrog Tag Reading System is a lot of fun and a wonderful educational toy. Anything that encourages more kids to read deserves a nod in my book. Although there are certainly some concrete ways that LeapFrog could improve this device, I still recommend it. The compact nature, educational value and ease of use outweigh the negatives. If your kids are at all interested in reading, they will love it.

Caveat: The 4.5 stars are based on the device without the use of the LeapFrog Learning Path (or in single child homes). Since this isn’t a feature that all parents will care to make use of, I didn’t include it in my overall assessment of the product.

The LeapFrog Tag Reader has an MSRP of $49.99 and comes in green/white and pink/white. Additional books and activity packs range from $7.99-$13.99.

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