Amazon has just announced Reading Sidekick, a fun, new Alexa learning experience that helps young readers build fluency and foster a love for reading. To get started with Reading Sidekick, a child with an Amazon Kids+ subscription can pick up a compatible physical book or eBook and say “Alexa, let’s read” to any Amazon Kids-enabled Echo device. The child then tells Alexa the book’s title and Alexa asks how much do they want to read: a little, a lot, or taking turns.
This new program is a new way of having Alexa read books aloud, but they have to be purchased from Amazon. “Since we launched the Kindle in 2007, Amazon has been creating new products and features with literacy top-of-mind. We’ve been determined to do the same for our kids’ products, and knew Alexa’s existing relationship with families was a natural place to innovate. In our early conversations with some of the best people helping kids learn to read—their parents/guardians and teachers—we learned the ideal way to help a child improve reading is to read out loud, but most kids don’t like doing it alone. We knew kids already loved talking with Alexa and set out to help motivate children to want to read so they will practice reading independently and, thus, become fluent readers.”
Reading Sidekick will launch this summer. The program will be compatible with hundreds of children’s books intended for ages 6 to 9, with hundreds more added each month. You can find additional details in the blog here, and the Reading Sidekick landing page can be found here.
There are various other voice systems for the Kindle e-Reader and Fire Tablets. VoiceView was launched a couple of years ago and was designed to help make Kindles usable for people with vision problems. It reads everything onscreen aloud, including the menus and the pages of ebooks, and it will even automatically turn pages as it reads aloud, though it does make a clicking noise when doing so. There is also the Audible enabled Whispersync for Voice, that allows you to continue listening to any Audible audiobook across multiple Whispersync for Voice-enabled devices without losing your place. Furthermore, Whispersync for Voice also allows you to switch seamlessly between listening to your audiobooks and reading their companion Kindle eBooks. As long as your Whispersync for Voice-ready device has access to a Wi-Fi connection, the playback position, bookmarks, and notes will be kept across devices without any action required.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.