My son adores reading stories and being read to by anyone willing. We read to him at least twice a day, before nap and before bedtime. He has amassed quite a library of books, mostly because I am a big fan of books, particularly picture books. (I’ve been buying them since we got married whenever we went anywhere special, so he already had a collection before he was born.) He now recognizes logos of brands and can “read” them to us, as well as recognize the alphabet, but he isn’t reading books on his own yet. He does enjoy looking through books and pretends to read them, especially ones he has memorized.
Recently we started using the Anybook reading device in addition to his story times. This is a small electronic gadget that is shaped like a bulky pen or marker. The Anybook is a new gadget by Franklin Discover and is used by a reader, such as mom or dad, to record a book in your own voice. The child can then use the device like a speaker to listen to the story, even when playing alone. The Anybook uses stickers on each page that activate the recording on that page. The Anybook works with every book in your personal library! The gadget we are using is the Anybook DRP-4000, which holds up to 60 hours of recordings. It can also delete books as needed, once the 60 hour threshold is met, so it can be enjoyed for years. It runs on two AAA batteries and does not require software or a computer to use. Unlike some of the other reading gadgets on the market for kids that I’ve investigated, the Anybook does not need special books to go with it. As its name implies, it can be used with anybook in your personal library!
I started first with a short board book, one of my favorites, Chicka Chicka abc. After putting a small circle sticker on each page, I then used the Anybook’s record mode to record my voice reading the words on each page, while touching the sticker on that page with the device. I recorded each page of the book and then was able to play back each page by touching each sticker. It was that simple! I was surprised by several things: how I sound during playback, how important enunciation is, and how amazing this gadget is! I did have to re-record two of the pages because I thought they sounded a bit muffled, but once I figured out how far away to hold the device from my mouth, it turned out great! (Speaking directly into it seemed to be too close, so holding it down a few inches from my mouth, similar to how one holds a microphone, seemed to do the trick in improving my recording quality.)
The stickers that come with the Anybook are the key to making it work. They use a unique code, which seems like magic to me, to recognize the assigned recording for each page of the book. They are about a half inch sized circle and the ones that came with my Anybook are white. The Anybook sticker pack has approximately 400 recordable stickers and also includes four sheets of stickers that are pre-recorded with sounds, such as a train, a child laughing, clapping hands, a phone ringing, as well as some animal sounds. There are also two sheets of faces stickers representing moms and dads, grandparents, and brothers and sisters. These stickers can be recorded, so for the mom one I recorded my voice saying “Mommy.” I will place this mommy sticker on the front of the books I read, and my husband or parents can use the other stickers for when they record their books. The stickers can be removed from a book and re-used. I was able to peel the sticker and move it quite easily when I realized I wanted to move a sticker to another spot on the page. If the stickers can be used in other books and re-recorded over, so to speak, so until the sticky part stops sticking, they are reusable. Additional sticker packs are available for purchase from the manufacturer.
To say that my son liked “reading” his book with Anybook is an understatement. He kept asking me if the voice was me and went through the book several times in a row. It was very exciting to him to hear his mom read to him through this gadget. I later recorded a second book; A is for Angry, by Sandra Boynton, a favorite author of ours. He enjoyed reading and using the Anybook reader gadget just as much. With this book, I even added a few things to the recordings, the way I add extras when I read, such as asking him to recite the alphabet at the end of the story. I also used the Mommy sticker on the front and included a personalized greeting with the title of the book.
The Anybook by Franklin Discover is sure to be a hit this holiday season. I am going to recommend it to a friend of mine whose daughter adores reading so much she would be happy to be read to all day. This is the perfect gadget for a family with a parent that travels or is in the military. What a great way to be there for a child by being able to read a story to them even when you can’t be there in person. I am planning to have my husband record a few books for my son so that when he is away on his next business trip or even just at work during the day, my son can listen to daddy read to him. I also am hoping to have my son’s grandparent’s record a book so that we have their voices recorded for him. With it being so easy to use, a book can be recorded in just a few minutes more than it takes to read it.
Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary Anybook gadget and stickers set for the purpose of this review. The opinions and experience expressed here are honest and my own!
(product photo is courtesy of Franklin Discover, child photo is the author's!)