While Amazon’s virtual voice assistant, Alexa, is already great help in finding answers to all our questions, it also comes in handy for kids and students in their educational curriculum. So to help kids improve their reading skills, Amazon recently announced a new edutainment service called Reading Sidekick for Alexa-enabled devices.
Alexa Reading Sidekick
Amazon Reading Sidekick, as the name should tell, will turn Alexa into a virtual reading companion for your kid. It will read along with your kids, help them when they struggle with words, and help them develop their reading skills.
The automated reading assistant is available from June 29 and comes as part of Amazon’s Kids Plus service. It works on most Alexa-compatible devices such as the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Dot Kids, Echo Plus, and Echo Show. Kids can invoke it by a voice command when a smart speaker or display is in Kid Mode (enabled via the Alexa app on smartphones). So, when a device is in Kids Mode, a child can simply say “Alexa, let’s read” to start Reading Sidekick.
Once it kicks in, the feature will allow kids to choose a physical version of a book on Fire Tablets or a digital version in the Kids Plus app on other devices. There are three reading modes to choose from – Read a lot mode, Read a little mode, and Take turns mode.
The Reading Modes
The “Read a lot” mode of the Reading Sidekick feature will see that a child reads the major portions of a selected book. In this mode, the child will require to read four consecutive pages of the book and the fifth page will be read by Alexa.
The “Read a little” mode, on the other hand, will allow the child to follow along as Alexa reads the major portion of the book. The “Take turns” mode is a mixture of the above two modes and allows both Alexa and the child to read alternatively.
So after choosing a preferred mode, Alexa will start listening to the kids’ reading to help improve their reading skills, fix pronunciation mistakes, and even encourage them after a successful reading session. It will encourage them with phrases like “good job!” to invoke a feeling of success in them. However, one of the key disadvantages of the Reading Sidekick feature is that it does not provide any quiz or Q&A after the reading session. So, there is no way of understanding how much the child understood while reading the book.
Coming to the availability, the Reading Sidekick feature is a part of Amazon’s Kids Plus service that comes with the Kids edition Fire Tablets and Echo Speakers. It can also be acquired as a subscription service for $2.99 (~Rs. 220) a month or $69 (~Rs. 5140) a year. However, if you do not have an Amazon Prime subscription, the price goes up to $4.99 (~Rs. 370) a month and $99 (~Rs. 7375) a year.