By Chris Hale
Dan here – This is part of our Real Dads (and Moms) Review The Top 16 Holiday Toys for 2010 series. We sent out the hot holiday toys to our members and in this series they are sharing their honest reviews before you waste any money on a flop! Want to get in on the fun next time – Join Us. Take it away, Chris…
Vtech VReader – The Kid’s Book for the 21st Century?
My wife and I have read to our children ever since they were born. They love books. In fact, they at times will choose to sleep with books rather than choose a favorite stuffed animal. That is why I was so excited to find out that we had been chosen to review the VTech VReader.
When the package arrived, I made it very clear to my kids that Daddy would need to set it up first before anyone could play with it. I took it out of the package, installed 4 AA batteries (not included), visited the VTech website and downloaded the VReader sync software. To my surprise, when you register the device online you receive 6 credits for free e-books, so I let the kids select some titles and I downloaded them to the VReader. After playing with, um I mean setting it up for about 20 minutes, I turned the kids loose.
The Kids Torture Test the V.Reader
My 4 and 6 year old were instantly hooked. As much as they enjoy reading, this product opened up a new world of reading for them. My 6 year old is an excellent reader, but often asks for the meaning of difficult words as she reads through a story. With the VReader, this isn’t necessary. When she would come across a word that she didn’t know, all she had to do is touch it and it would read her the definition. She also got a kick out of being able to interact with the characters from the book by touching them. Sadly though, such interaction is only available with book cartridges that can be purchased online or at most stores that sell toys. These cartridges are available with many popular characters, so there is something for every kid from Disney Princesses to Spider-man. The books that you can download allow definitions and pronunciation, but do not allow character interaction. None the less, they still include animated characters, music and sound effects which enrich the storytelling experience. The kids are also rewarded for reading and playing games with certificates that can be unlocked on the device and downloaded and printed from the web.
VTech VReader is Not Just for the 4 and up Crowd
My 4 year old can not yet read by herself, but using the VReader she can have the book read to her as the words are highlighted. She was born with a cleft palate, and has had numerous surgeries to repair it, but she is left with much speech therapy to learn to speak normally. It was a joy to see her touching the words, listening to them read and then trying to say them out loud. This is a great tool for her therapy. The next day, while the 4 and 6 year old were at school, I decided to let the 2 year old give it a whirl. Now, this toy is listed for ages 4-7, but I decided to see what would happen. He navigated it amazingly well. I found that he loved the animated characters and would repeat the words as they were read to him.
VReader Does More Than Just Books
The VReader not only reads books, it also has word games built in using the vocabulary from the stories. My kids loved this and spent literally hours playing word games, but not without a cost. Since this device has a full color screen, it uses a lot of battery power. During the test period my children played with the VReader a total of 16 hours over a week and a half. During that time the batteries had to be replaced four times. That averages to a battery life of four hours. After replacing the batteries the first time I insisted that the kids keep the screen brightness turned down to the lowest setting. This did not seem to make a difference.
The V.Reader does include a jack for an external power adapter (sold separately), but that defeats the purpose of a portable book reader. Can you imagine trying to read a kindle while tethered to a wall? One other negative is that the battery compartment does not have a screw to keep it closed, so it can easily be opened by children of any age. I guess that they made the battery compartment so easy to open because they knew that you would be changing the batteries a lot. So in a sense kudos to VTech for this possibly intentional design flaw.
VReader Features Help Keep Parents Sane
With the VReader getting so much play time, one would imagine that it would get a bit annoying listening to the sound coming from the speaker for hours on end. Luckily it has a headphone jack, a volume control and the ability to turn off the music and sound effects independently. These are all features that were well used and that contributed to my sanity.
The V.Reader also includes a qwerty keypad with very small letters which is used for playing the word games and for personalization of the device, this is great for kids with small fingers. For kids with larger fingers, a stylus is tucked away inside the reader. The stylus in my home seemed to be more of a hide and seek toy, as it was lost then found repeatedly. Current status: found.
Conclusion on the Vtech V.Reader
The consensus among my kids is that the VTech VReader is a hit. It is a great toy for kids who love to read as well as those who like to play games. It is a well constructed toy that will be sure to provide hours of entertainment for your children, that is if own stock in Duracell.
|Chris Hale is a 38 year old father of three, husband of 8 years, recovering drug addict (2 ½ years sober), survivor of Paternal Post Natal Depression, pet owner, Christian, IT Guy with Attention Deficit Disorder. Somehow he finds the time to blog, terrorize Twitter (@DaddysDown), spend time with his family and play with his kids toys. You can read all about him at his blog DaddysDown.com.|
FULL DISCLOSURE: We were crazy enough to buy this toy with our own money! We sent the toy out to Chris to review – he gets to keep the toy and spend the rest of his life buying batteries. We received no money for doing this review and receive nothing if you do decide to buy the toy. We should buy stock in Duracell, so we at least make money when you buy batteries, but don’t do the stock market. Just not how we roll. This is a real review, by a real Dad (and his kids)!
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