From Leapfrog, the maker of last year's award-winning Tag Reading System, Tag Junior brings assisted reading to a younger audience – kids ages 2 through 4. Tag Junior is a small plastic device that looks somewhat like a little chick with eyes, and it fits comfortably in little hands. This book pal can read any page of special Tag Junior board books. All kids have to do is place the Tag Junior on top of words on a page, and the Tag Junior reads them out loud. The Tag Junior also responds to illustrations on the page by making sounds, adding further dialog or creating music.
The Tag Junior has a tiny optical scanner on the bottom of the device that allows it to read the special Tag Junior board books. Its speaker is found on the belly of the book pal. Using two AAA batteries, this book pal will turn itself off after a period of inactivity. It has an on/off button on the side, and another button to increase or decrease the sound.
The Tag Junior comes bundled with an "If I Were…" book, and can store the audio for up to 5 books at once. Additional books cost $10.99 each, and the audio for any of the nine additional books available at launch are found online.
To connect the Tag Junior to the Internet, adults must take off the battery cover and plug the device into a computer using the included USB cord. Once the Leapfrog Connect Application program for the Tag Junior has been downloaded, parents can control which books are stored on the device, and easily switch out the audio books carried on the device.
By connecting the Tag Junior to the Connect Application, parents can personalize the reading device by having it say their child's name when it is turned on and off. They can also download printable pages to go with each book that has coloring and other book-related activities. Additionally, parents can track how their child uses the device by getting information about how long their child plays with a specific book and which pages held the child's attention.
The enclosed sample book "If I Were…" is a story about a little boy who likes to pretend that he is the animals that he reads about in books. The book introduces the different animals through rhyme, and allows children to hear the animals sounds by placing the Tag Junior on top of the animal pictures. Each of the pictures has multiple responses, so that when children repeatedly touch a picture, they will hear different audio responses. This sample book has 70 audio responses. Some even ask kids to do things like find the baby elephant.
The Tag Junior will not work with last year's Tag Reading System, a revolutionary book reader for older kids (ages 4 to 6). And while this is a product for toddlers and preschoolers, the manual warns against dropping the device or getting it wet by spilling drinks on it, two events that are very likely to happen. And the device is not compatible with headphones, probably because of the risk of strangulation; so you won't be able to use it in public places.
The "Tag Junior's" strength is that it makes reading a book fun. Each of the books offers a rich audio experience and focus on preschool learning. For example, with the add-on book "ABC Animal Orchestra," toddlers will not only hear the letters of the alphabet, but they will also hear music from 26 alphabetical musical instruments including the baboon's bassoon and the vulture's violin. And when listening to "Pooh Loves To…," kids will hear the familiar Disney voices of Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood gang. Likewise with "1-2-3 Dora!," they will hear the voices of Dora and Boots. This little device is very good at creating a magical learning environment using board books.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.