If your child is learning how to read, Amazon’s Reading Sidekick gives you a way to let them practice on their own. Here’s everything you need to know to take advantage of this feature on your Alexa device.
What Do You Need?
The Reading Sidekick is designed for kids (specifically ages six to nine), so the best device to use this feature on is an Echo Kids device. That being said, your child can also practice reading on a regular Echo device—as long as it has Amazon Kids enabled. You also have to create a voice profile for your child on your device.
Echo Dot Kids | Tiger
An Echo Dot Kids makes a great medium for guiding your child's reading skills through Alexa's Reading Sidekick.
To use the Reading Sidekick, you have to have a subscription to Amazon Kids+. Luckily, this service is only $2.99 per month (when paid yearly), and it comes with more than just Reading Sidekick. Amazon Kids+ also gives you and your child iHeart Radio Family, movies, shows, games, bedtime stories, and more.
The Reading Experience
When it comes to what your child can read, all of the options are listed on the Amazon Kids+ app under the “Reader’s Sidekick” tab. They can choose to read the book’s physical copy, read on a Kids Edition tablet, or read in the Amazon Kids+ app on any supported device. The selection of books is broken down into different categories. They have the most popular books, books for beginners, books for independent readers, and books for developed readers.
When your child says “Alexa, let’s read (compatible book),” Alexa will then ask them if they want to read a little or read a lot. If they opt to read a little, Alexa does most of the reading while your child reads a page here and there. If they opt to read a lot, the workload is the other way around. While your child is reading, Alexa will help if your child gets stuck on a word. Alexa will also give your child words of encouragement throughout the reading session.
If your child is having a particularly hard time reading, Alexa will go into “Read After Me” mode. This is an adaptive feature that has your child repeat one short passage at a time as Alexa reads it.
Note that there are no features regarding reading comprehension.
The Reading Sidekick doesn’t replace getting an education or the help of a parent, but the goal here is to make books more fun for your child as an activity that they can do on their own. It’s designed to praise your child for reading and to grow their confidence as a reader.
Amazon Kids+ Parent Dashboard
Amazon Kids+ includes Parent Dashboard. As you might have guessed, this is where you can monitor content and set controls regarding your child’s Alexa experience. You can see which books your child has read and how long they’ve spent reading each day. If you’d like to promote building the habit, you can block entertainment settings until your child has completed a certain amount of reading each day.
If you want to bring more of an English education aspect back into the books that your child reads with Reading Sidekick, Parent Dashboard provides “discussion cards” for you. After your child has consumed any content on Amazon Kids, discussion cards are there to help you go over key themes and to provide questions about the content. This allows you to be more involved with your child’s independent reading experience.
In Parent Dashboard, you can also add any content that you’ve purchased on Amazon to your child’s device to share with them. The settings that you provide for your child’s profile determine how much of the included Amazon Kids+ content they have access to. After you edit these settings, Amazon syncs the settings across all of your child’s devices to make things easier for you in terms of content management.
Reading Sidekick’s Effectivity
Reading Sidekick is a relatively smart feature for a voice assistant. Every child is different, and Amazon has made Reading Sidekick quite adaptable to fulfill as many disparate needs as possible. Children from different backgrounds all speak differently, and Alexa keeps track of your child’s pronunciation to avoid unnecessarily correcting your child.
During the summer months when your child is out of school, Reading Sidekick could be an excellent way to keep their reading habits kicking. Between praising them for their efforts and giving them the flexibility to read as much as they want, Reading Sidekick does everything that it can to make kids want to read.