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Will Children Learn the Skills Required to Read and Spell Using Leapfrog Tag?

The basic Leapfrog tag system consists of the Tag pen and a small inbuilt speaker. The tag pen is used to read and play along with Tag-compatible books. The system comes with an introductory reader (Ozzie & Mack) but they also offer a range of classic children’s stories, as well as licensed books such as Spongebob, Kung Fu Panda and truly or truely others. The idea is that as the child taps on words or key areas the Tag pen will talk – reading out the words in the book, or playing simple games through it.

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Within this product- and many others- parents assume that by clicking on a word the child will hear it and learn to link what she or he sees with this word- and will be reading! That these products will magically bring books to life. That’s not how children learn to read at all.

While this is a fun and quirky toy anything that focuses on ‘whole words’ – rather than learning how the word was ‘put together’ – will not result in your child acquiring the skills required in order to read and spell with confidence. We know this from worldwide clinical studies and research into early literacy development. Browse through any studies – or read government reports – and you will realize that in order for ALL children to learn to read and spell – and to prevent reading failure – they need to be taught specific skills. Children won’t learn to read and spell on their own – or just by sharing books and stories with them – they need to actually understand certain concepts- i.e. how the English ‘code’ works.

Children who fail more often than not have poor ‘phonemic awareness’. This means the ability to distinguish and manipulate the individual sounds of English language. Unfortunately many teachers still do not choose to take a preventative approach or offer systematic, direct phonics instruction until a child has been failing. Any parent who wants to prevent difficulties therefore should focus on anything that will help their child to learn the sounds in words. You might also be interested to know that research undertaken over the last decade or so has shown that the brains of children who are failing actually change when taught using a direct, synthetic phonics approach – to more closely resemble the brains of children with great literacy skills. So we now know that as long as they are given the opportunity to learn using a good phonics program all children can succeed. Why wait until they are failing however? A preventative approach seems far fairer to the children – and will prevent associated issues such as poor self-esteem and escalating poor behaviour. If parents and teachers knew that some US prisons are actually predicting future prison intake by looking at Year 3 and 4 reading scores there might be a shift in thinking – and in what opportunities we offer our children. So creating something that will help children is great – Leapfrog Tag doesn’t currently offer them that opportunity. In addition, not only do we welcome quality resources, the children also need a real person there guiding and instructing them. It’s actually very different to the teaching of concepts relating to maths or science. Literacy research shows this need for direct instruction in phonics.

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