I love my Kindle. I fought it for a while, being one of those readers who loves the feel of a book in their hands, but as a multi-reader* it finally made sense for me to try Kindle and I have been a firm adherent ever since. So much so that I bought my mum one. Then my dad. Then my partner. They all love them too. Ergo, it was a bit of a no-brainer when my son’s seventh birthday came around and we had the chance to get one for him.
Now Harry is a great reader; ahead in his year when it comes to reading, genuinely interested in books and keen to show off his ‘big-boy’ style when it comes to his little sister. So a Kindle ‘just like dad’s book’ ticked a lot of boxes. However, when push comes to shove Harry is just seven, and more intent on turning anything over 8 inches long into a lightsabre than anything else. I have a sister who likes to claim that she was reading Pride and Prejudice by the time she was three, annotating Ulysses in Year 1 and translating Proust from the original into Urdu by the time she hit Secondary school. This isn’t Harry. He has dog-eared copies of George’s Marvellous Medicine and faithfully carried The Grunts In Trouble across five different counties during the summer holidays; but he isn’t a sit-in-the-corner-sniggering-at-Austin-type. Yet.
And this is where Amazon’s Kindle for Kids comes in; more specifically the Kindle Fire HD 6 Kids Edition with 6″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB and Kid-Proof Case. Like all other kindles it doesn’t come cheap but it rolls in at around £119.00 and comes with 1 year of Fire for Kids Unlimited. This gives your young reader access to thousands of books but also movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games – at no additional cost. As a device to encourage kids to carry their books around with them at all times it really couldn’t be much better. Harry loved it from the moment he opened the box, even though it was not lightsabre shaped.
Effectively what we have is a Kindle e-reader, with all the great storage, connectivity and ease that Kindle offers, but also with a tablet that is safe and controlled. Therefore Harry can ‘surf’ for Ben and Holly, Teenage Mutants, Paddington or games whilst we can be safe in the knowledge that everything he finds has been vetted by Amazon who have hand-picked content that they feel engages, interests and teaches 3-10 year olds. There are none ofthe dangers that can come bubbling to the surface when you let your kids fiddle with your iPad, such as on-line shopping or in-app payments, and the child’s profile does not have access to the web browser or social media features. On top of this there are parental controls that allow us to decide how long Harry can use it as the tablet rather than the Kindle e-reader. We can limit him in terms of time, or even set goals whereby reading time is rewarded with tablet time. In the same vein we can even set the Kindle to turn off at a certain time, content in the knowledge that if he is using it in bed it will shut down for the night at a pre-set time.
Whenever I complete one of these reviews I generally try to look at the downside of the product, but in this case I can’t honestly see one. I want to encourage my children to do what I do, which is to have a book (now a Kindle) with me at all times. This is what the Kindle For Kids does. On the day he opened it he found the first two Harry Potter books, Temple Run 2 and Wallace and Gromit, all free from the Amazon content. I’d be lying if I said he spent equal time on all three, but learning to enjoy (and, yes, rely on) books is a gradual awakening, a burgeoning desire to explore new worlds by using your imagination and a recognition that good literature teaches you things you never knew about yourself and the world you inhabit. The fact that he is now inseparable from his Kindle is a firm step in that direction.
The Kindle Fire 6 HD Kids Edition isn’t going to suddenly make your child love books, but it’s the best product I’ve seen to help them gently along the path that will eventually -hopefully- make them life-long readers. Well done Amazon.
*A term I might have just made up but which means I like to have three or four books on the go at any given time.