She's six, and in the 1st grade. She's our oldest, she loves posing for THL pictures, and she's a pretty cool and responsible kid.
A few months ago, I bought her a Kindle, and I learned a few things in the process that I'd thought I'd share.
A Kindle? Technology? For reading? The owner of The Happy Lark sticks her kids in front of tablets all day?! No! I promise. That's not the case.
An e-reader may not be for every kiddo. In fact, which doing my research, I came across this study that showed that children prefer real books to e-readers and that having access to devices (even with book reading capabilities) decreased the amount that a child read.
If you're a Kindle (or other e-reader-- I'll just refer to the Kindle from now on since that's the only one I have personal experience with) user, you probably know that there are various types of Kindles with various levels of "book-like" experiences. I didn't read the full study linked above, so I'm not sure how much they compared different types of devices. I think it's pretty much a universal experience that reading time on a dedicated e-reader like a Kindle is a much higher quality than reading time on a tablet-like device, such as a Kindle Fire, iPad, or your phone. So I followed my gut on this one and guessed that a dedicated, non-tablet-like e-reader would actually increase her reading instead of decreasing it.
So I definitely knew from the get-go that I was not going to get her a Kindle Fire or anything else with a tablet feel. I personally read often from a Kindle Paperwhite that I LOVE, so I was leaning toward that. I ended up going with the regular, plain 'ol Kindle, but more on that later.
So, why did we decide to buy our six year-old a Kindle?? A few reasons.
1. My husband and I both read from our Kindles more so than real books. We do this for convenience, and we just prefer it. So, we want her to connect our reading habits with her reading habits (basically showing her that indeed Mommy and Daddy DO read!). PS-- looking for a way to increase YOUR reading?! Have you joined our THL Book Club?
2. She asked for one, and her reading improved greatly in Kindergarten, so it was our way of acknowledging that she's entering the magical world of independent reading.
It became clear pretty immediately that buying a Kindle for a young child was not quite as straight-forward as it appears. I read a few blog posts, read a lot of Amazon reviews, and here's what I learned:
1. I ended up going with this Kindle. It's the Kindle for Kids Bundle, and I **think** I ended up paying around $80 for it. It also comes with a free case (I let her choose; she went with the butterfly obvi) and a two-year warranty (we haven't tested that part, and a few of the reviews did say that process was difficult).
2. I decided NOT to go with the Paperwhite. As much as I LOVE mine, I decided that it might be useful to have a little more control of when she was using it (i.e., I was having visions of her secretly staying up till midnight reading, and while that's not the worst thing in the world, I value having a happy and well-rested child in the morning). The Paperwhite is also a little more expensive, and since there's a decent chance this thing will be lost within a year, I thought it reasonable to go with the cheaper option.
3. Your child needs to be at a certain reading level to have a Kindle as opposed to a Kindle Fire. Many books that we may consider early independent readers are NOT available on a regular Kindle but ARE available on the Fire. It is not always easy to tell which books are available for your device, and many of the negative reviews on the Kindle Kids Bundle are because people purchased books for their child before the new Kindle arrived without realizing that the kid would never be able to read them on the regular Kindle. In general, books that are picture-heavy are NOT available on the regular Kindle. At the end of Kindergarten, Holly was reading at a second-grade level (not saying this as a not-so-humble kid brag, just saying as a guideline; even at that level, some of the books she likes to read aren't available on her Kindle; I would wait till your child is around that reading level to buy one).
Here are some screen shots of how to tell if a book WILL work on a regular Kindle. If you're not sure if your kiddo is at the right reading level yet, look up a few of their current favorites and see if they're available:
Here's a book set we bought for Holly's Kindle.
If you're curious if a certain title is available on a regular Kindle, click on "About the Kindle Edition."
See how the supported readers include Kindle E-Readers (AND Fire Tablets)? That means you're good to go.
Here's another great series that we've read in book form, NOT on her Kindle.
Another way to tell if it's Kindle compatible is that when I try to choose which device to "deliver" it to, her Kindle is grayed out. This book is only available for the Kindle Fire or other tablet-type devices.
If you click on the "About the Kindle Edition" for this book, you don't see the regular Kindle listed. It's a little tricky and not totally clear at first.
4. Yes, even regular Kindles do have rudimentary internet browser and book buying capabilities. But, there are easy to setup parent controls. Holly cannot access the internet in any way on her Kindle, and therefore can't browse for or buy new books. She has access to the books I've put on her Kindle, and that's it. If she wants a new book, I buy it from my computer and send it to her Kindle.
5. Amazon does have a program called "Free Time Unlimited" which from what I can tell is a monthly fee in exchange for access to many kid's books, apps, movies, shows, etc. We've never done it, so I can't speak to it, but the reviews I read implied that many of the kid's books that are included are character books based on TV shows and movies. We decided to skip it, but if you have a positive or negative experience with this, comment below and fill me in! We also haven't rented from our local library yet, mainly because her mother can't remember her login info. Will report back if I get it together and try it out.
Holly reading her Kindle in the car today while we were stuck in traffic. For an hour-and-a-half. In Hearne, TX. So fun.
So, would I do it again? Does she like it? What's our overall experience been?
She's had her Kindle for about three months and has read five books on it. She seems to enjoy it, and it gives her a feeling of independence that she relishes.
She has almost lost it once, and she occasionally pushes the wrong button and skips way ahead in the book and then we have to try to figure out where she was (but I think we've figured that out-- it hasn't happened in a while).
One feature I really like on it is called Word Wise. Basically you can set their vocabulary level, and if there is a word that Word Wise thinks they might not know, it puts an easy, kid-friendly definition above it (now looking at this picture, we probably need to adjust her Word Wise level...). I'm hoping this will help with her vocabulary, although there is probably a benefit to having to use context clues to figure out the meaning of words as well.
She does still read regular books as well. It doesn't seem to be a big deal for her to switch back and forth between the two. The Kindle is especially great for travel and car rides.
So in conclusion, I'm glad we bought it. I don't think she'll ever exclusively read from her Kindle, nor would I want her to, but I think it's been a good edition to her literacy options. What do you guys think?? Questions? Comments? Post them below!
P.S. Here are some books we have on her Kindle or have thought about buying:
-The Ivy and Bean Series
-The Magic Treehouse Series
-The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary
-The Princess in Black series (I'm surprised these are available on the Kindle and we did not read them that way; they are pretty picture-heavy, so they might not translate too well)
-Junie B Jones (I can't get into these books. Junie is a little too sassy for my taste. Holly wants to read them, so I told her she could read them on her own but I won't read them with her, hah. But, they are in fact available on the regular Kindle)
-Nate the Great series
Here are some books we enjoy reading together that are NOT available on her Kindle:
-Mercy Watson series
-Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa series
-Henry and Mudge series