Education

“Alexa, let’s read”: Amazon’s Artificial Intelligence Assistant can read books with your children and help them learn to read

Alexa wants to help your child learn how to read.

With Amazon’s new Reading Sidekick, kids can say “Alexa, let’s read,” to an Amazon Kids-enabled Echo device or the Amazon Kids+ app on a tablet and the artificial intelligence-powered assistant will take turns reading with them.

An Amazon Kids+ subscription ($2.99 monthly) is required. Kids can choose from hundreds of physical and digital books that are supported, with more being added monthly.

After asking Alexa to read with them, the AI assistant will ask how much do they want to read: a little, a lot, or taking turns. If a child responds, “a little,” Alexa will read most of pages and ask the child to read one of the shorter pages. If a child chooses “a lot,” the child will get to read four sentences, paragraphs, or pages, depending on the book, with Alexa reading one. If “taking turns,” the child and Alexa will alternate paragraphs or pages.

Alexa will also offer words of encouragement as the child reads, saying things such as “Amazing job!” or “Way to stick with it!” Alexa will also provide the next word if a child gets stuck on a word.

Reading Sidekick was among several new products and features Amazon introduced in September 2020. The tech giant has been testing the service with Amazon Kids+ subscribers.

The new Alexa feature combines education with entertainment, but is also based on research, said Michelle Martin, a professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington and a member of the Amazon Kids and Family Advisory Council. “Reading Sidekick offers children excellent reading support in the form of ’edutainment’ – kids learn a gracious plenty, but they’re enjoying the interaction with Alexa so much, they don’t necessarily know they’re learning,” she said.

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