I’m very lucky here at Toybuzz in that I often receive things to review, and this week the postman brought us VTech’s new children’s ebook reader the Storio.
Aimed at children from 3 – 7 , the Storio promotes reading to the younger audience by using your children’s favourite movie and TV characters in fun and exciting stories. They can listen and watch at first before graduating onto reading along and then reading them by themselves as they grow in confidence.
The storio comes with a Toy Story 3 cartridge included, other story cartridges like Shrek, Disney Faries, Scooby Doo and Dora are available for purchase separately.
The end of August will see the launch of the VTech Download Store, the online store for downloadable Storio and Mobigo games and stories.
By connecting the Storio via the included USB lead up to your PC or Mac, you’ll be able to download content for the Storio quickly and easily. The downloaded goodies will need to be stored on a SD card, which you will have to purchase separately.
The download store really appeals to me because it will be an easy way of getting new stories onto the Storio, and you wont need to take loads of cartridges out with you as they are always ready to go on the SD card.
The Storio is touch screen and comes with a stylus handily tucked into the casing for storage. Even if your child hasn’t used a similar touch screen device like the Nintendo DS or iPad before, they will instinctively know what to do and will get the hang of it incredibly quickly.
Storio Main Screen:
When you first turn on the Storio, you’ll be asked to type in your name and then pick an avatar from a list of kid friendly pictures. You can also type a welcome message that will display every time you turn the Storio on.
I think it’s a pity you can’t choose to have a few users set up like on a PC or Mac for siblings to all use the Storio, you can only have one name shown.
It is easy to change the name though, so if your passing it on from one child to another for a length of time it would be worth quickly changing the name and avatar.
On the main screen you will find several icons:
- Backpack – This is where all of your downloaded content can be found
- Certificates – When your child has finished the story you can download a certificate which will be stored here
- Setup – This is where you manage the users name and Avatar
- Game – A fun letter game called Wordfinder with 3 levels of skill suitable for all ages of child.
- Loaded Cartridge – Either an image of the loaded cartridge will be shown – in my case Toy Story 3, or you will get a VTech image to represent that you have no story cartridge loaded. You can insert the cartridge once the Storio is on the main screen and it will still load fine and the image will change.
Toy Story 3 Cartridge:
The Storio is primarily a virtual storybook. You can do everything you can do with a normal story book, look, turn the pages, or bookmark your place but also a whole lot more.
At the start of each page you will see an animated scene, then the narrator will read the words below. The words are highlighted at the same time that the narrator reads them.
After the page has finished being read your child can click around the screen looking for extra bits of animation and dialogue, which is fun. You can touch every word on the page and the single word will be spoken, so younger users can touch every word one by one, and once they build up reading confidence can only touch the odd word they’re stuck on.
Certain special words are always highlighted and these words are in the story dictionary. By doing a longer click on these words a bubble comes up onscreen with the word definition, the definition is also read outloud by the narrator and accompanied by an image representing the word.
Only specific words are included in the Story Dictionary, words like College, Furnace (as shown) or a Character’s name. I would have liked to see more words added to the dictionary, but I did like the general idea.
Once you’ve finished reading and page you can either press the forward or back page buttons on the Storio, or the onscreen next page button on the touch screen. You can also bookmark your place to come back to next time, although you can only have one bookmarked page.
There are eight Toy Story inspired reading games included on the cartridge, which add up to almost as much fun as story itself.
- Left and Right – From a line of toys you need to touch the toy who’s left or right of the who the game says.
- Big or Small – From a line up touch the correct toy. Usually which is bigger or smaller but sometimes which is faster and similar too.
- Whats That Sound – Touch the toy that makes the noise of the sound that’s played.
- Starting Sounds – Complete the first letter of the word by typing it in on the keypad. The announcer will then say the letter phonetically to show you how the letter sounds. You can use the blue clue button if you need to get a hint and the shady letter will shown.
- At the End – Teaches about punctuation marks. full stops, exclamation marks and question marks are explained. Less of a game this is the same every time.
- Capital Idea – Change the lowercase letters in the names to capital letters.
- What Happened – Pages from the story are shown are you are asked questions. smaller readers can touch the answer in the picture, or older children can touch the actual word in the story page to answer.
- What Comes Next – After being shown and read a page from the story you are asked where they went next from two possible options.
Positives and Negatives:
I love the way that the Storio caters for all ages skill levels.Being able to touch the words you don’t know and have them read out loud is obviously invaluable for learner readers.
The Blue hint button on the bottom of the Storio is another great way to help the youngest users feel empowered whilst playing the word games, and when they are older the skill level increases too so the game grows with them.
I’ve got a few small negatives about the Storio, not about the stories or games, more the hardware itself.
When I first turned on the Storio I was met by a very off-putting high pitched buzz. This might not bother some people, but I have Tinitus and am more susceptible to noises driving me crazy, and this one certainly was. After a bit of investigation I found out that the culprit was the brightness setting.
There are 4 different levels of brightness, on the middle two levels the Storio emitted the Buzz, but on the Lowest and Highest settings there was no noise. I’m so happy I found this out, because if I’d been left with the buzzing then the Storio would have been unusable for my family. On the highest setting it’s now totally quiet.
Now were all used to constantly changing batteries on the kiddies electronic gadgets, it’s inevitable and the Storio is no different. In normal use I think you would be using at least 4 batteries every week, so some rechargeable’s would be in order. The thing that makes it extra annoying with the Storio is the actual hassle of changing them.
I physically couldn’t get the batteries out! It took me around 15 minutes of prodding,squeezing and eventually tweezing to get the old ones out. I’m going to put one of those pieces of material in there behind the batteries next time, to make it easier to get them out.
Apart from those relatively small niggles, I can’t fault the actual idea and implementation of the Ebook reader idea by VTech.
The Storio is a great learning to read tool. I don’t think it will ever replace reading to your child, but it doesn’t want to either. Even when you do read books to your child they always go and get them afterwards and pretend to read the book themselves later. This way they feel independent reading the book themselves and they learn at the same time.
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