- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 26, 2009

LeapFrog’s latest Tag Junior ($34.99, requires two AAA batteries) introduces the appreciation of books to the toddler demographic.

Performing in concert with the exclusive “Learning Path Connected” program, a free online effort that allows parents to view detailed progress reports when they connect their child’s LeapFrog learning tools, Tag Junior allows children as young as 2 to independently explore learning-based books.

The Tag Junior reader’s bulbous shape and infrared camera in the broad base makes it easy for young hands to explore the Tag Reader books.

After a parent downloads a book’s audio from an easy online drag-and-drop interface via a USB cable connected to a Mac or PC, a child simply places the device on a word or picture to trigger an audible response.

Through an assortment of 12-page books — the package comes with “If I Were”; others are sold separately for $10.99 — a child can hear a lion roar, listen to Dora the Explorer count in English or Spanish, explore the Hundred-Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh or learn colors with Curious George.

In addition to learning numbers, colors and early reading skills, such as letter and word identification, they also will be prompted to get up and move, mimicking the actions of characters in the book or responding to a verbal cue, for example, to buzz like a bee.

The books encourage exploring and appreciating the page’s elements, gathering knowledge and fostering the child’s relationship with the joys that reading can bring.

The Tag Junior library has eight titles — more will be available in the fall — including well-known, branded characters such as the Backyardigans and classics such Dr. Seuss’ “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?”

Each shares common preschool learning concepts, such as matching items and vocabulary skills in “Curious George Color Fun” or reading along with Dr. Seuss to hear sounds, rhythm and rhymes. Others, such as David Shannon’s fun book “David Smells,” get as specific as tackling the five senses and introducing body parts.

When playing with any of the Tag Junior books, children will be exposed to 24 activities while being able to explore and find 150 audio responses.

Parents will enjoy knowing that while their youngster explores the Tag Junior books, they are also creating a knowledge base that will help encourage a lifelong enjoyment of the printed word.

Joseph Szadkowski’s ROMper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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