Alexa Can Now Read With Your Child, But There’s A Catch

Amazon’s Alexa is a great digital assistant that can help you do things like set reminders, alarms, and all that jazz, but now it seems that it can even take over some of your parental duties as well. Amazon has launched Reading Sidekick, a new skill that allows Alexa to read a book along with your kid and coach them when you’re not available and also help them with the pronunciation of certain words.  

Alexa can now read with your child, which is exactly as cool as it sounds.

Reading Sidekick is basically designed to make reading a lot more fun where through an Echo Kids device, it will listen to your kids when they are reading aloud. Then together with your kids, Alexa and they will take turns reading through supported books. You can choose how much you want Alexa to read along or if it should take turns. This means that if by any excuse you cannot be a part of your child’s reading session, Alexa has got you.   

One of the coolest and distinct feature of Reading Sidekick is that when your kid is done reading successfully, Alexa will utter words of encouragement, like, “Amazing job!” and, “Way to stick with it,” which is not something a human would say out loud. Alexa will even offer up a “woohoo!” if your kid is nailing the pronunciation of words and managing a good reading pace.

However, users will need a subscription to Kids+ and an Echo Kids device to utilize this feature. At the moment, there are over 700 titles supported by this feature, which is undeniably not a lot considering how many children’s books are out there, but something is better than nothing.  

Frankly, the Reading Sidekick sounds like a fun app—like something I would have loved when I was a kid reading all by myself. It’s an easy way to encourage reading practice when you’re not available. According to Amazon, Reading Sidekick is designed to give kids encouragement, as well, by praising them when they get through a rough patch or telling them they did a good job. Parents, meanwhile, can use the Amazon Kid dashboard to monitor things like the books read, the amount of time spent reading, and more.

According to TechCrunch, Amazon uses kids’ voice recordings for Alexa’s speech recognition and language understanding. In some cases, Amazon manually reviews the voice samples. As a result, it can understand accents, stutters, and all the different ways that a child might pronounce a word in their early development phases.  

If you are a parent who is hesitant about the usefulness of these assistant features and have already brought the devices into your home, you can delete individual voice recordings of your child. You can also configure it to have Alexa automatically delete recordings after a set period of time. The option is available in the Alexa Privacy dashboard on the mobile app, under More Settings. From there, tick the option to enable deletion by voice. Then you can select when and how often Amazon should clear out your voice recordings. Again, it’s best if you reach out to Amazon for clarification on whether this ability will extend to Alexa Voice Profiles for Kids.

Ideally, parents and teachers should be the ones helping kids read through their books, but if your kid wants to excel on their own, this could be a useful tool for times when you are unavailable.  

The feature is now available if you are subscribed to Amazon Kids Plus. Alexa Voice Profiles for Kids will be rolled out to everyone by July 2.

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