During the June Holidays, I bought this Emoti Talking Pen at the Singapore Book Fair. They had a booth there and were selling the pen for S$198, bundled with $70 worth of books. Effectively, the pen cost S$128. On its own, the retail price of the pen is S$168.
Normally, I would not buy anything remotely electronics without my techie husband around, especially when it costs more than a hundred dollars. But on that day, I bought this without a second thought, much to my husband’s surprise.
This “pen” is not a pen for writing but a kind of pointer. It is similar to what Leapfrog has. Popular Bookstore has its own in-house system called i-Pen, which works with the Robin series of English children’s books. For Chinese books, so far, I have only seen Emoti 易读宝. In Chinese, this is called a 点读笔, which basically means “point and read pen”.
What do you do with this pen? You point at the books and it will read for you!
First of all, you need to buy books that are tied up with the Pen, just like you need to get Leapfrog books for Leapfrog and not just any book. Naturally, the company that sells the Pen, sells the books.
1. Point the pen at this Logo on the cover of the book. This is to ‘let the pen know’ which book you are reading.
2. Point to the passage and the pen will read it for that page.
3. If you point at any of the characters, you get a ‘dramatised’ version of the story, with the character saying their own ‘lines’, which is not part of the actual passage. My boys love to hear the characters talk. This is still ok with me. It is still exposure to the spoken language.
4. Wherever you point on the page, you will always get a sound. Even if you point on a blank part, as I did in the picture, you will hear music. My boys enjoy the music as much as the story.
5. In every book, just inside the covers, you will find this icon. Point at the icon and the book will read the story in its entirety. The saleslady said that it is good for bedtime story reading. Point at the icon to activate and leave the pen to do the bedtime reading for you!
6. To adjust the volume, point at this icon.
As we all know, having a Chinese-speaking environment is important for the learning of the language. Thus far, all I can do is to read story books daily, but this is still limited as we hardly speak Mandarin at home. I bought this Pen to provide additional Chinese speaking environment for my boys. At least they will get more exposure to the spoken language through this pen. So far, the two younger boys (Ages 7 and 4) enjoy using the Pen. I am thankful that they are not turned off just because it is Chinese!!
As for the books, although I cannot say that Emoti currently has a huge range of good quality children books to go with its pen, the range of books they have right now is sufficient and they do have a few good series, such as this 笨笨猪 series by famous children books author, 杨红樱.
I also bought this series of Chinese Character books for the 4 year old to supplement what he is learning from 四五快读.
The inside of the books look like this. Just like the story books, you can point at any part of the book and there will be something there.
They also have books on Hanyu Pinyin and even English!! They have books suitable for very young children to older school children. Now they even have Enghlish-Chinese phrase books for adults!
Besides selling books, Emoti also sells icon stickers for the Pen. As I explained earlier, you point the pen at different icons for the pen to execute different commands. The icon stickers consist of a “record” icon and a “playback” icon and this allows you to record your voice and playback. What this means is that you can stick a sticker onto any book you own, point at the ‘record’ icon to record your own reading, and your child can point at the ‘playback’ icon to listen to your reading any time. You can also get your children to read the book and record his own reading, and then playback for him to listen to himself! It only costs $10 for a whole book of stickers.
My techie husband loves the fact that the pen appears as a thumb drive when you plug it to your computer. You don’t have to download any special software into your computer before you can make the Pen and your computer talk to each other. You can add files and delete files just as you would for any thumb drive. Nothing complicated at all.
When I first bought the Pen, the Pen was already pre-loaded with the audio for all the books that Emoti was selling at that time. As Emoti brings in new books to sell, if I buy the new books, all I have to do is to go to Emoti website to download the audio file and save it to the Pen directly. Some of the series come with their own CDs, which contain the audio file so you don’t have to download from the website. If I run out of space, all I need to do is to delete some audio files that I am not using to make more space. Since I don’t buy all the books, there is more than enough space. I don’t think I have mentioned it earlier. The pen has a capacity of 4G of memory.
As for power supply, all you have to do is just to plug it to a power source to charge. It comes with a USB cable. No change of batteries required. The pen will auto shutdown after a while. Before it does so, if the pen is left idle for a while, it will say ‘Children, don’t leave me alone!‘ (In Mandarin, of course.) I think this is very cute. This is to remind the kids to switch it off if they are not using it.
The downside is that the books only go with this particular pen. So if Emoti discontinued this Pen, and your old Pen is not working any more, you can’t use the books you have with other reading pens, unless they use the same system and reads the same format. Still, all is not lost if such unfortunate scenario comes to pass. The books are still perfectly good for reading. Just that you or your child has to do your own reading instead of having a pen to read to you.
All in all, I am very pleased with this product. In fact, I just visited the Popular BookFest at Suntec Convention Centre to buy more books for the boys. They are very happy with the new books. If you are not very good at reading Chinese, I think this would be a good investment to have some Chinese reading time with your child. You may still need to sit down with him to read together. At least you don’t have to worry about reading the words yourself anymore.
Right now, at the BookFest, Emoti is selling this Pen at $198, with $80 worth of books thrown in. You can pick and choose whatever books you like up to the amount. If you want to buy more books, they are giving a 10% discount on books alone. Emoti is available in quite a few book shops and educational toys shop. Check their website for more information.
Update : I just remembered that there is a new brand of Chinese reading pen. I believe it is also available in Popular and I have seen the booth at the current BookFest. It looks like a cute tiger. I had a quick look at it at the BookFest. They do not have as many books as Emoti Pen, and the books that they have are not as good as the ones that Emoti has. Hence, for now, I would still go for Emoti.