Robots to teach kids how to read
Whatever happened to reading to and with our children as the main way for learning to read? Well in the UK the move to using phonics as the only system in some schools has led to some teachers being labled 'robot like' in that they work to a very predesigned system of teaching but here's one teacher who really is a robot 'Red the Robot'. At £130 this toy, for in effect that is what it is, is being baought by some schools to suplement the teachong of reading. We can perhaps welcome any toy that a child plays with in their play-time that enhances learning of any kind but when its built into a programme the joy of toy perhaps becomes diffused with the pressure of 'you must play with this toy because it is educational' rather than with your dolls, balls and cardboard boxes.
This is perhaps a gimmick too far for some who would rather see children well taught, well loved and allowed the time to explore the world through both structured and the thing that has been on the decline, unstructured, play.
Four-year-olds love a cuddly toy - especially one that can speak, has flashing lights and is allowed in class. Red the Robot is all those things, but he won't play Power Rangers. Instead, he wants to sit down to some good, old-fashioned phonics.
An army of Red the Robots is being deployed in schools and nurseries to help pupils as young as three learn to read. The 40cm-high toy can read stories and quiz pupils on their ABCs. Its manufacturer says it captures the imagination of children put off by traditional classes at a time when the government is desperately worried about children's literacy skills.
But it has been labelled a gimmick by opponents of phonics, the well-established but sometimes controversial method of teaching reading whereby children learn each sound then go on to decipher whole words. Red - rapid educational development - costs £130, inclusive of reading material. About 200 have been bought by schools and three local authorities have signed up to distribute them through primaries.