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I bought my middle son the Leapfrog Tag reading system for his fourth birthday last year and, over the course of the last eighteen months, have acquired a number of books for him to use with the reader. This 'Scooby Doo Shiny Spooky Knights' book was one of the first that I purchased and is still a popular choice at bedtime, although it is no longer one of my son's favourite Tag books.
For anybody unfamiliar with the Tag system, it is a handheld device which cleverly 'reads' aloud words and sound effects when it is placed against the pages of a range of Leapfrog tag stories. The reader only functions with the special Tag books and these have to be purchased separately from the Tag reader itself. The reader generally retails at £29.99 and the individual stories are around £10-£15 each, making this potentially quite an expensive gift.
The books themselves are pretty much like any other hard backed story, and are a good size for youngsters to handle easily whilst still being portable and easy to store. The interior pages are quite glossy but can mark and tear easily, however, particularly if well-loved which is a little disappointing considering the relatively high purchase price. I would prefer it if the pages were slightly thicker, especially as they need to withstand regular prodding by the Tag reading device.
In order for the reader to respond to the books, the audio software needs to be loaded on to the reader separately for each book purchased, via a laptop or pc. This is a very simple process but can take several minutes per book, so I would recommend setting this up before giving this to an impatient child.
Once the audio is added, this book can be used in a number of ways by the child. My son tends to 'read' the story first in its entirety and then moves on to some of the activities on the back pages. Personally, I think the actual story element within this particular book is fairly weak although it does appeal to my five year old son. Constant repeats of the classic cartoon are shown on kids' TV channel, Boomerang, so Scooby Doo remains as popular as ever and is a character that was instantly recognised by my son.
I do think the story itself could have been better as it doesn't follow the usual Scooby Doo format at all. Most of us associate Scooby Doo and the gang with their habit of unearthing a mystery and then unmasking the bad guy at the end. This is always accompanied by that distinctive phrase 'Those Pesky Kids!' I found it a bit disappointing that this story deviates from that formula and instead has Scooby and the gang ending up in a mysterious castle. They soon come to believe that the castle is haunted, as they happen up scary knights, vampires, witches and ghosts, amongst other scary characters. There is a (mildly) amusing twist at the end of the story but no unmasking and no 'pesky kids'! That minor quibble aside, the story should appeal to most young fans as all of the gang are here, complete with the correct voices and familiar catchphrases.
The only other minor disappointment with this Tag book is that there does appear to be quite a few blank spaces, compared to others in the range. There is an entire blank page and lots of expanses of sky, whereas the other books seem to have characters and images dotted about over every available corner. As each image has its own accompanying phrase, tune or sound effect, this book doesn't seem to offer as much to a child who just wants to play and listen to fun noises at times, rather than concentrating on the reading elements.
Many tag books come with an age recommendation from 4-6 but this particular book is recommended for children from 5-7. I must admit that I disregarded this recommendation when I purchased it for my then four year old but I can see that some of the vocabulary included within the story and within some of the tasks is pretty challenging. As this is a Scooby Doo story and true to the series, it also includes several catchphrases that aren't actually real words - so there are plenty of made up words such as 'zoinks' and 'jinkies' that a child may struggle to identify. There is also the potential for confusion whenever Scooby 'talks' in the book as the replaces the beginning letters of words with an R, so 'look' becomes 'rook' and so on. This shouldn't be too much of a problem if the child is using the Tag to read these words aloud but this does mean this book may not be the best choice for a first Tag book.
The story does have quite a lot of educational value, however, particularly within the two main activities on the back pages. One of these activities is really effective at reinforcing the learning throughout the rest of the story and concentrates on testing the child's comprehension of the story and remembering who has done what and why. This task also helps to focus on the key questioning words- Who? What? When? Where? Why?- so that the reader really has to think about the content of the story and understand it. My son's favourite task is one which involves identifying all of the features of the castle. This is one where I feel it may be aimed at slightly older children, as it includes quite obscure words such as portcullis, battlement and bartizan, but it does broaden a child's vocabulary and knowledge about castles and seems to appeal to my son.
With most of the tasks and activities, the Tag will impose a time limit and also indicates my son's score at the end of the activity, offering praise and encouragement when he manages to improve on a previous score. Parents can keep track of these scores and obtain information about their child's learning and progress by connecting the Tag reader up to a PC. This isn't something that really appeals to me as I'm content to know that this book is encouraging a general love of literacy and learning, rather than worrying about any specific learning targets.
This Scooby Doo tag book is currently available for just over £13 via a third party seller on Amazon. I paid just £8.70 when I purchased it eighteen months ago, so it is well worth keeping an eye on the fluctuating prices as this book is frequently available for less than £10.
We have quite a collection of Tag books now. (We actually have ten, which is the maximum that can be stored on the reader at any one time.) This one isn't the best amongst the books we own but is certainly a strong contender and I do think the tasks and activities are educational whilst still managing to be fun, which can be a difficult balance to achieve. I would recommend this book as part of a growing Tag collection although it's probably not the best to start with due to some of the unusual vocabulary included and the challenging nature of some of the tasks.
This Leapfrog Tag Sccoby Doo! Shiny Spooky Knights activity storybook works with the TagTM Reader to bring the story to life. Read along to see if Scooby and his friends can solve the mystery and escape from the creepy castle. After the story, play learning activities that help build vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Children can earn online rewards and parents can connect the Tag Reader to the online Leapfrog Learning Path to see what their child is playing and learning. Suitable for children ages 5 to 7 years+., Manufacturer: Leapfrog