CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 30 . . . . April 5, 2013
The GoReader is a digital reading aid which contains two unabridged audiobooks from either the "Orca Currents" or "Orca Soundings" series of books for reluctant readers. In this case, I am reviewing the device, itself, rather than the two titles it contains, See No Evil and Dog Walker).
The GoReader is made of durable black plastic and measures approximately 9 cm x 5.5 cm. It fits neatly into the palm of your hand and has no rough edges. The sturdy case would be difficult to open or destroy. It appears to me that the GoReader cannot be erased, added to, or changed. There are six large, bright red buttons (power on/off, volume up, volume down, play/pause, rewind, fast forward) and a small but clear digital display area which shows which book and chapter are currently being read. Thus, the GoReader is simple and easy to operate. The device runs on two AAA batteries and has a standard headphone jack. One set of batteries and a set of headphones are included with each GoReader, and everything fits into a plastic case which is the size and shape of an old VHS tape case. Multiple copies/cases would fit neatly on a shelf and simply look like the spines of books.
The GoReader arrives preloaded and ready-to-go, without the need for downloads, CDs or cassettes and allows the reluctant reader to read along while listening. The voices on this particular GoReader are both male. They are clear and professional, and the books are read with emphasis and emotion without being overly dramatic.
There are obviously many advantages to the GoReader, particularly given its target audience of younger and mostly male reluctant readers. The 'tech-y' aspect will certainly have appeal, although this might wear off after the initial experience with the device. Some of the advantages listed above could also become disadvantages in a library or classroom setting. The device is small and compact and would easily fit into a pocket if a student were tempted to steal it. With some ingenuity and time, the device could potentially be secured to a table or desk with a thin wire cable if theft was a concern. Perhaps more useful to a student are the two batteries which can easily be taken out of the back of the device. The GoReader suggests that the batteries should be taken out when the device is not in use in order to prolong their life and "be green". A teacher or librarian could accept the return of the device only after ensuring the batteries were also returned.
The major disadvantage is the cost. At $50.00 per GoReader, teachers would have to weigh the price versus the benefits. If the GoReader truly would improve students' interest in reading and ability to read, it would be a valuable investment for those who could gain from it. Ideally, a similar device which could be updated via Bluetooth or another wireless connection would give both teachers and students more variety and would be more cost-efficient. Until that technology is in place, the current GoReader would be a reasonable option to engage reluctant readers if the budget allows.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON, where she is gradually learning to adapt to devices with buttons in every aspect of life.
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