How To Read Children’s Books Together, No Matter the Distance

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Dec 16, 2014 / 0 comments

Remember when your mom, uncle, gramma, or older sibling read books to you when you were small? It was a magical time – maybe at bedtime, or maybe during the afternoon on a stormy day when you couldn’t go play outside (or head outside to read in a tree, as I did). Books and family – two of my very favorite things. And when you’re far from home, whether traveling or living, those things are cherished even moreso.

With families today being spread out over greater distances, those together reading times are happening less and less. When I was pregnant with Lillie, I asked our family to read their favorite books onto cassette tapes (yes, call me a fossil!), so I could play them for her. Those tapes were played for hundreds of hours, at all times – before sleeping, quiet afternoons, cooking together times, even mornings when Lillie didn’t want to get up without her gramma, grampa, aunt, or uncle reading to her first.

And so we know cassette tapes are old school, and skype calls are de rigeur (yes, we read books together via skype). But recently we were sent something to review that will change all that – and I’m very excited to share it!




Sparkup Book Reader: How To Read Children’s Books Together, No Matter the Distance



The Sparkup Book Reader takes all of the joy of reading books to kids, and combines it with a solution to the distance of globally located families.


Here’s how it works:

You place a book into the sparkup, and then press record. You can record the book page by page, or run it all the way through. Once you’re done, the Sparkup can recognize that book when it is placed into the holder, and will read it back to you. GENIUS. Sparkup comes with two books preread, the rest is up to you. It can hold up to 50 books (!!).


The Sparkup book reader: How To Read Children’s Books Together, No Matter the Distance


Here’s how we’re using it for my niece, Maeve. My sister sent a list of Maeve’s favorite books, with ISBN numbers. Some we could get exact copies of at the library, the rest she’s mailing. I also emailed our huge clan, which will be gathering at my parents' house for Christmas, and asked them to bring a favorite book to read and give to Maeve. We’ll find quiet times during the holiday hubbub to record Maeve’s favorite books, and add a few new ones. Then, we’ll mail the whole caboodle back to Maeve, so far away, and she’ll have a plethora of family reading her favorite books to her – gramma, grampa, aunts and uncles, cousins, and her fairy godmother, Lillie. (shh... Lillie's drawing a book for Maeve for a present!)



This? It’s a gift of love, of connection, of family, and of reading books we all cherish – for one much-loved girl.



I had a chance to ask a few questions of Sparkup CTO Denis Simakov – you know me, always wanting to find the backstory. Here’s what he had to say…

What inspired you to create the Sparkup Book Reader?

Children love to be read to. Reading is an activity that binds families together and bridges generation gaps. It is fun, warm and educational at the same time. At some moment, we felt a need to give this activity a boost, and allow children to be read to even when Dad is on a business trip, or when they miss a Grandma who lives very far away. We feel that adding a spark to this family activity, allowing children to hear a loved one’s voice while flipping beautifully illustrated pages, makes the world a warmer place -- both for children and us adults.


What's the funniest book you've ever heard read with the Sparkup?

I can't really think of a particularly funny book, but an image that comes to mind is of my son, when he was 2 years old, laughing every time he heard my wife saying "Oops!" while reading one of the pages. It seemed a trivial and passing moment when she was recording that book for him, but somehow later it turned into a family treasure, bringing a smile to my face even now :) There is something magical when you can save those childhood moments. It is like a photo gallery - but with voice.


Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Since you like to “wander,” you may like this picture of Sparkup in Iceland:

Sparkup book reader in Iceland

Photo courtesy Sparkup


Learn more:




All photos courtesy Wandering Eduators, except where noted.

We were sent a review copy of the Sparkup book reader - thank you!