A reading pen for multilingual families

When Joie shared with me her project of creating a tool for multilingual families that would make reading to their children easier, I was hooked. For parents to record their own voices while reading their children’s books in all their languages was something I wished existed when my children were toddlers! Especially the possibility for children to read the books independently at some point, while listening to familiar voices and not pre-recorded ones, was very convincing!
Joie and I
held a very successful workshop together for Delft Mama, where we talked about how to raise multilingual children successfully, and for us this also entails, in a fun and enjoyable way.

Here are Joie’s answers to what I think are some of the questions parents would have when considering this tool:

What is the difference between Chameleon Reader and other recording pens on the market?

The hardware of digital pens are similar, but the mindsets are very different. Most of the recording pens work with their own books. They mainly want to sell more books. Even though some of them provide recordable stickers, it’s just an add-on, not their main focus.

For example, languagelizard offer 100 recordable labels with the reading pen and only 400 labels in additional stickers packs. Averagely you need 15 stickers per picture book, so you can only make a few audiobooks with it. 

However, Chameleon Reader is mainly designed for DIY audiobook and multilingual families. The starter set includes a reading pen and 5,000 stickers with multiple functions. You can turn hundreds of regular books to audiobooks – in your voice or other voices – for children to listen to anytime. And add up to 4 versions in different languages or read by different people.

As a book lover, I think it’s very important to introduce books with diversified storylines and designs to children. It will be the building blocks for their language development and aesthetics sense. I am also a mom of a multilingual child (4.5 yo now). I think reading pens are very easy to use for young children, but I do hope to have one flexible tool to be used for all books in our languages (Chinese, English & Dutch). 


Where does the idea of Chameleon Reader come from?

The device was originally designed by our consultant, Zhong-Jie Jiang, a senior language therapist in Taiwan, for children with special needs, then was developed further and rebranded by us, for multilingual children and international markets.

For years, I worked as a user experience (UX) researcher at Acer identifying what users pain points are and improving products as part of the design process. We interviewed many multilingual families to make sure the design of Chameleon Reader is easy to use and meets user needs. 


What is new and innovative in your product?

Chameleon Reader is a total solution for DIY audiobooks. It’s very flexible and easy to use for both adults and children. We offer many types of stickers for more possibilities and make it fit to multiple scenarios, at home, at school or when traveling. It’s a bit hard to describe purely by text. I highly recommend you to watch the videos to understand more.

How to turns any of your regular books into audiobooks 


Please tell us about Chameleon Reader and why it is a great tool for multilingual families.

Reading is so important for language development (no matter how many languages). Nothing replaces the importance of reading together. You interact with your child and explain in your own words. But Chameleon Reader can complement this in a powerful way. 

It is screen-free and very easy to use for young children. They can control the flow of reading without any help from adults. It highly increases the frequency of repetition. Research suggests that it’s not only the number of books, but also the repetition of each book that leads to greater learning.

It is also helpful for older children to practice pronunciation and learn to read. For example, add model sound to green and let children record their voice to other colors. They read the text, decode in the brain and pronounce it. Children love to hear their own voice. It encourages them to read and practice more

Music supports all learning. You can add your child’s favorite songs in any language. For example, I have added “The Beatles – Yellow Submarine” as the theme song to the magnetic activity book “Under the Sea”. The reader is equipped with a headphone jack and it can work as a MP3 Player itself.

The tool grows with the child depending on the materials to which it is applied. Chameleon Reader has arrived at our home for 2 years. My son (4.5 yo) still loves it since we keep adding new content based on his interests. 

Chameleon Reader is a little gadget that allows children to enjoy stories and music ​​anytime, anywhere. I would say it’s not only a great tool for raising multilingual children but also for any book loving families.


How does it work? How to record, how to delete or change; can I record via computer and transfer on the reader?

You put a sticker on the page, record an audio file, and when the Chameleon Reader taps the sticker, the recording will play. You can re-record until you are satisfied with the audio quality. The new audio replaces the old one. 


You can also add MP3 files to the reader with a computer. This is especially helpful for parents raising multilingual children as non-native speakers.

You can add content narrated by native speakers (from CD / Youtube), so children can hear correct pronunciation. 

It is also a good way to include your relatives who live far away into children’s lives. They can record using their mobile phone, and send MP3 files to you (there are many MP3 recorders in the App Store/Google Play they can use).

It’s so nice to see children reading the books while hearing with grandparent’s voices telling the stories. 


Here are tutorial videos that may help you understand how it works. 

How to Make Audiobook


Transfer MP3 from Computer


Tap & Play on the Go


How many different languages can one record with this reader, and is there a time limit/memory storage limit?


It can read ANY language you recorded as monolingual books. For example, record English books in English, record Chinese books in Chinese. But if you don’t want to purchase the same book in multiple languages since it’s costly and takes up a lot of space, you can record up to 4 different languages in the same book, as multilingual books. 

It’s equipped with a 16 GB micro SD card. You can record up to 148 hrs depending on your usage. If you add MP3 files, the time would be less (some MP3 files are large). You can expand the storage to 32 GB on your own. I would say the storage is pretty enough. – I have made hundreds of audiobooks for my son using around 2,300 stickers. It takes only 5 GB storage.


Are you selling to schools and libraries too?

Yes! There are some preschools and primary schools that have used Chameleon Reader to help children’s language learning. 

For group usage, they can purchase extra readers. After duplicating audio files to other readers, all of them can share the developed materials (the same set of stickers for multiple readers). 


Video: Backup, Restore & Multiple Readers



What is the next step for your Chameleon Reader?


We hope to collaborate with more language experts and parents who care about multilingual and early childhood education. We are planning more stickers, accessories and features. We are collaborating with local partners to expand the business to different countries. 


My suggestions about using this pen in multilingual families 

Joie already mentioned several reasons that make this pen a really helpful tool for multilingual families. – I read so many books with my children, and like all multilingual parents, I would occasionally translate a book that we had in another language. As it happens, these spontaneous translations were often those my children liked the most, so I would re-translate the book over and over again. And my children would ask for me translating the book by using exactly the same words as before, which, like everyone who does this knows, is not always possible. It was cause of many frustrations… I wish I’d had a tool to use and help my children to read by themselves from time to time too.

Another advantage to use this pen in multilingual families is, that when our partner isn’t there to read in the other language, but our child would like us to read the book in that exact language, the pen helps us to check the word choice. Especially when we’re not that fluent in our partner’s language, this pen not only helps with the translation but also with the linguistic bond we want to foster and support between our partner and children. And this kind of pen can be used to help children gain confidence in reading themselves!


– Thank you so much, Joie, for designing this tool that is a fantastic help for multilingual families!


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