The Reading Chest Review
Do you rent movies over the internet? Most of my friends use Love Film, to get a regular supply of DVDs. Personally, I don't get to watch enough TV to justify using that, but it seems like a pretty good idea. I especially like that returning the films is as easy as popping them in the postbox.
So, if it works with DVDs, why not apply the same thing to reading books for children? That seems to be the thinking behind The Reading Chest, and it jolly good idea it is too. Especially if you have a particularly voracious reader.
Now I wouldn't want to promote this as a replacement for visiting the library. I would hope that everyone does that. Once a month, once every couple of weeks or once a week. It is a really good introduction to the wonders of reading, and a familiarity with the library now will be a great foundation for their future.
Plus if we don't use local facilities, then we'll lose them. And the social aspect of our lives, getting to know people in the community like librarians, hinges on having local services.
Right, now I'll get off my soap box! A book rental scheme like the Reading Chest has a lot going for it. You get books at the right reading age for your child, from the various reading sets that most schools use, so you know it will fit in with the curriculum. And you can keep a fresh supply of books so they don't get bored, and you don't run out of either book shelf space or money in your wallet.
The Reading Chest is aimed at readers aged 4 to 9. The principle is very simple. You can sign up to a scheme - there are three - for a set monthly amount. Choose your books, and swap them or return them using the supplied pre-paid envelope.
There are no due dates, and no late fees. Which is always nice!
I got PlayPennies mum Teresa to try the service out for us, and let us know what it is like and how it works. Our young tester is Teresa's daughter Phoebe, aged 5 and a quarter.
First off you need to pick the package you want. Teresa chose Bronze. This starts you off with 4 books, and you can do 2 swaps a month. A swap is where you send up to three books back, and get three new ones in return. So, with the Bronze package you can get six books a month. At just over one a week, Teresa though this was just about right for her little girl.
The Bronze package costs £9.95 a month.
"The registration process is simple." Explains Teresa. "You go through various stages of forms to fill in. There is a page for address, a page for choosing your child's reading age and book choices."
Teresa advises that you make sure you first spend time on the landing page reading through the different types of book and what they offer, otherwise you will just end up having to start all over again.
Finally there's a page for payments. "They don't take Maestro, which is a bit tedious." says Teresa.
"This is pretty much perfect I think as you get lots of variety but kids can then really enjoy the books for a while." It takes 2-3 working days for the books to arrive.
Books are available to rent from the following reading schemes: Collins Big Cat, Oxford Reading Tree, Alpha Kids, Floppy's Phonics, Ginn Pocket Reads, Phonics Bugs, Project X, Rigby Star, Tree Tops, and Yellow Door Phonics.
Theresa was perfectly happy with the books that she and her daughter received. "The books are great. They look like new used books, and are in very good condition. Really excellent and spot on for Phoebe's development. Most importantly though, she really enjoyed them a lot, and read all of them. A few times."
She also liked that she got a book bag, handy for keeping the books in, and you get a lot of information about how to make the most of it.
And Finally ...
There are two other schemes. Silver costs £12.95 a month, and for this you get four swaps a month. Then there's the Gold package, and this costs £15.95 a month. For that you get unlimited swaps.
Theresa felt that overall, she was most happy with the Bronze package, and will continue to buy that. It was about right, she felt, for her daughter's reading needs.