When JoJo Learning sent us Luka Reading Robot for unbiased feedback, I thought Luka was too good to be true. This owl-shaped robot claims to read >30,000 Chinese books and >6000 English books!
Though we’ve only had Luka for a short while, I couldn’t wait to tell you about it! I believe that Luka can be a huge help to bilingual and multilingual families.
Great news: for the first time, Luka is available in the United States, and JoJo Learning is offering a special holiday sale! Details at the end of the post!!!
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by JoJo Learning. As with all of my posts, all content reflects the experience and honest opinions of my family.
Although Luka can read and sing in English, this review focuses on its Chinese features because our goal is to maximize input and interest in our minority language.
I’ll explain what Luka can do and why I highly recommend buying one or even two! Please be sure to watch each of the 3 videos in this post!
Video introduction of Luka Reading Robot
Luka was created by Ling AI in 2017 and >1 million units of Luka and sister products (Luka Baby, Luka Hero, Luka Luka) have already been sold in China.
Luka developers work with publishers and professional narrators to collect and store the vast content in its cloud library.
In this video, I give an overview of how Luka reads various simplified Chinese books and some key features of the Luka APP.
Why Luka Reading Robot is a must-have for bilingual families
We all know that children should read or be read to daily, but many families don’t have the capability or time to read Chinese books.
Based on our experience, I know that Luka can boost the minority language by telling kids a large variety of stories with clear and engaging Mandarin.
Audiobooks can help children learn Chinese
I’ve written about how audiobooks help my American children learn Chinese.
Although my 6-year-old reads Chinese independently, audiobooks help her read more challenging books beyond her level.
My 3-year-old son, who tends to default to English, has been mimicking and chatting with Luka in Mandarin. From Luka, he has picked up many new Chinese words and phrases!
Here’s a video of my son reading independently and engaging with Luka Reading Robot. This is a short clip of very focused, half hour reading session with various books!
A robot can help families who are not fluent enough to read Chinese
Now with Luka Reading Robot, my kids are less limited by my lack of fluency.
They don’t need to wait for me to look up Chinese words in my dictionary, check the Pinyin, or study the book beforehand.
Buying Luka can actually save money
Previously, we were paying a Chinese woman $30/hour to read Chinese books to our children. However, coordinating schedules was challenging, and my son didn’t connect with her.
Now my kids can read Chinese books whenever they want at no extra cost!
Reading with Luka is a big time saver
Because Luka’s narration quality is excellent, my kids don’t need me to search for the best Mandarin narrator on Ximalaya.
I also don’t have to spend hours transferring audio files from Ximalaya to an MP3 player, because Luka can read most of our Chinese books!
And like many busy parents working inside or outside of the home, I can’t sit with my kids every time they want to read, such as when I’m cooking.
With Luka, my kids just need to pick a book, press a button, and they are able to read and listen right away!
Unboxing Luka Reading Robot
Luka Reading Robot comes very well packaged in a sturdy yellow box, cushioned with a velvety lining.
As you can hear in the video below, my kids were soooooo ecstatic, telling Luka how much they love him haha. Even my husband was impressed!
How to use Luka Reading Robot
- Press and hold the tail to turn on/off Luka
- HD camera on Luka’s forehead scans book covers, illustrations, and ISBN code
- Press book wing for Luka to read books
- Press music wing for Luka to sing songs, tell other stories, or narrate poems
- Full user manual on JoJo Learning’s Luka Support Page
Benefits of Luka Reading Robot
- Very easy for kids to learn and use independently; my 3-year-old and 6-year-old children can read books with Luka on their own
- Professionally narrated stories with both male and female human voices
- Some stories have soft music in the background, others have no background music
- Reads >30,000 Chinese picture books and >6,000 English picture books!!!
- When Luka sees a book cover, it recognizes the book and reads as you turn the pages, even out of page order
- A soft click sound indicates that Luka is done reading a page, and the child can turn to the next page whenever he or she is ready
- Can read books from any angle, as long as the camera is right above the book
- With the Luka APP, parents and teachers can conveniently record their own narrations for any book. This is a great way for kids to hear their familiar voice.
- When Luka is idle (eg, if you forget to turn him off) he does random silly things to get your attention! We have heard him fart, and my kids crack up when he says Chinese phrases like:
- 小心我的小尾巴！ ( Xiǎoxīn wǒ de xiǎo wěibā! / Be careful of my little tail!)
- 跟我说说话，让我变得更聪明! (Gēn wǒ shuō shuōhuà, ràng wǒ biàn dé gèng cōngmíng! / If you talk to me, I will get smarter!)
- 我怕鱼缸! (Wǒ pà yúgāng / I’m scared of the fishtank!)
- 你在哪？不要看电视或玩手机！ (Nǐ zài nǎ? Bùyào kàn diànshì huò wán shǒujī! / Where are you? Don’t watch TV or play with your phone!)
Features of Luka APP
- Available on iOS and Android
- Search books and music by category and push Ximalaya audiobooks to Luka
- For books that have both Chinese and English options, you can switch languages with the APP
- You can push Chinese and English songs and nursery rhymes to play through Luka’s speakers
- Save your favorite playlists and reading lists
- Reading log: keeps track of number of books, book covers, and time spent with Luka Reading Robot
How my kids have been using Luka
I know I’m going to get this question, but it’s pretty straightforward. When my son and daughter are home with me and they want to read a book, they present the desired book to see if Luka can read it. Independently, they turn on Luka and push the book wing.
They’ve been wanting to bring Luka to the dinner table, so if my husband isn’t home (he speaks English and doesn’t understand Chinese), I let the Luka join and read to us while we eat!
Since my children are 3 years apart and have different reading interests, sharing Luka Reading Robot has been a challenge. For example, my son is all about cars and animals. He is impatient when my daughter wants to re-read her favorite 一片叶子落下来 Fall of Freddie the Leaf book with Luka.
To be honest, my kids had some intense fights as my 3-year-old is particularly possessive about Luka and doesn’t want to share his “baby 宝宝”. Thus, if you have a similar sibling situation, you may want to consider getting 2 Lukas!
Also for those who worry that robots will take over people, we are a fairly low-tech family and feel comfortable with Luka.
When they are not using Luka, my children are still looking at books on their own. And of course, they still want to read with me and my husband!
Now the cutest and funniest thing that my kids do is taking turns pretending to be Luka!!! My son will squeeze his eyes shut, ask me to press his “tail” to turn him on, make some fake snoring sounds, shouts “Luka!” when he’s awake. He tells me to press his arm (book wing) and to put a book in front of him. Then my daughter wants it to be her turn, and she reads to little brother with tons of giggling!
Areas for improvement
Like most technology, Luka is not perfect, and we’ve learned to work around some of it’s glitches:
- Connecting Luka to WiFI with my APP was initially challenging, but then I realized I needed to wiggle my phone from side-to-side for Luka to sense it
- Usually Luka reads each new page immediately. However, sometimes the response is delayed, so we need to move the book page slightly closer to catch its attention.
- For book series with similar looking covers (eg, 米小圈 成语漫画): Chinese idioms, sometimes Luka confuses which book it’s reading. To get around this, my kids have learned to show Luka an unrelated book, and then present the desired book. Or you can turn Luka on and off and try again.
- Sometimes Luka can read only part of a series, such as only 2 of 3 Grace 说 books.
- If there are different versions of a popular book (eg, The Giving Tree), Luka’s narration might be slightly different by chance depending on what book you have. However, most of our books seemed to have the correct word-for-word narration.
- The music wing defaults to English songs and nursery rhymes, but I wish that it defaulted to Chinese, which is the preferred language that I selected in the APP.
- Currently, Chinese and English song selection is limited to nursery rhymes. I wish there were kid-friendly pop, rock, and hip-hop music that would appeal to older kids and parents.
*Note that this may change quickly because book narrations are continuously added to a cloud library!!!
- Can’t read many traditional Chinese books yet – the company wants to see that there would be enough demand this.
- At the time of this review, Luka reads a limited amount of bridge/chapter books due to the assumption that kids are reading independently by this stage. They also want to see if there is a demand for chapter books. Because I strongly believe audiobooks are helpful for all ages, I have a lot of chapter books on my wish list for Luka to read!
What books can Luka read?
Despite the aformentioned shortcomings, I was very happy to see the overwhelming positive effects of Luka on my children.
From our home library, we found that Luka can read most of our Chinese picture books and some Chinese bridge/chapter books.
I’ve linked the books we’ve read with Luka so far and will add more as we read more!
You should also check out JoJo Learning’s website to see other Luka-compatible books!
Easy, short Chinese picture books
- 亲爱的动物园 Dear Zoo
- 阿波林的小世界 A Bo Lin’s Small World (14 books)
- Baby Bear Chinese (15 Books)
- Eric Carle Picture Books in Chinese and English
- Rainbow Chameleon 变色龙捉迷藏
- 《想哭的时候》 Everyone – Chinese and English Book About Emotions
- Grace 说专心, Grace 说耐心
- 小莉的中秋节 Sori’s Harvest Moon Day
Longer, more in depth Chinese picture books
- 爱心树 The Giving Tree
- 小小的我 and 最亲爱的奶奶
- 林明子 and 筒井赖子 Realistic Chinese Picture Books
- Most of these Chinese books about going to school!
- 一片叶子落下来 Fall of Freddie the Leaf
- Max Lucado books in Chinese
- I Love Martine Books in Chinese 玛蒂娜故事书系列
- 不一样的卡梅拉 La Petite Poules Funny Chinese Books
Chinese science picture books
- Health Guides 影响孩子一生的健康书 (8 Books)
- 我宝贵的身体 性教育绘本 My Precious Body (3 books)
- 第一次发现丛书 My First Discovery Series (30 books)
Picture books about Chinese culture
- 团圆 Family Reunion
- 打灯笼 Playing with Lanterns
- 中国记忆(传统节日共12册) Chinese Festivals Stories Collection (12 books)
Chinese bridge/chapter books
- 青蛙和蟾蜍 Frog and Toad Books
- Math Story Books 数学帮帮忙
- 米小圈 成语漫画: Chinese idioms
- 米小圈 脑筋急转弯: Chinese jokes and riddles
- 了不起的狐狸爸爸 Fantastic Mr. Fox
In summary, we highly recommend Luka Reading Robot!
Despite some imperfections, I’m grateful that Luka is part of our Chinese learning environment!
Had I known about Luka before, I definitely would have bought it on my own.
I strongly believe Luka can help improve fluency and literacy in bilingual and multilingual children!
Where to buy Luka Reading Robot
In the United States, JoJo Learning is currently the exclusive distributor for Luka Reading Robot and will ship internationally.
Cost of Luka Reading Robot and HOLIDAY SALE – ends 11/12/19 @11:59PM PST
- Original price: $199 USD
- Sale: From now until November 12th 11:59PM PST, buy Luka Reading Robot for $30 USD off the original price with coupon code CHALKACADEMY
- Shipping rates:
- Within the United States $10 USD
- To other countries: $5 handling fee plus international shipping rates to be calculated at checkout
- Warranty: 1 year for Luka robot, 6 months for cord
- Return period: 14-days
Customer service for Luka Reading Robot
- JoJo Learning has informed me that customers can contact them with all questions.
- All customer support requests can be sent to Luka@jojolearning.com, and will receive response within 24 hours.
- Customer support can be provided in fluent English through JoJo Learning. In addition, JoJo Learning has translated Chinese user manuals and Luka troubleshooting FAQ to English.
- Another benefit of ordering with JoJo learning is that additional language packages, including Spanish and Korean, may be available for remote upgrade (with extra cost) in the future. At the time of this review, JoJo Learning is working out the details to bring additional language packages to the North American Luka!
Do you have any questions about Luka Reading Robot?
Feel free to leave any questions, and we’ll try our best to help!
If you have Luka, please share your experience in the comment section below!
More educational gift ideas for kids
- Ultimate Chinese Gift Guide for Kids: Cultural, Educational, & Fun Toys
- Best Montessori Inspired Educational Toys and Homeschool Materials on Etsy
- 10 Best Open-Ended Toys That Promote Creativity and Learning
- Handmade Cards for Reading and Writing Practice (English, Chinese, and Korean)
- 5 Reasons Books are the Best Gifts for Multilingual Kids
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