The iPhone and iPad will read out loud to you. This is more than a party trick; it's very handy to let your iPhone or iPad read a news article or a long email to you while you drive home, or while you pour yourself a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal (for example). It's also sort of fun, and perhaps a learning tool, to highlight a page in an iBooks book and have your iPhone or iPad read that page to you. It's all very easy though you have to be on iOS 5 or higher (Mom, you are).
Here's how you do it. (Screen shots are from an iPhone but it's almost exactly the same on the iPad.)
First, go to the Settings. Tap General, then Accessibility, then Speak Selection.
Speak Selection is off by default. You'll be turning it on here. Set the Speaking Rate closer to the turtle and further from the rabbit. It's hard to understand what's being said if it's said too rapidly. When you drag the Speaking Rate knob your device will speak some standard text to you, giving you a good idea of how things will sound.
Now find something that you'd like to have read out loud. Here, I've gone to the Mail app and found an email that is pretty long. Tap and hold anywhere in the text to create an initial selection, then tap Select All.
Remember, the reading feature is called "Speak Selection" so you could drag the selection to include any or all of the text. If you want all, the Select All button is the easier way to go. That's what I did here, and you can see the result.
Tap the Speak button, then sit back and listen. Or pour yourself a bowl of Captain Crunch. Actually it works with any cereal.
I used Mail as an example here but it works similarly with iBooks and Safari. In every case it's tap, hold, drag the selection knobs (or do Select All where available), then "Speak."
There are a few shortcomings (you can't choose the voice, you can't do Select All in iBooks or Safari, and you can't trigger it from Siri), but even so, Speak Selection is worth exploring.
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Up next: I'll show you how to do the same thing on your Mac.