One evening during this otherwise crazy week, I was able to sneak out to the city for a chat with some super-cool people from Digital Media at Disney Publishing, some experts in the field of education, and some other really awesome people (like my good pal Leticia, from Tech Savvy Mama) to learn about Disney’s latest venture: Disney Digital Books.
To say that we’ve been Digital Book nutty this week is an understatement; Maddy, Owen, and Cora have really enjoyed exploring the site and discovering what it can do–and what they can do with it.
- Disney Digital Books: We have tried our hand at digital books before–and really loved them–but this was a different experience entirely. And we all enjoyed the ride.
What Disney is providing here is essentially an online library–access to over 500 books–and an “interactive experience” for young readers. Disney favorites, like Cars, Mickey Mouse, Disney Princesses, and Toy Story are hanging with Hannah Montannah and other classics; new titles exclusive to Disney Digital Books subscribers will be added to the database on an on-going basis.
500 books? The number amazes me. Most families can’t even fathom ever seeing that number of books, let alone having them at their very fingertips. . .
A cool feature of the site is that books are organized into three separate reading levels: Level One (for beginning readers and shared reading with parents), Level Two (for independent readers), and Level Three (for children ready for chapter books).
Children can search for books according to the level they need, or they can search for them by character, program, or movie.
And one thing I love–and Maddy and Owen really loved–is that by clicking on the headphones on the white bookshelf, children can search by availble “Look and Listen” books–or books they can hear being read as they follow the words on the screen. A huge bonus? The words are highlighted as they are read, helping our little ones understand that all-too-important one-to-one correspondence concept!
Another feature of the site is that children can create their own books; they go to the Story Builder feature (a little dump truck on the bookshelf), choose a title they want to work with, and from there, it’s up to them! They can first design a picture using the characters or props that pop up–resizing them, moving them, whatever–then they can finally save them when they like what they created.
From there, children can fill in the blanks of their personal story, choosing a word from a list that conveys the idea they want. When writers click on one of the words, the word is pronounced, and when they’re finished completing the story, they can save it, print it, or share it via email with a friend.
There are a ton more very worthwhile features on the site–a dictionary that readers can use to help them figure out a difficult word in the text, little certificates to print out after reading books, points to accumulate with each book read, a “My Place” that children can personalize and make their own, a virtual bookshelf where all of their finished or partially finished books are saved, and more.
I look forward to figuring out more of the site’s “secrets” in the next few days but just couldn’t help but share our love tonight. . .
- the graphics–like everything Disney, they’re beautiful. Like nothing my kids have seen on the computer before. . . ;
- the huge variety of stories from which to choose;
- that kiddos can search for texts in different ways–by reading level, by character/ show/ movie, or by “Look and Listen” books;
- the little “Trivia Challenges” that are placed throughout the texts–these little quizzes test what the child has read up to a certain point;
- the fireworks that appear after a story is finished–seriously, everyone loved these;
- the “Magic Pen” that readers use to turn pages of the books or highlight words to hear words pronounced, or to see definitions;
- that readers can receive mail from their parents–little notes of encouragement–in their very own mailboxes;
- that children can connect with “friends” who share their same interests and tastes for literature;
- that they’re offering a Free Trial–7 books, 1 Look and Listen and 1 Story Builder for anyone and everyone to try.
- that it was easier to register-even with a free month (thanks to the good people at Disney!), I had a tough time with figuring out where to go and what user names would work;
- that some of the “Look and Listen” books were a teeny bit shorter–maybe even levelled so that the beginning levels carried some of those precious high frequency words that emerging readers are just becoming familiar with;
- that there was a place to click on for related readings that included non-fiction texts–science, math, or social studies related topics–and that these texts were of a variety of reading levels. Maybe there could also be texts of different genres–short memoirs, poems, news articles? . . . ;
- that the site ran a bit more smoothly. It’s new, there’s a ton of stuff on the site, but twice we were told that the book we wanted to read was not available;
- that the “Story Builder” was also leveled–for Maddy to create her stories, I had to be there to read the text with her. Even though the word choices were pronounced, she needed help decoding the rest of the text;
- that there was a section for parents where the reading research that supports this site and its goals and intentions was available. I love to see why exactly my children or I are spending our time on a certain topic or activity. I care about who researched it, when and where it was published, and that it was timely;
- that it was a wee bit less expensive–$79.95 / year for up to three children or $8.95 monthly. I suppose it would be an awesome gift come holiday season, and there are 500+ books. . .
Whew! That’s a lot to say, and I didn’t even come close to saying it all. Forgive me for forgetting; check the site for any clarification!
I do want to thank Disney Publishing for offering us a free one-month trial of Disney Digital Books, for an especially enjoyable evening out filled with new information and great conversation, and for a super-cool product that we’re excited to continue exploring.
Please note: Although we received this trial at no cost, the gift in no way swayed my opinion on the product. Like always, my ideas are most influenced by three littles: Maddy, Owen, and Cora.