Game review by
Jinny Gudmundsen, Common Sense Media
TeleStory Game Poster Image
OK educational toy reads to kids on the TV.

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It comes with stories about Dora and SpongeBob. Add-on mini-book cartridges run $12.99, and the initial lineup includes books about the Lion King, Cinderella, and Winnie the Pooh.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this product encourages kids to read by reading a story to them as words are highlighted on the screen, or allowing them to read the story themselves on their TVs. Be prepared for some familiar faces: It comes with stories about Dora and SpongeBob; initial add-on mini-book cartridges include books about the Lion King, Cinderella, and Winnie the Pooh. Parents should also be sure that this toy doesn't replace storytime -- and that they participate when their kids are tuned in.

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What's it about?

When families plug in the TELESTORY learning system, their television reads a book aloud while highlighting the words on the screen. Measuring 7 by 5.5 inches, the TeleStory unit looks and opens like a plastic book but it doesn't have pages -- it shows the cover of one the two books it will read. It plugs into the TV using the A/V jacks and runs on four AA batteries. The unit comes with one mini-book cartridge, either Dora the Explorer or SpongeBob SquarePants.

If kids choose to read the book alone, the book appears on the screen and they can highlight the words as they read them by using the scrolling wheel -- if they don't know a word, they can press down on the scrolling wheel to have the word pronounced. Kids can make the illustrations animate by pushing on four colored buttons. If kids decide to have the book read aloud to them, the words are highlighted as they're read. No animations occur until the child pushes the colored buttons.

Is it any good?

For kids who are just learning to read and therefore watching the words highlight, it's helpful that the animation is separate and not distracting. But for younger kids who aren't yet reading, the page may seem stagnant until they start pushing buttons. Even then, the animations are minimal.

Parents should consider whether they want to invite all of these characters into their home. Initial add-on cartridges are $12.99 each. TeleStory does provide scaffolding to an emerging reader when a parent or caregiver isn't available. It's also helpful in families where English isn't the primary language spoken at home.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about which of the two stories on each cartridge they like best and why. Is it more fun to read a book on the TV or with a parent? How is it different?

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