A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this website.
Kids can learn storytelling and writing skills as they create their own simple tales using the site. Creativity is explored but is a bit limited by the options offered, but a handy Story Helper character offers prompts if kids get stuck. The system doesn't assess the final product, so they won’t improve spelling, writing clarity, and other skills without adult input. My StoryMaker is a solid tool that gives kids a nice introduction to the world of creative writing, but grown-ups will need to support their experience.
The site provides a supportive forum in which kids can be creative.
Violence & Scariness
Kids can make characters fight, but they won't see any blood; the altercation takes place behind a series of cloud-like images that represent motion.
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Kids could potentially use swear words such as "f--k" and "s--t" in stories if they so choose, but they shouldn't be exposed to bad language unless a friend emails a finished book that contains some.
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Products & Purchases
Learning-related book descriptions in the parent section link to library-availability information, not online bookstores.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this free book-creation tool lets kids create partially animated stories that won't be posted online or otherwise shared with the general public. It's relatively simple to use; kids will choose the basic components of a story from a pre-populated menu and then write in the details on each page. You can save stories and return to them later, but take note: Users automatically agree to let the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh display any content they create for promotional use, according to a home page disclaimer.
Is It Any Good?
My StoryMaker doesn't offer many extras; the virtual book-creation tool is its main attraction. But the site's simplicity isn't necessarily a bad thing. A Story Helper character provides helpful suggestions to advance the plot if writers get stuck. Users don't have total creative control -- they supply the text but can't use original images, and content has to be illustrated with art that My StoryMaker provides. The site also has a limited number of action, object, background, and character options, so kids may only want to use it to create a story or two. Kids won't get direct input on their story lines or writing quality; parents will need to review their work to provide guidance and help them improve. But, with some additional input, My StoryMaker can help spur kids' imaginations and provide beneficial writing practice. Just make sure you print, download, or email the finished story to save it -- due to space constraints, the site deletes them after a month.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.