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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Speakaboos is a reading site that requires a paid subscription to access content. Users can sign up for a subscription, where they're asked to provide a name and credit card information. The site offers paid monthly and yearly subscriptions. There's no free account, but users can try out the site for free for seven days. Content includes a large library of books, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as songs. Content is relatively safe, although some stories have the standard fairy and folk tale villains, such as evil stepmothers and witches.
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What's it about?
The SPEAKABOOS site lets kids read or listen to stories -- ranging from traditional fairy tales to popular character-based books, such as the Arthur series -- read by celebrities including Nick Cannon. Kids also can sing along to well-known tunes such as "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" or play matching and other games. Because words accompany the narration, the storybook section gives kids a fun way to practice reading skills. Each story also includes suggested reading and grade levels while listing relevant themes such as fairness and honesty. Parents can browse the library and filter stories by theme and other categories.
Is it any good?
This digital library puts lots of stories, easy reading practice, and even some simple interactive games right at kids' fingertips. Speakaboos offers a collection of classic tales and some intriguing stories, but other than that, the majority of books are not great literature; simple books about everyday life seem more prevalent than fiction. But a nice variety of actors read tales (Chazz Palminteri's "Jack and the Beanstalk," anyone?), and design is colorful and accessible. But it would be nice if all (rather than some) books had a read-myself option, too. Kids who are familiar with various TV characters will particularly enjoy the character books -- especially the ones they can interact with. It's also nice that parents can search for books according to specific criteria, though there's no way to mark particular books or create a reading list. Overall, Speakaboos is appealing and accessible for early reading practice. The main catch is that the site's content will cost you.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it's better to visit a website to learn about reading or kids should just pick up a book. Can there be a balance between online time and offline reading? What limits should parents set on computer time?
Talk about the importance of reading together. Read our article "Reading Rainbow Signs Off" for more on keeping reading alive.
Fairy tales can be fun to read -- but many also involve a lesson, such as treating others with respect or being honest. What did the characters in some of the stories you watched and listened to on the site learn? What can you learn from their experiences?
If you enjoyed the stories on the site, could you write your own? Families can discuss the creative process, from thinking of something to write about to finishing and sharing a story.
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