- Wide selection of reading levels and Disney characters
- Option to have books read out loud
- Separate reward system/book shelf for each child
- New and exclusive content being added all the time
- Subscription price may be prohibitive for some families
- Family subscription limited to three kids
In order to create an account with Disney Digital Books you'll need to register with Disney.com. If you already have an account there, you can link it to your Disney Digital Books account. Add each of your children by either linking to their pre-existing Disney accounts or creating new ones. If you're ready to subscribe, you can do so at this point, or you can take advantage of the available free trial. The registration system can be a bit cumbersome since you'll need to enter a unique username and password for each of your kids in addition to your own registration. It's relatively easy, but if you do sign up for a subscription, keep in mind that you may need to add each child separately. I found this to be a bit confusing.
Parents should also know that you'll be recognized in the system by your "D-Name" (a nickname you choose) as opposed to your username or real name. Once you choose a D-Name, it stays with you throughout the Disney system. This is a lesson I learned the hard way while playing around with Pixie Hollow. Now all of my notes to my kids through Disney Digital Books will be signed "Liri_Fernglimmer." I'd prefer "Mom," but it could be worse.
From your parental account, you can send canned motivational messages to your kids (once again, from "Liri_Fernglimmer") and suggest books that they may enjoy. I would like to be able to set the reading level and turn quizzes on and off from my parent account, but you need to be logged on to the child's account to set those options.
Reading With Disney Digital Books
The selection of titles already available through Disney Digital Books is incredible. They will release additional titles on a regular basis, including some exclusive content, so your kids aren't going to be bored any time soon. Kids can browse for books using a scrolling carousel or a search box and can filter for books that are appropriate for their reading level. The options range from basic picture books and early readers to minimally illustrated chapter books.
There are three main ways to enjoy the books on the site:
- Standard - These are perfect for reading together or for reading independently. Optional quiz questions throughout test and reinforce comprehension. Clicking on a word with the "magic pen" reads the word out loud and a dictionary feature can provide word definitions.
- Look and Listen - Look and Listen titles are geared towards younger readers. These books are read out loud as the words are highlighted on the screen to encourage basic literacy skills.
- Story Builder - This is where kids can bring their own creativity to the site. They choose from a small selection of popular Disney titles, such as Wall-E, Cinderella and Finding Nemo. Each book has a story that is missing some of the words and pictures. Kids add their favorite story-related pictures and fill in the missing words (noun, adjective or verb) from a small list. I think it would be more fun to do it Mad Libs style (hint! hint!) but it's still cool anyway. Completed stories can be saved or printed and made into a book.
Customization, Support & Encouragement
The Disney Digital Books website includes fun features that go above and beyond the basic educational value. For example, each child has a virtual room called "My Space." This area can be customized with a cool background and is the holding spot for rewards, favorite books and messages from other users (these are canned - there is no open communication on the site).
And, as if reading weren't fun enough, Disney Digital Books includes built-in encouragement:
- Points for correctly answering quiz questions, completing books and other tasks
- A fireworks show upon finishing a book
- Badges and surprises as point levels increase
- Encouraging messages from the parent account
Room for Improvement
With all of the bells and whistles on the Disney Digital Books website, it shouldn't be surprising that there is some room for improvement. They are mainly smaller annoyances, but here are some areas that my family found frustrating while navigating the site:
- The animated book carousel for browsing titles is fun, but tedious when you already know what you want. We'd love a drop down menu for quick access.
- You can only go through a book page by page (or jump to the end). We'd like to be able to go to a specific page, especially in the anthologies.
- The quiz feature defaults to "on" for each book, even when you turn it off. It would be great to be able to set it off for the session (or overall), especially for early readers.
- I've been assured that this will change, but the parent account doesn't acknowledge the subscription status. Parents can't read books without logging into their kids' accounts.
The Bottom Line
The Disney Digital Books website is designed to impress. If the sheer number of books doesn't entice you, the beautiful illustrations will. And I love the idea of having a library of books to take with you wherever you have Internet access. The additional educational features like the quizzes, dictionary and ability to read troublesome words out loud will bring an added appeal for parents who want to encourage their kids to understand what they're reading. Yes, there is room for improvement, but overall, Disney Digital Books is fun and sure to be a big hit among families who have fallen in love with generations of their classic tales.
Disney Digital Books Subscription
A monthly subscription for Disney Digital Books is $8.95, while an annual subscription is $79.95. The subscription includes a parent account and accounts for up to three children in the same household. A free trial is available that provides access to 8 pre-selected books. Gift subscriptions are available. They're a nice option for family and friends who live out of town or who aren't quite sure what your kids would enjoy.