Disney Story Central is an online, interactive library of more than 500 Disney books and stories covering classics from "Cinderella" and "Pinocchio" to new favorites like "Finding Nemo" and "High School Musical." Kids can read their favorite Disney books, earn points and rewards, and even add their creative touch to the books.
Disney Story Central is designed to be used primarily on Apple iOS devices with the Disney Story Central app; however, you may also access your books through the website.
- Wide selection of reading levels and Disney characters
- Option to have books read out loud
- Separate reward system/bookshelf for each child
- New and exclusive content being added all the time
- Token purchase system allows for access to individual books rather than getting a subscription.
- Subscription price may be prohibitive for some families
- Family subscription limited to three kids
Signing Up for Disney Story Central
You first need to create an account to use on Disney Story Central. If you already have an account on Disney.com, you can link it to your Disney Story Central account. Add each of your children by either connecting 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 because you have to enter a unique username and password for each of your kids in addition to your own registration. It's not complicated, 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.
Setting Your D-Name
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 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 into the child's account to set those options.
Reading with Disney Story Central
The selection of titles available on Disney Story Central is incredible. Additional titles are released on a regular basis, including some exclusive content, so your kids aren't going to be bored anytime soon.
Kids can browse for books using a scrolling carousel or by searching. Books can be filtered for those that are appropriate for their reading level. The reading level options range from basic picture books and early readers to minimally illustrated chapter books.
There are three main ways to enjoy the books:
- 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
Disney Story Central includes fun features that go above and beyond the basic educational. For example, each child has a virtual room called "My Space." This area can be customized with a 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 Disney books weren't fun enough, Disney Story Central 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 Disney Story Central, 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 on the website 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.
- The parent account doesn't acknowledge the subscription status. Parents can't read books without logging into their kids' accounts. I've been assured that this will change, so it may no longer be the case when you try it.
Disney Story Central Subscription or Tokens
There are two ways to enjoy Disney Story Central. The first is through a monthly subscription at $8.95, or you can purchase an annual subscription is $79.95. The subscription includes a parent account and accounts for up to three children in the same household, and grants unlimited access to hundreds of Disney books.
The second way is to purchase Disney Story Central Tokens. You can spend these to purchase new titles individually.
A free trial is available that provides access to eight 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.
The Bottom Line
Disney Story Central is designed to impress. If the sheer number of books doesn't entice you, the beautiful illustrations will. I love the idea of having a library of books to take with you wherever you have Internet access.
The 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 Story Central is fun and sure to be a big hit among families who have fallen in love with generations of their classic tales.