This week's crop of interactive, narrated stories is quite impressive. With professional storytellers and a humongous number of classic and original stories to choose from, you (and your kids) are going to love these sites.
KOL Jr. (published by AOL for kids ages two to five) organizes their narrated storybooks into: Animals, Arthur, Fairy Tales, Family and Rhyming. Whichever you choose, you'll be rewarded with read-along words highlighted in red as the storyteller reads the story out loud, and the pages (with their original illustrations) are turned automatically. The stories take about forty seconds to load on a DSL, so be prepared to wait a bit if your connection is slower.
"Mrs. P is concerned because fewer and fewer kids are reading these days. Also, according to recent reports Mrs. P has seen, it is becoming harder and harder for many parents to find the time to read to their children." Storyteller Mrs. P (played by actress Kathy Kinney) is my video pick of the day, with her classic children's stories, read along options, engaging personal anecdotes, animated games and clever presentation. If you have a high speed connection, you can turn on more even more animated fun by clicking on Start Here, and selecting options such as "Bookcase titles say funny things."
Speakaboos is a delightful find, chock full of classic video storybooks read by actors, along with games, e-cards, sing-along karaoke tunes, and printable coloring pages. The stories are divided into Favorites (such as Arthur and Holidays), Fables, Nursery Rhymes, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales and Songs. A useful feature is "More on This Album: Play All" which will queue up all the songs (or stories) in a particular album. Some of the songs are available for free download (to your iPod or a DVD) while others are for sale in the iTunes Store.
Starfall offers four levels of interactive reading resources for pre-k through second-grade from ABC's and phonics to read-along plays and short stories. "Every word on the site is clickable and will read aloud. In this way, your child's speaking, reading, and writing vocabulary can grow alongside his curiosity." Although the interactive stories are the star of the show at Starfall, don't overlook the printable downloads which include a Reading and Writing Journal, Reading Awards, Phonics Puzzles, and printouts to accompany many of the stories. They can be accessed from the Download Center link at the very bottom of the home page.
Storyline Online is a program of the Screen Actors Guild, and features streaming video storybooks read by actors such as James Earl Jones, Amanda Bynes, Hector Elizondo and Melissa Gilbert. The books aren't sorted into categories, so you'll need to scroll through the books to find one that catches your eye. But with choices like "The Polar Express" and "Stellaluna", that shouldn't be too hard."