Website review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2015


Variety of content in fee-based digital library makes reading a snap

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English Language Arts

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Pros: Two user modes give kids and teachers just the right level of information about available content and make navigation easy.

Cons: No option to personalize the library; some stories are excessively simple.

Bottom Line: Great way to give kids easy access to books and reading support.

Teachers can approach Speakaboos as they would a library. Set up a reading corner and let kids discover new worlds as they explore the books. Younger kids can always choose "read to me," but keep on eye on older kids to encourage them to choose "read it myself." Be familiar with what's available, and help kids choose books based on their reading level. When kids are done, help them make a list of the books they read. Ask them about what they read and what they learned. Have them make a drawing, write a sequel, or express their thoughts in some way about the story that interested them the most. Teachers also can present the stories to the whole class or to small groups. Look at the "real-life" books and then have kids share what they do in their real lives. Make sure there also are plenty of hard-copy books for kids to read as well.

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Speakaboos is a subscription-based digital library that includes some classic fairy tales and fables, other fiction and nonfiction stories, and songs. The kids area shows icons representing different themes (dinosaurs, music, classics, vehicles, and so on) or licensed characters (Sid the Science Kid, Angelina Ballerina, and more); clicking on these icons shows all the books available on that theme. All books have a "read to me" option, some have a "read myself" option, and some also have a "read and play" option by which kids can interact with the story.

From the kids area, teachers verify their year of birth to enter the grown-up area. There, teachers can browse the library freely or with filters such as theme, Lexile level, story length, and more and see images and a summary of each story. Speakaboos offers a 7-day free trial; after the trial expires, teachers or parents can sign up for a paid monthly or annual subscription.

The best thing about Speakaboos is the ease with which kids can navigate a large library of books: Hundreds of stories and songs are literally right at their fingertips. There's a collection of classic tales and a few intriguing stories, but other than that, the books are not great literature; simple books about everyday life seem more prevalent than fiction. But most books do have high-quality graphics and language that is simple but usually not overly so. Overall, the content is best suited for a young crowd. Read-aloud options make it easy for beginning readers, and the narration quality is super, but it would be nice if all, rather than some, books had a "read myself" option as well. Some books have a fun added bonus with a few interactive features, which will certainly engage and excite kids, but those added features sometimes take away from the reading-for-the-sake-of-reading experience. Kids who are familiar with various TV characters will particularly enjoy the character books -- especially the ones they can interact with. Teachers also have great search tools that can help them find books that fit very specific criteria.

It's disappointing, though, that teachers can't recommend particular books to certain kids and that kids can't create a reading list or a personal library. For a more authentic book-reading experience, it would be nice to see the text integrated into the images rather than as an overlay (which even sometimes covers the image completely). Overall, this digital library is reasonably appealing and, most of all, easily accessible.

Overall Rating


A large library of books covers many kid-friendly topics. With rich illustrations, photographs, and interactive features, kids shouldn't have trouble finding something to grab and hold their interest.


Kids explore freely, letting their interests guide them, and flexible reading options meet kids at their reading levels. The selection is limited in terms of diverse story origin and character type, and features for recommending books would help.


There's good support to help kids get through the reading. Extensions such as offscreen activities inspired by the stories, or a way for kids to create their own personal libraries, would enhance kids' experience.

Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

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