Our teachers felt that The Lion King is "a delightful version of the movie." The children who reviewed it, ages 4 - 10, all "enjoyed it and played it endlessly." However, the teachers stated it has little educational value as a reading program. Instead, they suggested that parents who are thinking of purchasing the Lion King should view it as a high-tech bedtime story device. Although it does not teach specific reading skills, it does successfully highlight reading as enjoyable and entertaining -- not a bad goal for pre-readers or beginning readers.
Educationally, the producers seem to believe they are teaching young children several facets of beginning reading: the left-to-right progression of text, sight word reading and word definitions, and eye-hand coordination. Only the latter is particularly well-done through both a Simba pounce game, and a constellation connect-the-dots game. The left-to-right progression of text is supposedly taught by focusing a light on phrases of text as they are read aloud. Similarly, individual words are highlighted in the text for reading aloud for definitional purposes by a somewhat inarticulate baboon, Rafiki. While these are valid techniques, none of the children who viewed the software in our teachers’ presence appeared to be following the text at all. This may be a problem when any program’s graphics are so overpoweringly appealing. One of our reviewers noted, “perhaps when children become tired of the graphics and games, they will then attend more to the text. However, there is also the chance that when they are bored with the prime attractions they won’t return to the Lion King.”
Use of Rafiki as the definition provider makes sense from his role in the movie as the old sage; however, his accent may make some words difficult for children to understand. The definitions themselves are a little loose, but appropriate for the targeted age range. For example, the definition of “graveyard” is given as “the elephant graveyard is where elephants go to die.” Not great, but it is hindered even more by the lack of incentives for kids to even ask Rafiki for an explanation.
This software could partially replace the need for an individual to read a story to a student. It could also be used as an independent activity for remedial and/or gifted students. But it should be used as it is titled, as an animated storybook, rather than as a learn-to-read program.