I often think back to when I was teaching elementary school. Even though it was important for my students to do well in all subjects, it seemed that reading was the subject that held the key to all the others. Whatever I could do to help them learn to love reading, I was all-in for.
For example, I worked hard to make sure that I had an extensive library of books for my kids to read, and regardless of how many years I read Old Yeller aloud, I always dreaded the ending. That is, I dreaded knowing I would cry as I read the ending, no matter how many times I read it. But I also knew that my students would cry as well — some of them always did, too — and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is something special that happens when you really get into a book and it make an emotional connection.
For many of my students, those who lacked the joy of reading, it was my goal to take their reading to the next level. Not just in regards to the next Lexile level, but the next level in connecting reading to their heart.
Creating an Effect
That’s exactly what the creators of Novel Effect hope to do. The free app for both Apple and Android allows you to read a book aloud while it provides special effects and relevant audio. Instead of speech-to-text, think of this as speech-to-sound effects. As you are reading out loud, the app listens and provides audio to enhance the reading. Leaves rustle, animals howl, and footsteps crackle as you tell your tale, adding life to every line and engaging your audience.
Whether you are reading aloud to your class, a parent reading to his/her child, or a student reading aloud to his or herself or a small group, Novel Effect is a clever tool that follows your lead and makes reading (and listening) that much more fun.
Hear an Excerpt
In the clip below, you can hear my rendition of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who! with the assistance of the Novel Effect app.
Explore the Novel Effect Library
Novel Effect has a lot of books in their library already, so you’re likely to find one your students will enjoy. As you start reading, the app will begin following your voice and interact with you as you read. You can scroll through popular books (and even make recommendations if a book you love is not already included in the app) or search for books by grade level. Here are a few of my favorites included in each of the categories, with more being added.
Infants & Toddlers (0 – 3 Years Old)
- Edgar Gets Ready for Bed by Jennifer Adams
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
- One the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier
Pre-K and Kindergarten (3 – 6 Years Old)
- Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
- Just Grandma and Me by Mercer Mayer
- Corduroy by Don Freeman
- If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff
Grades 1 and 2 (6 – 8 Years Old)
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
- Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
- Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
- You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman
Grades 3 and 4 (8 – 10 Years Old)
- How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace
- If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Numeroff
- Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Grades 5 and Up (10+ Years Old)
- The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
- Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
- Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
Suggested Classroom Uses
To start, have students locate a book to perform for the class, either individually or in pairs. It’s okay if the book is below the student’s reading level. Let this activity be about building fluency, using voice and inflection to add interest, and pacing. If you find that you don’t have time for every student or group to perform, consider having Flipgrid set up so that they can each record their performance. This allows students to find and enjoy stories that other students have performed.
Then you can get really creative. After your students have had a chance to read with Novel Effect a few times, allow them to create their own set of sounds and music to go with a text of their choice. For this, you may prefer that they use a shorter text or one that would need fewer audio effects so that student don’t get bogged down. For free sound effects, consider using the following websites: Free Sound, Partners in Rhyme, Sound Bible, ZapSplat, and the BBC Sound Effects. Or, if you are really adventurous and want to create your own sound effects, then read Robbie Janney’s post on ShutterStock Blog. In it, he even provides some great video to get you started on your journey.
What is your favorite book to read to with Novel Effect? How have you used it with your students? Share your thoughts in the comments below!