Today is a big day here at Novel Effect… We’re excited to announce the release of our voice-driven interactive video showcase on our free website and mobile apps!
We’ve all been there: shouting at our favorite characters to watch out, or groaning as they make a decision that spirals out of control… they’ve always ignored us. Now, for the first time with Novel Effect you can talk to, influence, and see or hear characters respond.
We listened to what you loved about reading books out loud with Novel Effect and your thoughts about kid’s video and tv as we brought this new format for entertainment to life. Thank you, especially to our beta testers, for your expertise, feedback, and applause, as we continue to elevate the power of storytelling.
Now, voice, literacy, and video blend together and let kids (and grown-ups) take a key role in the story. It brings the element of active play into a traditionally passive experience, and puts you in control. The results are a unique way to engage, inspire, and delight children and improve educational outcomes.
Be a part of the story It’s the same “magic” we use to make reading aloud with books interactive, applied to videos that are perfect for 7 to 10 year-olds just beginning to read. Younger kids with a parent are sure to have fun as well – my own 4-year-old can’t get enough of Interactive-Chef Matt.
Pick an experience and take an active role in a story together – we know you’ll be delighted!
You want me to read this line here? You can try our videos on any microphone enabled computer or mobile device. We’ve even made it possible to pair your mobile device with our website so you can use it as a microphone if your computer doesn’t have one.
Click or tap play and voice-driven videos begin like any other video, except sometimes speech bubbles appear on-screen. Reading the text inside them out loud continues the episode, with interactions that range from narrative to actual conversations with characters.
Your voice. Your choice. Natural back-and-forth interactions have been imitated by children’s television shows for the last 50 years, and kids love it. We found they want to be a part of the story and expect their favorite characters to speak and respond to them. Our existing “magic” made this an easy task. To make our videos more interactive, we went a step further and included branching storylines. How do you like your omelette? Give Cooking with Matt a try and choose the ingredients you prefer!
Boost reading confidence Continuing our mission to get kids excited about reading and tell great stories, voice-driven videos are designed to engage kids in a reading activity that motivates them to read more and is fun to try over and over again. With branching stories you get to shape the story as you go and make different choices every time. Participating in the experiences together is an opportunity to inspire and engage kids while improving educational outcomes.
We’d love your read on it Novel Effect is free to use on iOS 11+ and Android 6+ and includes hundreds of soundscapes for children’s books, as well as the new video showcase. On our website, voice-driven videos are best experienced using Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Opera.
At the end of the videos you can leave a review and let us know what you think, we can’t wait to hear it!
I needed a way to get back to feeling like me again…My spirit came back, I was full of life and loved my purpose.
They say, “write what you know,” and no one exemplifies this better than Simon Calcavecchia. Simon is a Seattle-area indie author who has used challenging experiences to inspire positive character creation and effective storytelling. In addition to being the author of three books with a fourth on the way, he’s also a motivational speaker. Simon travels to schools around the Pacific Northwest to share his story, his challenges, and his positive message.
To promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
As we reflect on all that we’re grateful for this month and throughout the coming holiday season, let us also take time to understand how we treat one another, biases we might have, and ways that we can promote positivity and peace in our everyday practice.
Q: Can you give us a little bit about your background and your injury?
A: I played football in high school, but I wasn’t really supported in that and I didn’t stay passionate. This led me to play rugby and I fell in love with it. My coach was from Australia and when our season ended he offered to hook me up with a team in his hometown. I went for it and I loved it. I lived with a bunch of rugby players, visited beautiful beaches, and was training and just living it to the fullest. While I was there, a player gave me advice that I didn’t realize was dangerous, and I applied it to the scrum— the most dangerous part of the game. I broke my neck and my opponent’s shoulder and woke up with c5/6 quadriplegia. I was paralyzed from the chest down. I had numerous surgeries and when they were completed I got some movement back in my arms. I had tons of support from my family, my team, and people I’d met in Australia.
Q: What did you do once you were done with rehabilitation?
A: When I came home from the hospital I found that I needed purpose. I decided to go to school and graduated from The Evergreen State College with a Bachelor of Arts. I then faced the challenge of finding a career. I worked with agencies who couldn’t even get me an internship and I was very discouraged. I reached out to a counselor. I needed a way to get back to feeling like me again. I began volunteering in my community and with kids in classrooms. My spirit came back, I was full of life and loved my purpose.
Q: Was that what inspired you to start writing books?
A: I spent a lot of time volunteering with kids in classrooms. I wanted to become a children’s book author and write my own stories. Not once when I was volunteering did I ever come across a book with a character using a wheelchair and I wanted to create one and create change. Then I met Arturo Alvarez, an illustrator, and now one of my best friends, and we committed to making “The Adventures of Frank and Mustard: Stuck in the Mud.” My fourth book called “Monster Truck’n” will be out in January of 2020. I’m also working on a board book and thinking about branching out from Frank and Mustard a bit.
Q: At Novel Effect, we were so lucky you already had voices for your characters… How do you think voices impact the reading experience and what are the benefits of doing read alouds for you as an author?
A: When I released the books, YouTube was becoming a pretty big deal. Kids really love the books, but they might not have the resources to buy the books. I wanted to share them with kids all over the world and YouTube presents an opportunity to do that without financial barriers. Also, I really thought it would be fun to create voices and become the characters. I had some experience doing audio production and creating content in college. I do the voices with my read alouds when I present to schools. But now that I have three books and lots of characters, it’s difficult to find the voices and bring unique qualities to each character.
Q: You are a motivational speaker now and you speak at schools. How do you know that your story is making an impact?
A: I go to schools, talk to kids, and share my story. I see the books are making an impact because they’ve opened up conversations that teachers didn’t know how to approach. How do we work on inclusivity in environments? How do kids with differences feel included? I had been a public speaker, and a toastmaster; I love the experience of talking aloud, but what really drives me is the impact I’m making. In my speaking engagements, I show kids how I go about my day-to-day routines. I really give them insight into living life with quadriplegia. The kids feel sad, but they see that I’m passionate and living my life to the fullest. I show them videos of my adventures— flying, driving a monster truck, and a race car. I’m doing more than people do with a fully-abled body and showing that it comes down to a positive mindset when facing these challenges. My favorite part is teaching kids about kindness and inclusion. I think that students have an emotional reaction to my talks. These might not be emotions they’ve experienced before and they empathize with me. This might change their approach to differences. When I’m done sharing my experience, I finish with a call out— I want to know I have the support that we can impact and make changes. I have the whole school screaming about kindness and inclusion. It’s an incredible feeling to know that they’re feeling it too!
International Day of Persons with Disabilities is on December 3. You can find Simon’s book, “The Adventures of Frank & Mustard: Stuck in the Mud” in your Novel Effect app here.
I discovered the Novel Effect app this past February while attending the TCEA conference in San Antonio. As an Ed Tech Specialist, we are charged with bringing our newly gained conference knowledge back and sharing with our coworkers and district teachers. The instant I learned about the existence of Novel Effect, I claimed it as my ‘one cool thing’ that I wanted to share when we returned, and I’ve been both an avid fan and cheerleader ever since! Even though my job is all about technology, the main thing I love about Novel Effect is that the focus isn’t on the technology—it remains on the book! The Novel Effect sound effects just add multiple layers to the reading experience.
The weekend after the conference, I asked my 21 year old son if I could show him something really cool that I was doing at work. With no explanation whatsoever, I opened the Novel Effect app, turned on my Bluetooth speaker, and started reciting my all-time favorite book, Where the Wild Things Are (I have it memorized after all these years!), which just so happened to be his favorite book when he was a child. The look of pure wonder and astonishment on his face went straight to my heart, and I knew that something magical had just happened! When I finished reading, he stood up and paced the floor, swinging his arms and exhaling heavily. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was fine, that he had just been taken totally by surprise because he wasn’t expecting to feel that way again. I apologized and said, “Maybe I should have told you what I was about to do,” and he walked up to hug me and replied, “No, Mama, it was perfect just the way it was!”
I was so impressed with what had happened, I just had to sit down and write a thank you email to Matt and Melissa Hammersley, the founders of Novel Effect. As I choked back tears, I wrote that I know that their children are still very small so they may not realize this yet, but as our children grow up and away from us, there does come a time when they won’t climb into your lap for a snuggle anymore, or need to hold your hand while you cross a street, or ask for us to read their favorite book for the thousandth time, and that they as parents will miss all those things terribly.
I told them that I believe that their app is a gift is to all children everywhere, but specifically, I wanted to thank them for their gift to me, for letting me be just a mom reading her little boy’s favorite book to him one more time.
Matt emailed back that afternoon and thanked me, saying that he’d read my letter to the entire team, and that I’d had seventeen people in Seattle crying, even the college kids!
As a former language arts teacher, I am a strong proponent of reading to kids, anytime, anywhere, no matter their age. When I taught science and social studies, I always found ways to slip a read-aloud in, because they just enjoyed it so much! Even after I got into the technology side of education, I took part in Read Across America Day activities in my district, reading Where the Wild Things Are to junior high students for several years in a row. In fact, after the first year, those students actually requested me as a guest reader because they enjoyed it so immensely!
Since February, I’ve demonstrated Novel Effect to different educator groups several times in Pearland ISD, used it in multiple classrooms with students, and formally presented it to a packed house at the Elementary Technology conference in Galveston this past June. I will again be formally presenting Novel Effect at my district’s GT Training day in September, at the TCCA conference in Aldine ISD in October, and then again at the next TCEA conference in Austin next February! Informally, every time I’m in a bookstore, I go to the children’s section and demonstrate it to any parents who will stand still for even five minutes, and have then shown it to store employees when they come to see what all the excitement is about!
This summer, after purchasing a copy of The Wonky Donkey book as a baby gift for a friend, I suggested to Melody Furze, the Director of Educational Development, that the Novel Effect team create a soundscape for it. Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when she contacted me to ask if I would be willing to take part in the soundscape creation process! Of course, I enthusiastically said, “YES!”
In preparation, I received some instruction via email on what I’d need to do. My role in Ed Tech requires me to travel across the district from campus to campus, so I had some alone time in my car to practice my “yeeeeEEEE-HAW’s” and my “heee-haw’s”. As I live in Texas, I was extremely happy that I have decent AC in my car, because even with the windows up I still got some really strange looks from cars next to me at traffic lights! When I felt as if I’d made some acceptable progress I started using the voice recorder on my phone to capture my efforts.
Several people at Novel Effect and I had an online video conference to further refine the expectations. Matt Boerner, the Audio Lead and one of the sound effect geniuses at Novel Effect, and Carmela Orsini, their Director of Client Services, video chatted with me one evening. I played them some of my recordings and got some feedback on my efforts. Carmela even told me “You by far are the BEST ‘yee-haw’ I’ve ever heard!” And near the end of our call, Matt Hammersley walked into the room on their end, and I got to chat with him a bit as well! Over the following days, we communicated back and forth via email about which sounds they’d like me to try again with even more gusto, so I’d go upstairs at my house and record more versions of sounds and email them off to Matt B. As he incorporated my sound effects into the soundscape, he’d send me updates so I could hear them before the final version was released. I think my two dogs, Roux and Mardi, officially thought I was nuts, because they heard sounds coming out of me that they’d never heard before!
Working with the Novel Effect team has been an amazing experience, and it’s definitely one I’d like to repeat in the future!
I hear Novel Effect is working on a studio tool that will soon let everyone have the pleasure of creating hee-haws of their own. Be sure you follow them on social media to stay up to speed on all these exciting developments.
Melinda Louvier is an Educational Technology Specialist for Pearland ISD in Pearland, TX. She has twenty-one years of experience in the field of education at multiple grade levels, and has spent the last eleven years as a tech specialist, assisting teachers who want to incorporate technology into their curriculum. Melinda is a 2013 recipient of a Fund For Teachers grant, which allowed her to spend almost three weeks in Peru, where among a plethora of exciting experiences, she fulfilled a lifelong dream of holding a sloth! Since she couldn’t bring the sloth home, she now expends her love of animals on her two dogs, Roux and Mardi.
“How do I keep (insert young person in your life) engaged with reading during the summer and avoid the summer slide?” Do not fear, Storytime Sue is here! Keeping the kiddos engaged is really about keeping reading fun — so here are some of my favorite suntime, funtimes!
Here we are, we finally made it. Grades are submitted, pedi appointment has been secured, and sunglasses are perched atop of head. You’re ready for it: relaxation mode set to “ON” (cue pan flute).
But, if you’re like me, you are also thinking, “How do I keep (insert young person in your life) engaged with reading during the summer and avoid the summer slide?” Maybe the young person is your niece or nephew in Cheybogan. Or the cute twins you signed on to babysit or tutor. Or perhaps you have your own toddler running amuck in your house.
Whatever the case: Do not fear, Storytime Sue is here! Keeping the kiddos engaged is really about keeping reading fun — so here are some of my favorite suntime, funtimes!
Make it a Playdate! As a mother and an educator, I’m really digging the community of toddlers and families that I’ve met on the preschool scene. They are the perfect crowd to invite over for an interactive, book-themed play date. This week we’re reading Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (with Novel Effect of course). Then we’ll set the kids loose in a big, ol’ pile of dirt with their diggers, construction equipment, and washable dolls to dig, dig, dig and build, build, build (no permits required). Here are some pretty great, additional activities for the book from the publisher as well.
Get Thee to the Library. You know the library is full of good stuff, and many of them have great free programs all summer long that you can participate in. Want to do something a little less structured? Grab that crumpled piece of paper in the bottom of your bag and brainstorm with your kids five or six things they’re interested in learning something new about. Then set them free on a Library Scavenger hunt, scouring the racks for related titles. (Don’t limit yourself to kid books, reference books are full of cool diagrams and information too!)
Camping, Camping, Camping It doesn’t even have to be in the wild! It can be in your backyard or your living room. Set up a tent, grab a flashlight, snuggle into a sleeping bag, and read some fun stories. I suggest Bear Snores Onor All Aboard, National Parks: A Wildlife Primer(both available with wonderful accompanying soundscapes on the Novel Effect app). Discuss future travel adventures, both real and imagined.
Today is a big day here at Novel Effect, we’re excited to announce the release Novel Effect 2.0 on iOS and our first release on Android!
Today is a big day here at Novel Effect, we’re excited to announce the release Novel Effect 2.0 on iOS and our first release on Android!
We listened to what you loved about the old version of Novel Effect as well as suggestions on what we could do to improve as we planned and designed this update. Thank you, especially to our beta testers, for all of your suggestions, feedback, and cheers as we continue to regularly improve Novel Effect.
With powerful performance improvements and a more intuitive layout and design, we know you’ll love everything the new Novel Effect has to offer.
NEW LAYOUT AND DESIGN The first change you’ll see is our new logo. The ‘smile mic’ celebrates the happy, playful, and friendly nature at the core of Novel Effect. It’s a thoughtful evolution from our previous logo as we continue to grow.
The new layout of Novel Effect 2.0 is easier to use with 3 main sections: Home, My Library, and More.
HOME The Home section is where you can easily discover new and favorite books for your next great read aloud.
Collections: We’ve added curated collections that group content based interests and what you want to read.
Search: You can now search by title, author, or subject to help you quickly find the book in your hand and start reading right away.
MY LIBRARY One of the biggest additions in Novel Effect 2.0 is the personalized ‘My Library’ section. Now you can quickly access your Favorites, Downloads, and Recent Reads all in one place.
BOOK SCREEN The updated book screen gives you better controls and easier navigation to get you reading quickly without distraction. Tap the Info section to learn about the book and the soundscape style. When you see the Get Ebook tab, you have the option to read with a free ebook (if available), or preview and buy the ebook from either Apple Books or Google Play Books. But remember, Novel Effect can run in the background while reading from any app, webpage, or print version of the book. If you’re ready to read aloud, just press the play button. When you hear the new start chime play Novel Effect is ready to follow along.
SHARING You can now share your favorite titles on Novel Effect, simply tap the share button to create a smart link. If your students, friends, and family don’t already use Novel Effect your link takes them to the right app store for their device. If they have Novel Effect installed the link opens the book screen for the title you shared directly on their app.
BETTER EBOOKS We’ve upgraded our ereader for better display and performance all around. You’ll find ebooks more easily and see they load faster so you can start reading right away..
IMPROVED VOICE RECOGNITION Most importantly, Novel Effect 2.0 has powerful voice performance upgrades. The new Novel Effect is able to follow along more easily with different voices, accents, and even kids of many ages. You’ll experience better responsiveness during your read alouds, and may hear parts of a soundscape you never noticed before. These and other improvements also allow Novel Effect to run significantly better on a wider variety of devices than ever before.
MORE The more section is a one-stop shop for managing your profile, and information about Novel Effect. Read FAQs, change your permissions, send us a quick email, or easily rate us in the App Store or on Google play… please 😉
With the American Library Association (ALA) holding their Annual Midwinter meeting in Seattle, what better time (and place!) for Novel Effect to mix and mingle with librarians, educators, publishers and indie authors! For the second year in a row, we will be attending the conference and are super excited to be at Booth #1204 and welcome folks to our hometown.
In addition to showing off our voice-driven storytelling platform at our booth, we will also be unveiling two new initiatives during the show: Storytime Squad and Storytime Sue.
We’re celebrating National Braille Literacy month!
At Novel Effect we appreciate all learners and readers. The truth is we all use different modes to learn. No one is just a “visual” learner or just an “auditory” learner, but rather the processes we use are task-specific and reading calls on us to use many of them. Integrating multi-sensory literacy experiences in the classroom is a wonderful way to help all your budding readers.