Super-Fan Spotlight: Melinda Louvier

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.

Teachers downloading Novel Effect for their classrooms!

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.

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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.

Summer Is Coming and It’s Going to Be AMAZING!

“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 On or 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.

Download Novel Effect for free in the App Store | on Google Play!

Novel Effect’s 2019 Reading List

Here is a list of our recommended titles to read out loud this year! Packed with fun sound effects and lively music from Novel Effect, these popular books are sure to keep your little one engaged for the entire story, whether they are reading themselves or just listening.

Make a resolution to read aloud more and join in on our pursuit to get every child to love reading in 2019!

#NovelEffectReads2019
Continue reading “Novel Effect’s 2019 Reading List”

Happy Holidays, Novel Effect Educators!

As you are Fa-La-La-ing your way to…V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, we thought you might like to ease some of that countdown-to-holiday-break craziness with titles that explore different seasonal cultures and traditions. Good news, there’s a little elfish-luck in your corner, all the titles below are available in the Novel Effect app!

Continue reading “Happy Holidays, Novel Effect Educators!”

Behind the Soundscape: Baseball Saved Us

We sat down with composer Ian Silver and Audio Lead Matthew Boerner, two of the talents behind some of your favorite Novel Effect soundscapes, to ask them about creating the soundscape for Baseball Saved Us, a story about a Japanese American boy and his family finding identity in baseball during WWII internment camps.

Novel Effect syncs theme music and sound effects to stories as you read them aloud. By now, you may have explored some of the many titles available on the app. What you may not know is that Novel Effect works with award winning composers from film and gaming to custom create each and every soundscape.

We sat down with composer Ian Silver and Audio Lead Matthew Boerner, two of the talents behind some of your favorite Novel Effect soundscapes, to ask them about creating the soundscape for Baseball Saved Us, a story about a Japanese American boy and his family finding identity in baseball during WWII internment camps.

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Ian Silver started his composing for Baseball Saved Us with this text itself. For him, the story drove home that being an American “is more of cerebral idea and an emotional ideal than a location” which is an idea he wanted to support with his musical composition.  

“It felt to me as if there were two distinct phases to the story,” Silver explained. “There is first, the wrongful imprisonment, and the second, the triumph of the human, which in this case was also the triumph of the American spirit.”  He then captured those two phases in the music.

Accompanying the protagonist as he faces his new reality in the harsh internment camp, Silver focused the music in the first phase on that emotion journey, saying, “I made sure the melodies were leaping, they were jumping and reaching beyond the fences that surrounded them.”

Audio Lead Matt Boerner added, “Ian uses a reverberant acoustic guitar and open string harmonies to describe the desolation of the camp. In the very first musical cue of the story, there are the long pauses between the guitar phrases, which sets the scene well, but it also allows the reader huge freedom of pacing.”

 

“For the second phase, the triumphant spirit,” continued Silver, “I went with early Americana orchestral music, heavily inspired by Aaron Copland.” For those of you with musical vocabularies, you might recognize what Boerner describes as “an underlying 8th note propulsion in the strings to capture the excitement and nerves in the narrator’s head, while the woodwinds weave in and out of the melody.”

 

The composer wanted to “conjure images of families setting off on an adventure into the unknown, hoping for something better. This is the story of every immigrant who has settled in America, now and then. I wanted to draw attention to their heroism. At the height of each victory was the sense of sameness and the sense of belonging. In the face of adversity, fear and discrimination they persisted and innovated.”

Baseball Saved Us is available now in the Novel Effect app, so download the app and grab your copy of the book off your shelf to read this amazing story aloud for its 25th Anniversary. Now that you know the story behind the music, see if you can identify some of the things Silver and Boerner point out as you read, or start a discussion with your students about the music.

You can download Novel Effect free here. If you want to have first access to our Android app, email droid@noveleffect.com.

 

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 Matt Boerner is a composer, interactive audio designer, and songwriter. As the Audio Lead at Novel Effect, he collaborates with a team of composers to design soundscapes that explore and challenge the limits of the voice-driven platform.

 

Ian Silver is a composer from Oklahoma with a passion for animation. He believes that books are stories you animate internally, with some help from the illustrations and soundscapes.

Adding Magic to Your Classroom’s Storytime

If you’re newly discovering Novel Effect in this blog post, you’re in for a treat. Novel Effect is a completely free mobile app that will respond to your voice as you read out loud. It will follow where you go and at your own pace, and along the way, you and your students will be entertained by sound effects, theme music, and even character voices that will bring the story to life

As an early childhood educator and now a parent, I know how exhausting it can be to squeeze in all the classroom activities you need in a single day. We created Novel Effect so that story time can be an achievable daily goal for you and your students, especially the ones who may find it extra hard to sit still until the end of a book.

Novel Effect is an aid for those of us who don’t like to read out loud, for those of us who are too tired to make “choo-choo” train noises or roar like a lion, or for those of us looking for something to jazz up the old classroom routine and get the wee one’s attention back to the basics of listening to a good story – all with a little magic thrown in for good measure.

If you’re newly discovering Novel Effect in this blog post, you’re in for a treat. Novel Effect is a completely free mobile app that will respond to your voice as you read out loud. It will follow where you go and at your own pace, and along the way, you and your students will be entertained by sound effects, theme music, and even character voices that will bring the story to life. You can download the app for free on iOS devices here. If you want to be one of the first Android users, email us at droid@noveleffect.com and we’ll add you to the list.

Once you have Novel Effect on your device, it’s easy to use, but if you want to maximize the learning experience in your classroom, I thought I’d share a few tips that I use in my own story times.

Teacher At Montessori School Reading To Children At Story Time

  1. Get a nice blue-tooth speaker.

This isn’t crucial when reading to one child. You can simply use your device by itself for smaller audiences. In the classroom though, you want to use something that the whole class can hear. I recommend a speaker that doesn’t stand out so that no one is distracted by all those fun buttons and flashing lights. There are plenty of great speakers out there, but my personal favorite is this economical option.

  1. Take your time.

We’re following you in the text! If you don’t hear sounds right away – give it a few words, and it’ll find you. If you want to skip around the story, or stop to ask comprehension questions or talk about the illustrations, you can (all of which I highly recommend doing to increase comprehension – use teacher guides like this one for recommended questions for the Lee & Low titles in the app). We’ll be ready, listening for the text as you pick back up again. Once I’ve read a story a few times, I know where all my favorite sound effects will be, and it helps me to slow down and pause for those moments.

Pupils At Montessori School Looking At Book With Teacher

  1. Get the students involved.

Have the children read lines to trigger sound effects and music. The students can participate by reading their favorite parts or lines aloud and get instant positive reinforcement with a fun sound effect or musical note. This promotes an even deeper engagement with the text, asking students to remember their favorite parts to share with the class. For younger classes, you can have students dance along to the music in certain parts or mimic the sound effects they heard (I bet you have some great monster roars in your students!!).

Every time I read to a group of kids with Novel Effect, I’m reminded that storytelling is about the possibility of something new. It’s about the wonders and mysteries in life, those new experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to share. Stories allow us to learn things about ourselves and the world around us. What a joy it is that we as educators get to give that gift to our students. Join us in sharing the Novel Effect magic on Instagram and show us the wondrous ways your students are joining in the story.

 

 

Melody_NFXMelody Zagami Furze is Chief of Education for Novel Effect and is a certified special educator with an emphasis on early childhood populations with blindness and visual impairments. With over a decade of education experience, Melody does research and development on Novel Effect’s application in educational settings. She lives in Olympia, WA with her husband, toddler, and fluffy white dog.

Reading, Reading, Reading: Five Ways to Foster the Home/School Connection

Now that school is under way and your children settle into their routines, how can you ensure connections with your kids stay at the forefront? Linking experiences from home to school (for example, reading a story aloud) can establish the connections that children need for success in later literacy learning. Here are some ways you can build literacy bridges to school and home:

Greetings Novel Effectors!

Now that school is under way and your children settle into their routines, how can you ensure connections with your kids stay at the forefront? Linking experiences from home to school (for example, reading a story aloud) can establish the connections that children need for success in later literacy learning. Here are some ways you can build literacy bridges to school and home:

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  1. Know what they’re reading

Many teachers provide a booklist. Do you have it yet? Chances are you’ve seen the books they’re reading in your own library or at home. Build up your library with these titles (or make a weekly habit of checking out titles from the local library!)

  1. Create a literacy rich environment

I know how busy you are, but this checklist has some great and simple guidelines for ensuring you’re giving your child a very important gift. There is one for the classroom as well, so you can see if your child’s teacher has these elements in place to ensure connections between home and school.

  1. Talk about the books

Even if you don’t have a book, you can still talk about it. Search for a youtube video of it – Youtube has thousands (maybe millions) of videos of books being read aloud. Once you’ve watched it yourself or online with your child, connect it to something in the child’s home life.

mother and child daughter with a book and a flashlight before going to bed

  1. Encourage your child to share at school

We all help our children with homework and learning. Use this as an opportunity to connect what you’re reading to them at home with what they are reading or doing at school. And, if you want to share Novel Effect with their classroom as a literacy activity, we thank you and support that 100%!

  1. Start Early

Research shows we should be reading to children as early as six months (and earlier than that won’t hurt). For your littler folks who are not yet in school or daycare here are some ways to build pre-literacy experiences from community outings. This site is aimed at parents of children with disability, but it provides wonderful ideas for children of all abilities.

 

Have fun and keep on reading,

Melody Furze,

Melody_NFX

Chief of Education, Novel Effect