Holiday Activities from Novel Effect

The holidays are all about spending time together – which is why we think these five festive activities are great fun for the whole family!

Novel Effect is celebrating The 5-Days of Bookmas!

Each day we are featuring a holiday title found on Novel Effect via social media and pair it with a family-friendly activity to get into the spirit of the season.

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Continue reading “Holiday Activities from Novel Effect”

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.

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  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.

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  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.

5 Things on Our Fall Wish List this Year

What started as a craving for pumpkin spice has now evolved into a full-on love affair with Fall. The weather, the smells, the flavors – it’s the seasonal equivalent of a giant hug. We didn’t want to miss a single moment of this autumnal love fest, so we compiled a list of our must-do Fall activities for this year.

What started as a craving for pumpkin spice has now evolved into a full-on love affair with Fall. The weather, the smells, the flavors – it’s the seasonal equivalent of a giant hug. We didn’t want to miss a single moment of this autumnal love fest, so we compiled a list of our must-do Fall activities for this year.

  1. Plant a Fall Garden

Why do Spring and Summer get to have all the gardening fun? The Fall weather practically requires you be outdoors, and a Fall garden of colorful gourds is a great way to get kids experimenting with new foods. Tomie de Paola’s “Strega Nona’s Harvest” has some helpful gardening tips and is fun to read together after a day in the dirt.

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  1. Apple Picking

Load up the kiddos, hop in the car, and yee-haw to the closest apple orchard. A family road trip always ends up with one or two new stories to add to the family legacy (keep the TVs and video games off for best results). When you finally arrive, everyone can run around through the rows of trees, play with other families also glad to be out of their car, and enjoy some cider (we’ll let you decide how hard that cider needs to be).

  1. Celebrate Science

November 8th (NOV8 – innovate – get it??) is National STEAM Day, set aside each year to inspire kids to explore interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. The internet is full of STEAM activities you can do as a family, but we suggest these and these. We also highly recommend reading “Little Leonardo’s Fascinating World of Technology” with Novel Effect – it combines science, tech, and art!

  1. Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

America’s pastime culminates every Fall as the best-of-the-best battle it out during the World Series. Even if your team didn’t make it to the big showdown, pick a team as a family (or take different sides if competition is more your thing) and watch the games together. Learn the cheers, get into the spirit, and have some fun! If you want a story to go with the big game, we recommend “Casey at the Bat” or the newly added “Baseball Saved Us,” which tells the story of how baseball shaped a young boy’s experience in an internment camp during WWII.

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  1. Pumpkin Carving

Of course, pumpkin carving, right? Not very imaginative… or is it?!? Dun, dun, dun! You don’t have to go far down the Pinterest rabbit hole to find some impressive ideas! Find some inspiration and challenge yourselves to try something new for Jack this year.

 

This is our wish list this Fall, but we want to know: what’s on yours? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know what your family plans to try this Fall.

National Techies Day

At Novel Effect, we’re celebrating National Techies Day by talking to some of our Techies – these awesome people we get to work with daily to create magic – and asked them why they opted for a career in technology.

Today, October 3rd, is National Techies Day!! Celebrated annually since its origin in 1998, National Techies Day is set aside to encourage students to consider a career in technology, a career sector predicted to grow 22% by 2020.

At Novel Effect, we’re celebrating by talking to some of our Techies – these awesome people we get to work with daily to create magic – and asking them why they opted for a career in technology.

Here’s what they had to say:

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Zhi Li, CTO

“I came to the U.S. with the dream of becoming a physicist but landed at the center of Silicon Valley. I was shocked by the heydays of the dotcom boom! In just two months, I decided to drop out and pursue a whole new world of computers.”

 

 

 

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Eric Goetz, VP Content

“I’ve been combining music and technology ever since I was writing music in BASIC on my TI-99a at age 10. I love working in the tech industry, because I enjoy hanging out with smart and creative people.”

 

 

 

 

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Grace Jang, Developer

“My favorite classes growing up were math, physics, wood shop and history. Each involves solving problems with a bit of creativity, and making stuff. Later, an older friend of mine suggested I take a computer science course, and behold! It was the best and most fun course I had taken throughout my time in college because I got to problem solve creatively all the time and make stuff digitally! So I changed my major to purse a tech related field. At that time, mobile apps and phones started becoming a huge hype. I became fascinated by how they can dramatically change the way we do things in life and give new opportunities to people. Now, I am in utter bliss making mobile apps and I only enjoy it more and more the more I problem solve and make new things!”

 

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Ryan Lane, Developer

“I started writing games in BASIC when I was a kid on my Apple IIe. I was lucky to get into developing for the web back in the early 90s using the Spry version of the NCSA Mosaic browser. I was hooked ever since.”

 

 

 

 

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Ju Namkung, Developer

“I studied linguistics in college and graduate school, which is great training for how to observe what’s happening in the world and how to reason about it analytically. In the 1990s, I fell in love with the World Wide Web when it was first starting out. That was an exciting time to get involved with a brand-new medium for sharing information, connecting with others, and getting things done. That excitement
continues to this day.”

 

We hope you enjoy celebrating #NationalTechiesDay!

Blast Off to Storytime!

Your little space explorers are in for a wonderful treat. Novel Effect is pleased to announce the release of our first title from our new partner, Gibbs Smith. 3-2-1 Blast-off!: A Journey to our Solar System introduces space travel to children in an engaging way with fun facts, wonderful illustrations, AND interactive flaps to lift!

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Reading this new release from Gibbs Smith with Novel Effect adds an extra level of engagement. You and your little ones will get to hear real astronaut sounds, interstellar music, and all the best robot noises you can imagine!

After reading the book with Novel Effect, you can keep the conversation going to really reinforce all the educational benefits! Here are some discussion questions to help you get started:

  1. One of the elements of space travel is cooperation. What are some ways people work together to get a big job accomplished?
  2. How does the astronaut communicate with people on the ground? What are their main jobs?
  3. How does the astronaut describe the moon? How do you describe the moon?
  4. Do you remember some of the other planets mentioned? What were they like?
  5. What are some places you’d like to travel to learn more about?

 

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This week we celebrate Banned Books Week, an annual celebration for the freedom to read. See our “Banned Books Week” shelf in the app with titles from our collection that frequently appear on banned or challenged lists.

 

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.

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  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,

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Chief of Education, Novel Effect

First Day Jitters

Whether you’re already a few weeks into the school year or have the first day rapidly approaching, we’ve compiled a list of books that you can read with your children or students to help them process all the emotions running through their little bodies this time of year.

While adorable pictures may be flooding your social media, the back to school time of year evokes different emotions for different people. Teachers may dread it. Parents may celebrate it. And kids…. well, kids probably have lots of big emotions that they aren’t sure how to express just yet, ranging from anxiety to excitement.

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Photo by Rachel on Unsplash

 

Whether you’re already a few weeks into the school year or have the first day rapidly approaching, we’ve compiled a list of books that you can read with your children or students to help them process all the emotions running through their little bodies this time of year.

 

The Invisible String by Patricia Karst

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This story deals directly with the issue of separation anxiety. Remind your little ones with the relaxing music that even if you aren’t there, we are all connected by an invisible thread that unites us all.

 

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Martin

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Through beautiful illustrations and soothing rhythms, this book paints the picture of a parent’s acceptance of their child in all the child’s wonderment, creativity, and aspirations. Reinforce that you support your child at story time to give them an extra boost of confidence on their first day!

 

Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

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Love, love, love. If a child can count on nothing else in a crazy world of bullies and skinned knees, the one constant is your love for them. The soundscape is dreamy and perfect for bedtime or nap time, helping your kids rest easy.

 

Little Blue Truck by Alice Shertle

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Sure, it’s a classic you’ve probably read 8,000 times already, but it’s a great reminder of the value of friendship. The happy sound effects keep story time lively and lends itself to lots of discussion questions about the kids in their class (and which animal friends remind them of their human friends).

Back to Something….

It’s a time for renewal, for starting over and getting to know a new class of wonderful students, making new friends and celebrating a new chapter of teacherdom. At Novel Effect, we’ve been there. We know that you want something new to spice up the ol’ lesson plans.

Teachers cringe, librarians prepare, and parents rejoice!

Teachers, here’s something you might not want to hear, seriously, cover your ears, shut off the lights, pull down the shades (dun, dun, dun)…

It’s BACK TO SCHOOL (cue terrifying music and lightning flashes!)

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It’s not all terrifying though. It’s a time for renewal, for starting over and getting to know a new class of wonderful students, making new friends and celebrating a new chapter of teacherdom.

At Novel Effect, we’ve been there. We know that you want something new to spice up the ol’ lesson plans. Dust off those favorite books. Pair our awesome soundscape for “Giraffes Can’t Dance” with a music and movement activity. You’re all getting to know each other so it’d be fun to start with a book about the importance of being yourself. With our soundscape you can teach children different genres of music and then break into a movement activity.

Better yet read Oliver Jeffer’s fantastic “The Way Back Home” which coincides with the back-to-school theme of leaving home and making friends. Here are some great ideas for activities. Then, spend the time you were going to come up with accompanying activities enjoying one last summer evening cocktail instead.

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It’s a myth that librarians spend their entire summer reading hundreds of books. They actually read thousands! I jest, but librarians love a good story and the beginning of the year means setting up your space to encourage reading and interaction. Here is an adorable Mo Williams display for the library or classroom. Read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” with our soundscape to address some of those bus ride anxieties and then have a pigeon noise contest!

While teachers and librarians might be scrambling to get ready, parents are breathing a sigh of relief. Put those babies on the bus, brew a cup of tea, throw on some Netflix and just enjoy all that peace and quiet….until school calls because Joey’s got a fever. Read him “Alexander and the Horrible No Good Very Bad Day,” with Novel Effect (one of my favorites) and then drink this tomorrow instead of tea.

No matter what your role, reading stories is probably a big part of what you do. We want to thank you for helping our littlest learners become book lovers now and the whole year through!

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