A Note to Teachers from our Chief of Education

As an early childhood educator and now a parent, I know that it can be exhausting to fit everything you need to do into jam-packed days. As the school year comes to a close, I hope you take a moment to reflect on the joyful moments of success and the challenges that inspired to do better.

We created our app so that story time is an achievable daily goal that can create those moments of success. 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 ol’ classroom routine and get the wee one’s attention back to the basics of listening to a good story – with a little magic thrown in for good measure. 

“If every parent and every adult caring for a child read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.” – Mem Fox

As an early childhood educator and now a parent, I know that it can be exhausting to fit everything you need to do into jam-packed days. As the school year comes to a close, I hope you take a moment to reflect on the joyful moments of success and the challenges that inspired to do better.

We created our app so that story time is an achievable daily goal that can create those moments of success. 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 ol’ classroom routine and get the wee one’s attention back to the basics of listening to a good story – with a little magic thrown in for good measure. Below are some tips on getting the most out of Novel Effect during your classroom storytime. 

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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 something so the whole class can hear. I recommend something that doesn’t stand out – so that no one is distracted by all those fun buttons and flashing lights. There are plenty of great options out there, but my personal favorite is this economical little guy.

 

2. Practice during the summer. 

I know – the last thing you want is to think about class when you’re relaxing at the lake in July. Hear me out! Using Novel Effect is really fun for grown-ups, too. If you see books you enjoy reading to your class, try them out with the app with your family, friends, or pets. Our accompanying soundscapes have made me a better, slower and more articulate reader of stories. Once I read the stories a few times, I know when the sounds are coming, and this makes me slow down and enjoy the wonder of the story. Plus, my family has had a lot of fun perfecting our dance skills.

 

3. Figure out your set-up. 

The phone can be situated near you on a table or desk. Sit comfortably or sit on the floor with the phone not too far away. Placing the blue tooth speaker away from the phone (on your other side perhaps) will ensure the app isn’t picking up sounds coming from the speaker. Make sure the speaker is somewhere projecting so that the kids in the back can hear it but also isn’t blasting the front row sitters.

 

4. 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 pick you right up. If you want to skip around the story or stop to ask comprehension questions or talk about the illustrations, you can. We’ll be ready, listening for the text as you pick back up again.

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5. 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.

 

Today, I had the good fortune of reading to a class during their lunch, incorporating many of these tips. As they happily munched on their taco boats, they participated in the story, answered questions and responded to the music and sounds as they played throughout the story. This reminded me that storytelling is about the possibility of something new. It’s about the wonders and mysteries in life. Stories allow us to learn things about ourselves and the world around us.

From everyone here at Novel Effect, we hope this summer brings you many wondrous stories of your own! No one deserves the break more than teachers! 

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Melody 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.

3 Tips for Spring Break with Kids

Spring break takes on a whole new meaning after you have kids. With winter winding down, Spring Break is rapidly approaching on the calendar. A lot of stress can come from travel in general – busy airports, long car rides, and the crowded destinations are only the tips of the vacation icebergs. Before you decide to shut you and your family in your house for the break, here are some tips to keeping your cool on even the hottest spring break beach!

       1. Countdown Calendar

Before you even get on the road, get your children prepped and pumped for their trip with a countdown calendar. While the underlying meaning of the calendar is to have your kids help you pack and plan activities, it will give them a space to get excited about the trip beforehand. If you’re traveling to a destination include interesting facts about where you are going. Are there any unique animals that are native to the area? Any interesting festivals happening while you’re there? Write down little fun facts a few weeks in advance on the calendar for your kids to look at, and as you get closer to your trip pair these facts with different things they can pack. Is it sunny where you’re going? Better pack some sunscreen and sunglasses! 

Photo by Jake Hawkes on Unsplash

       2. Up Your Reading Game

One of the easiest distraction during a long car ride is something almost everyone resorts to – screens. Anything to keep your kids from asking the dreaded “are we there yet?” Every hour on the hour. While this certainly get the job done, there is something magical about reading a good book while you travel. For your kids, Novel Effect takes it to a new level by adding engaging sound effects and follows along with your voices to make every moment magical where it counts. There are hundreds of stories to choose from, including some great travel stories (I suggest “Wherever You Go”). 

Photo by Domenico Daniele on Unsplash

        3. Soothing Soundproofing

The first time traveling with a child is anxiety inducing. What if they don’t get their nap in before the airport? What if they scream? How will they handle that much time in the car? If you’re going to be in a busy airport or amusement park with a sleepy baby, a pair of soundproof headphones can do wonders for your child. It keeps all of the new sound as muffled as possible for them so they can enjoy a nap almost anywhere. Headphones like these help children who might be more prone to over stimulation by loud or new surroundings. Sound machines, especially if they use one at home, are another way to ensure that even in the strange surroundings of a hotel room, your child can get the rest they need.

 

Regardless of your travel plans this spring season, at the end of the day the process can be just as fun as the destination. The fun far outweighs the stress in the end!