App review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2020
Novel Effect: Read Aloud Books
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Novel Effect: Read Aloud Books

Add music, sound effects to books to spice up story time

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Grades
Pre-K–3
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts

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Pros: The large library includes many well-loved classics and a handful of high-quality free ebooks.

Cons: Since you must have your own access to the books, you need to have a well-stocked collection or have easy access to a public library.

Bottom Line: This will enhance -- but not necessarily enrich -- stories; if that's what you're looking for, it works well and pairs with A-list books.

Whether Novel Effect: Read Aloud Books is a useful teaching tool or just a cool gimmick really depends on how teachers use it. There are a few limited educational resources available on the developer's website, including lesson plan ideas and worksheets to pair with certain books. For group reading, teachers will probably want to connect to a Bluetooth speaker so that the whole class can hear. The sound effects might be enough of a pull to draw in reluctant readers or to engage kids who don't naturally connect to reading. Teachers can also have kids read the stories themselves for reading practice. Some books and poems can be tied in to other subjects. For example, teachers can read the Gettysburg Address with sound effects as they wrap up a unit on the Civil War.

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Novel Effect: Read Aloud Books is an app that uses voice recognition software to add background music and sound effects as you read popular kids stories, poems, or speeches out loud. Though there's a small library of free ebooks available directly in the app, most titles must be paired with your own hard copy or ebook copy of the book. Soundtracks are available for many classic, well-known kids' books, as well as some lesser-known titles. Browse titles by theme, or search for a particular title, to choose books that you possess (as a hard copy or ebook) or are willing to purchase, if available. Download your choices and tap play to start reading. As you read, the voice recognition software matches music and light sound effects to what's going on in the story. Mark your favorites for easy reference, or access a list of the books you've read recently. There's also an option to play the audio through an Apple TV or Bluetooth speaker. Teachers must create an account with an email address or a Facebook account to access the library and get started.

High-quality sound effects enhance the excitement of reading many beloved kids' books, but might not enrich or add to the learning experience depending on how it's used. The mood of the music nicely matches the overall feel of the story. And at select points there are some fun sound effects, like a sneeze, when Peter Rabbit says "kerchoo," or monkey vocalizations when the peddler tries to get his caps back in Caps for Sale. With over 300 books, and more added regularly, there's a great selection of highly popular titles, including Mo Willem's Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and the classic Goodnight Moon. The collection tends toward books for preschool to early elementary school-age kids, though that's not to say that older kids won't get a kick out of hearing sound effects paired with beloved storybooks. If you don't have a well-stocked library, be ready to buy books or rely on the local library. The voice recognition software works pretty well, though it can take some time to catch up if you jump around a lot in the story. Some may feel that reading is magical enough, and reading doesn't need superfluous bells and whistles. While that's a criticism worth considering, Novel Effect: Read Aloud Books could be just the thing to delight a few reluctant readers, or add something extra special to routine story time.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Fun music and sound effects give an extra boost of life to well-loved stories and poems. The novelty and excitement may motivate and engage reluctant readers.

Pedagogy

Most potential for learning lies in the quality of the books, and in the extent to which the music and sound effects encourage kids to read and appreciate books and poetry. 

Support

The developer's website has an educator guide that gives a few ideas for classroom activities. Books are mostly in English, with a small collection of Spanish titles.


Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

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