By: Katie Tucker & Veronica Lee
One of the most important memories in an individual’s childhood consists of “storytime” with a parent/guardian, creating a warm, bonding experience. Many people associate this reading experience as a part of a child’s bedtime routine while they drift off to sleep. These storybooks are sometimes read with great dramatic flair, or oftentimes simply read in a calm manner to create a soothing atmosphere. So how can this storytime experience be enhanced using a digital book?
An online platform published by BookTrust in the United Kingdom has a “read-along” feature at the simple click of a button. This allows users to listen to a narrator tell the story from a pre-recorded audio track. Furthermore, the interactive platform also allows a child to decide how the story is read to them, as many unique characteristics come into play. The options include the following:
- an audio only option where the story text lights up as the text is being read out loud from the pre-recorded track; or
- including the same features as option 1, but with the addition of American Sign Language (ASL)
When using the first option, the audio is activated when the user flips to the following page to hear the next part of the story. Otherwise, there is no audio and no further interactive elements included in the book. There are, however, some technical difficulties when using this option. If the reader decides to switch into another browser tab, or simply clicks away from the digital book for a short period of time, the website experiences a malfunction in which all interactive elements are defective. Therefore, the user must remain in the browser in which the story is open to ensure that there are no errors. Additionally, the story is read with more dramatic tones which may not be ideal if an individual is attempting to fall asleep. A few things to consider when choosing this option are: the story cannot be paused unless the audio-track is finished reciting, there is no playback speed option, and there is no additional volume adjustment within the digital book. As the audio track contains both the music and dialogue, an innovative addition would be to include volume controls for each setting so that the user can adjust volume levels accordingly. There is also the option to read the story without sound and the text will continue lighting up at the same pace. This is good for reading practice at a constant pace or if the user wants to keep engagement between oneself and the digital book.
The second option displays accessibility traits which could benefit many users wanting to engage with BookTrust’s products. Incorporating an ASL interpreter alongside a “read aloud” option sets this organization apart from others. This element allows children with a hearing impairment to experience the excitement and engagement of a story being read out loud. The interpreter is able to gesture the tone and nuances of the text that otherwise may not be portrayed if the text is simply being read by children on their own. This option is presented in the form of a YouTube video with the ASL interpreter situated in the foreground of the book. Similar to the first option, the text continues to light up along with the pre-recorded audio track playing in the background. This experience creates a much more accessible version of “story time” as the YouTube video can be played back at different speeds, the video can be paused at any time, and YouTube has an auto-generated closed captioning feature, although in this instance this feature may be redundant as the original story text remains.
This inclusive experience is incorporated into several digital books through the online platform. It is free to use and has many other features and capabilities, such as pausing in order to adjust the pace of the story. Overall, BookTrust gives any individual the ability to engage in the exciting, digital world of reading, while creating an educational and welcoming environment. Check out BookTrust’s Read Along platform over here!
What other interactive features should a storytime reader have? Let us know in the comments below!
All screen captures and images courtesy of: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/books-and-reading/have-some-fun/storybooks-and-games/open-very-carefully