One Solution to a Challenging Literacy Issue

The challenge: Getting tech-savvy kids interested in reading books.

One solution: Novel Effect

Good stories have always had the ability to captivate—to hold our hearts and imaginations—but today, books often lose out to flashier forms of entertainment. In an effort to make reading engaging for children, Melissa and Matt Hammersley developed the Novel Effect app for IOs, available for download in the Apple Store.

Novel Effect was featured on Shark Tank last fall. The company has won a Webby Award for the Novel Effect app and are now working with the Alexa Accelerator program to develop the growth of this voice-enabled storytelling platform. The Novel Effect app uses voice recognition technology to automatically add music and sounds to the book reading experience.

Novel Effect’s offering is built around children’s books. The company has created sound effects and other audio integrations for dozens of kids’ books, which get triggered when someone reads the books aloud. More than 150 audio “soundscapes” are available for free if a user owns a print book; these soundscapes can also run in the background with ebooks.

You can watch this video to get an idea of how this app works with reading a book:

Not surprisingly, the books that Novel Effect has created “soundscapes” for are all general market books. Hopefully, they will add Christian-themed books soon, or maybe someone else will come up with a similar app for Christian books for kids.

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Children’s Book Sales Hold Strong

Those of us who are older than Millennials often feel a small amount of distress when we see children playing on phones and tablets and not reading. We wonder if reading is becoming a thing of the past. We fret over how to keep literacy alive and thriving when the competition of video games and electronic entertainment on screens is so prevalent.

Surprisingly, the news on children’s reading is not as bad as we fear. Families today invest a lot in their children. Many young parents are placing parenthood above career and financial success. With such a high value on good parenting, it is no surprise that children’s books are selling well and will most likely continue to sell well in the future.

Nielsen, a company that tracks book purchases and uses the data to help publishers stay abreast of industry trends, reports that following in regards to sales of children’s books:

  • The U.S. book market is stable, with little change year over year.
  • The children’s book market shows more growth than the overall U.S. book market. While the overall book market has grown 33 percent since 2004, the children’s book market has grown 52 percent growth since 2004, with a four percent compound annual growth rate.
  • Children’s book formats have seen growth since 2013–2014, with the most rapidly growing formats board books and boxed sets.
  • Religion is a category that is growing in both children’s fiction and nonfiction year over year.
  • The age group five to eight years accounts for almost 40 percent of children’s book purchases.

This last point—that books for 5- to 8-year-olds account for almost half of all book purchases—is good news for those who produce picture books. Picture books are generally designed for four- to eight-year-olds. So, if you are or have published a picture book, be encouraged by these statistics.

In fact, even though children are spending so much time on screens, it appears that they still prefer to read print books. Nielsen’s studies have found that only four percent of children’s fiction is sold in digital format. This means 96 percent of children’s fiction books are sold as print books.

Children need engaging books that point them to their creator. The news that children’s religious book sales are growing is heartening. The fact that the vast majority of children’s books are still purchased in print format means that the demand for print picture books is strong.

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Creating an Augmented Reading Experience

Books have been around in one form or another for thousands of years—ever since man began writing. I believe books will continue into the future, but their form may change.

Originally books were written on stone tablets, then papyrus, then scrolls, until they evolved into the print books we know today. However, book forms have not stopped evolving. We now have digital books and audiobooks.

Google appears to have created a new technology that will bring the print book reading experience into the augmented reality of the 21st Century. Google’s recently patented a new technology called “Storytelling Device” or “Interactive Book”.

This “Storytelling Device” outfits a physical book with numerous page sensors, touch sensors, and motion sensors. Based on the reader’s movements and the story line of the book, the system adds augmented reality elements over the pages.

The augmented reality comes from a small hamburger-shaped device that plugs into an interface over the spine of the book and projects imagery over the pages, while a small speaker adds sound to the experience.

Googles patentOver the years, I have seen many companies come up with ways to integrate books and technology. Most are aimed at children as a way to get them interested and engaged in the reading experience. However, I have yet to see one that actually becomes popular and replaces the act of simply reading a book.

What do you think? Do you think Google’s patent has a potential to reinvent children’s books?

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Read Aloud Campaign

Research shows that reading aloud to a child is the single most important thing a parent can do to prepare a child for reading and learning. Yet, only 48% of young children in this country are read to every day.

Read Aloud

The Read Aloud 15 Minutes Campaign is seeking to change this statistic. The campaign strives to encourage all parents to make the effort to read aloud to their young children for just 15 minutes every day. Reading aloud matters and helps set a child up for educational success.

Every publisher of children’s books should care about this campaign. The more parents are reading to their children, the more demand there will be for good children’s books. So, supporting this campaign is a great marketing strategy for every publisher of children’s literature.

As a publisher or author, you can become a Read Aloud 15 Minutes Campaign partner. Partnership with the campaign is free. Read Aloud simply asks that all partners distribute Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign messages to their audience via email, social media, blogs, website, etc., three times a year during:

  • Read Aloud Month in March.
  • Seize the summer in midsummer.
  • Supporting a Parent Dialogue in October.

In exchange, Read Aloud 15 Minutes will list your company on their website in their directory of national partners.

Joining with national campaigns that fit with your target audience is a great way to increase your marketing messages and engage more readers.

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Children’s Book Week

Literacy is learned. One study shows that two-thirds of people who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

CBW-Poster-400

Children’s Book Week is the nation’s longest-running literacy initiative, now in its 93rd year. The purpose of the program is to raise awareness of the importance of children’s books as they relate to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people. In other words, get children reading by fourth grade and their chances of success in life are higher.

This year, Children’s Book Week is May 13-19. Not only does this week promote reading for children, it also provides authors and publishers of books for children a natural vehicle to promote your children’s books. Here are four ideas on ways to jump on Children’s Book Week to garner some publicity for your books.

  1. Donate copies of your book to a local school for use in classrooms and in the library. Then, send a press release to your local media about your donation, linking it to Children’s Book Week. Be sure to include a photo with the school principle or librarian receiving the books.
  2. Host a story contest for a local elementary school. Provide the teachers with guidelines for the contest and host an author appearance at the close of Children’s Book Week to collect the entries. Be sure to provide prizes for the winners. Again, send a press release to your local media about your contest and another one highlighting the winners.
  3. Host a book giveaway during Children’s Book Week. Encourage people to enter for a chance to win a children’s book on your website or blog. Not only will you gain publicity for your book, you will collect an email from each entrant for your mailing list. You can use these collected emails for future publicity campaigns.
  4. Offer to host a book reading for children at your local public library during Children’s Book Week. Give each child attending a bookmark with a picture of your book on it. Also, ask permission to sell autographed copies of your book after the reading.

National initiatives offer authors and publishers opportunities to highlight and promote your books. Don’t pass up this chance to garner more publicity for your children’s titles.

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