Good Digital Parenting
Blog | May 10, 2013

To Make the Book Better, Just Add A Film Score

Instructional Technologist, Smith College

As a parent and technology educator, quality time spent at home with my son often feels like an extension of my classroom. My 21st-century kid is always willing to touch, tap and test the many gadgets in my digital toolbox, both virtual and physical.

I think this is a very good thing.

He gets to play with stuff, and I get to expose him to stuff that positively impacts his learning and growth. At age eight, he already is a discerning media consumer. He understands the power of advertising and fully appreciates a clever ad, like State Farm’s “State of Disbelief.” As a creator, he uses all manor of devices to express his ideas and connect with the world. From homemade videos to Scratch sprites to LEGOs, he’s a self-described builder. For the most part, life is pretty media-tastic in my home – with one exception:

My son will not sit through, go to, rent or stream a movie.

No Nemo, no Madagascar, no nada.

Many years ago, when he was barely three years of age, he had a traumatic movie-watching experience. Long story short, as part of its summer “fun” curriculum, his daycare sat his entire class in front of a TV screen for, unknown to parents, three out of five days per week. One afternoon, I arrived early to pick-up my son from school and found him cowering under a desk. Later that evening, he revealed that his “teachers” laughed at him for being scared. The daycare is no longer in business, but its impact has been long-lasting.

A few weeks ago, referencing a Kelly Clarkson song, my son reflected, “You know Mom, it’s really true... What doesn’t kill you DOES make you stronger.”

He should know. 

To help overcome his fear of film, he has become an amateur film theorist.

Together, we have watched, or rather deconstructed, films (relying heavily on the mute and fast forward buttons.) He understands the concept of the hero’s journey, and intellectually knows that during the climax portion of a film, the protagonist has only two choices: success or death (metaphorically-speaking.) He also understands the power of music to elicit strong emotion. Intellectually, he can think critically about movies yet he still prefers to read the book. So we’ve come up with a work around.

Together, we like to create book soundtracks.

The more cinematic the better.

GDP Blog To Make the Book Better 2We work as a team (audio engineer and voiceover talent), to produce digital books. We bring stories to life by fusing words with sound. One day I hope to sit in a dark, cold theatre munching on popcorn with my son. Until then, our technologically enhanced reading experience is Awesomesauce! You can listen to an audio sample here.

How to HIGH TECH (creator):

Create your own book podcast. First, choose a book. The more suspenseful or animated the characters the better. Roald Dahl and Mo Willems books work really well. Next, download a music creation program/app. Our “go to” app is GarageBand. Open the music program, record the voice track then add an audio track. And finally, export the final product to your music library. 

Use a mobile app to write your own multimedia stories, create your own eBooks. There are lots of choices on the market. Book Creator and StoryKit (free) are well-rated. 

Gather musical instruments in your home and as you read to your child, allow him to create music effects on the fly or, if you are musically inclined, have your child read and you get funky with the music.

How to LOW TECH (consumer):

Visit your local library and checkout books on CD. Children’s books often include sound effects. Our favorite titles include: Ferdinand, Chicka Chika Boom Boom, and Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice. 

 Purchase a pre-produced book with audio, such as the Tag Reading System or download titles from an online vendor, such as Booktrack.

Work Cited: Dahl, Roald, and Quentin Blake. Fantastic Mr Fox. New York: Puffin, 2007. Print.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr