Why supplement print books with Storyline Online?

I recently received an announcement at my email address about the release of the 25th Storyline Online video: I Need My Monster written by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam and read by actress Rita Moreno. This is an entertaining story about a boy who discovers that the monster that usually lives under his bed has gone fishing ─ and several new monsters come forward then to try to fit the bill, so to speak …

As an adult who enjoys being read to, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Rita Moreno read me this story the other night. I especially enjoyed the way the production folks brought the story to life ─  monster claws scraping across the screen, grimacing toothy monster faces, and green slime oozing out beneath the boy’s bed frame! These are surely rich supplements to reading the book in print form only.

That got me questioning whether there are advantages to reading a book to the children in your life by visiting a site like Storyline Online. Usually I would say, there’s no replacement for reading print books with your children. But I decided to open up a book at Storyline Online that I purchased recently as a new children’s author just to check out the art work and the words ─Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. After I read the book in “print” version, I decided this was not one I thought my son when he was a young reader would have put at the top of his favorite list. But when I listened to it at Storyline Online, it really came alive because a chorus of children’s voices popped up throughout the reading … to sing what amounts to verses in the story each time the cat’s new white shoes turn a different color as the cat steps into various piles of … strawberries, blueberries, mud, and finally water to turn them white again. The book I purchased from Amazon did not come with a CD but it looks like some books do come with a CD. From reviews of this book at Amazon, I learned that Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes is indeed a very popular story with kids. But some reviewers noted that the audio format that came with the book could not be read on whatever machine they had at home and the bookstores did not make it clear what “system” was needed to hear the audio, and the CD with book was more expensive than they wished for a short book.

This tells me that there are parents trying to find rich reading experiences for their kids ─that include audio features ─ but it’s a challenge. So here’s a low-cost option if you have a computer. Check out the book from the public library, go to Storyline Online on your computer, have the print book in front of you with your children ─ and then enjoy what amounts to being read ─and in some cases sung to ─ as you’re turning the pages. This is a pretty rich, robust reading experience and something I think my son would have enjoyed when he was young. And it teaches a valuable lesson about supplementing learning from multiple sources in our increasingly digital world.

A bit more about Storyline Online. I first blogged about the online resource on October 13, 2012,  looking for reading resources to help parents too tired after working all day to read to their kids, or who have kids of different ages with the challenge of how to read to all of them given the realities of time.  At Storyline Online, a program of the Screen Actors Guild, actors read the story and the book’s artwork comes alive through video production. My favorites still are Elijah Wood reading Me and My Cat, and Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog.

Consider supplementing print books you check out from the library or have at home with Storyline Online to hear the enhanced audio components in stories like Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. If you don’t get the CD with the book or it doesn’t work on your home system, you can get the audio (and video) this way.

And the cool thing: Storyline Online can be accessed 24/7 and it’s free:  http://www.storylineonline.net/

As Pete the Cat would say: “it’s all good.”