Recently, I was talking to a faculty mentor about interesting reading apps for kids, and the app Novel Effect came up as a great way to encourage students to read books, stories, and poems out loud. While I’ve always felt fairly comfortable with reading text out loud, there are moments where I have felt a bit self-conscious, wondering if I had read a word correctly or if my double vision was playing tricks on me. After playing around with Novel Effect for a few hours though, I realized that this would be the perfect app for students reading accessible materials, or even for students listening to books read out loud to them. Here is my review of the Novel Effect app, tested on my iPad and Android phone.
What is Novel Effect?
Novel Effect is a free app that uses voice recognition technology to add music, voices, and sound effects as books are read out loud in real time. Each soundtrack is custom-made for over 200 different books and poems for children of all ages (including Spanish titles), with new stories being added frequently. Users do not have to read at a specific pace or in a specific order to use Novel Effect, as the soundtrack goes at the reader’s pace and can pause automatically if needed.
Account and permissions
A free account is required to access Novel Effect, which requires users to input an email and password. Audio data is sent to the developer by default, though this can be turned off under the “More” menu within the app.
Novel Effect requests the following permissions:
- Searching items
- Notifications (can be turned off)
- Background app refresh (to run the app in the background)
When first opening Novel Effect, users are taken to the home page, which features several categories of books, poems, and other text available on the Novel Effect app, with some available as free eBooks within the app. There is also a search bar at the top of the screen to search for different titles that are available on the app. If users have played audio for a book in the past, they can easily retrieve the audio by going to the “My Library” section at the bottom of the screen.
Since the app features lots of large and colorful text, I found that I didn’t need to use Zoom or Magnifier to enlarge text, though I could use screen magnification if I needed it.
Icons and book titles could be read out loud by VoiceOver, however the scrolling displays of icons were not recognized by VoiceOver. However, I could easily search titles and start playing a book with Novel Effect without any issues.
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Android Pie Accessibility For Vision Impairment
- How To Use VoiceOver For Beginners
Where to get free accessible books
While Novel Effect does have some free eBooks in the app, most of the books available in Novel Effect can be found at local public libraries, school libraries, bookstores, or similar stores. For users looking to get accessible copies of books available on Novel Effect, I recommend searching on the following sources:
- Accessible Instructional Material providers (Virginia has AIM-VA)
- eBook websites (may cost money)
- Accessible libraries
- All About Bookshare
- How Bookshare Books Come To Life
- All About AIM-VA
- Digital Library Resources For Vision Impaired Patrons
Testing Novel Effect with the Gettysburg Address
When my mentor and I tested Novel Effect, we decided to use the Gettysburg Address, since we already had an accessible copy of the text. After selecting the title in the app and hitting the play button, I waited a couple of seconds for the audio to download and then heard a musical tone that indicated the app was ready to go. The audio started playing as I read the lines of the speech, with appropriate historical music and sound effects. I didn’t have to shout for the app to hear me, and read at my own natural pace, listening to each sound effect as I continued to read. None of the sounds were startling to me, and it definitely enhanced my experience of reading.
- How To Make Historical Documents Accessible For Vision Impairment
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Listen To History
- Described And Captioned Media Program Review
Some potential uses for the Novel Effect app include:
- Encouraging students to read Braille or large print books out loud, following along in the text
- As a substitute for picture books for kids that might not be able to see images
- Increasing self-confidence when having to recite poems or historical text
- Having students practice reading from other apps- linking related posts on potential apps to use
- Microsoft Immersive Reader Review
- Common File Types For Vision Impairment and Print Disabilities
- Capti Voice Narrator App Review
- Five Ways To Simplify Reading With Technology
- Eight Ways To Read Handwritten Cards With Assistive Technology
For users that enjoy Novel Effect, I’ve written about some other free reading services for kids that are blind or that have low vision below.
- TumbleBooks For Low Vision Review
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Read
- Amazon Rapids Review
- Reading Independent Titles With Kindle Unlimited
- Reading Magazines With The Libby App And Low Vision
Novel Effect is a super fun app for young students, especially students that are blind or that have low vision. I would love to see more titles added in the future, as this is a great way to encourage students to read out loud, which is not something that blind and low vision kids get to do a lot since they often have screen readers to read text for them. I highly recommend downloading Novel Effect and seeing how much fun reading can be!