All educators agree that reading aloud to your children is the best way to ensure their success in school. Bedtime reading and family storytelling also help create strong emotional bonds between children and their guardians. Don’t stories always sound better when read by a loving family member? But, what if travel obligations keep you far from home? What if you need to be hospitalized? What if you are a member of the armed forces and you are called to serve abroad? What if temporary work demands cause you to spend more hours in the workplace than you like, time you would rather spend with your children?

One way to keep reading to your children even when you have to be away from home is to record your children’s favorite stories using your personal computer or smart phone. Although commercial audio recordings of children’s books are available in bookstores and libraries, an audio or video recording of you reading a book or sharing great family stories will be a hundred times more meaningful to your children. They will respond to the warmth of your voice, and to the familiar manner in which you read the book—only you know their favorite sections, only you know the right sound effects, only you know which parts of the story should be shouted and which sentences should be whispered. Only you can add the spoken words, “I love you,” at the story’s end.

Equipment – Smart phones and tablets are great for making a voice recording or video that your child can then listen to and/or look at later on a computer, tablet, or smart phone. Picture books are a short enough read that an audio or video recording can be done in one sitting. If you would like to record a chapter novel for your older children, you may want to have a different recording for each chapter.

Book Selection – Choose stories and books that are old family favorites. If you do not own those books, you can purchase inexpensive paperback editions at your local bookstore or borrow them from your public library. For audio recordings the ideal situation involves your child hearing your voice read a story the same time that he or she is looking at the picture book you are reading. Also, try to record new books that your child has not previously heard. Your neighborhood children’s librarian will be able to suggest many new and classic children’s books for you to use.

Be Brave! – Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, mispronounce words and character names, or use sound effects. Your verbal flubs and dramatizations will make your reading all the more human and lovable.

Remember! – Title the name of each audio or video file clearly.

For Older Children and Teens – Many chapter books are wonderful read-alouds. You can record an entire chapter book, chapter by chapter! Or to encourage your child to read independently, record the first few chapters of a novel, then stop reading at a fascinating point. Be sure to encourage your child to find the book you have recorded at their school or public library, so they can finish it reading independently. When you return home, you can share a special lunch with them, giving them the opportunity to share the book’s ending and their thoughts on the story. Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook, available at your local library, has many suggestions for great read-aloud chapter books and novels.

A Personal Finish – When you have finished recording, “The End,” remember to sign off with a very personal message to your child. Whisper a good-night, say a prayer, sing a lullaby, share a special family memory, or wish them a good day at school tomorrow. And say, “I love you.” It is the one message we all want to hear over and over again.

The Wonderful World of Skyping – Technology also enables you to share a book in real time with your children using video call applications like Skype and FaceTime from your smart phone, tablet, or computer. Reading a book while engaged in a video call is a major example of the magic of the Internet and provides a huge asset for grandparent interaction if you live a distance from extended family.

Recording audios and videos of books for children can become a wonderful community project. If you live in a community with a high percentage of people in the armed services who may be leaving to serve our nation far from home, become a literacy activist and work with your local library to help service parents record books for their children before they are shipped overseas.

Also, there are a number of successful literacy audio and video recording book programs that have been created for kids whose parents are incarcerated. The innocent victims of crimes include the children of law breakers. Become an activist in your community and help keep family dysfunction from being recycled by initiating a literacy audio and video recording book program and help incarcerated parents read to their children, too. Your local public librarian can help you create a program that serves your community.

© 2015 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance