Story Soundscapes

Use Novel Effect to engage students in an interactive read-aloud!
Ages 5-10 / 30
min Activity
Perspective Taking
Emotion Recognition


  • Use Novel Effect to listen to a story with an accompanying soundscape, and think about how music and other sounds can enhance the storytelling experience
  • Learn about how soundscape designers use commonly found objects to create different effects

Supporting Research

When stories are paired with an audio component, research shows that this experience enhances the reader’s attention, invites them to imagine the events that are taking place in the story, and facilitates a deeper emotional connection with the characters. Educators should encourage students to practice perspective taking and emotion recognition as they strengthen their connection with the story’s characters and events.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners


  1. Download the Novel Effect mobile app in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. Novel Effect is an app that responds to the reader's voice as they read aloud, adding sound effects, music, and character voices to hundreds of children's picture books. Educators, caregivers, and other adults are able to sign up for a free plan which gives them access to a limited selection of books and 5 free reads per month. To learn more about Novel Effect, please review this overview video and tutorial video.
  2. Engage students in a conversation about how soundscapes can enhance an audience’s emotions, understanding, and enjoyment of a story. You might explain that a soundscape is a combination of music, sounds, and voice effects that work together to create a more interactive experience, then ask students the following questions: 
    • When you read a book, what helps you imagine the characters and action? Do you ever feel like you are a part of the story?
    • How do you think listening to a book with music and other sound effects can affect the way the story makes you feel, or how you imagine and understand the story’s events and characters?
    • Think of your favorite book - how does it make you feel? What happens in the story? What type of music or sound effects do you think its soundscape would include? 
  3. Explain that you will be using an app called “Novel Effect” to read a story together. Novel Effect “listens” to the reader’s voice as they read, and plays music and sound effects that go along with the words as they read them. For age-appropriate stories, review the recommendations below, or browse the Novel Effect library to find your own story!

    Ages 5-8 Years Old 
    The Adventures of Frank and Mustard: Stuck in the Mud
    • Alycat and the Monday Blues
    • Food is Love
    • Duck in The Fridge
    • A Sick Day for Amos McGee

    Ages 8-11 Years Old
    Room 201: Buyer Beware
    • Camp Nowhere: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
    • Libby Whimby: Bug Rescuer
    • Hank the Pet Sitter: Otis the Very Large Dog
    • The Thing Lou Couldn't Do
  4. After reading the story together, invite students to share their reactions by asking the following questions:
    • How did the music and sound effects add to the read-aloud experience?
    • Did the soundscape help you feel more connected to the characters or action in the story?
    • What was a specific sound effect that you noticed during the read-aloud? How did this effect make you feel? Did you like it?
    • Do you think everyone likes the same types of sound effects? Why or why not?
    • What other sound effects would you have added to the story?
  5. Then, prepare to read the story again. This time, read the story slowly so that students have a chance to write down all the sound effects that they hear during the read-aloud. Encourage them to be descriptive and write down what each sound sounds like. 
  6. After reading the story for the second time, engage students in a Think-Pair-Share exercise about the sounds they wrote down. Students should: 
    Think individually about how the different sounds were created (e.g., a child’s voice, whistling, tapping on a table, etc.)
    Pair with a classmate to discuss their ideas, while practicing perspective taking and kindness to be open-minded about different ideas for how the sounds were created.
    Share with the rest of the class, and create a joint list of the sounds that students heard and ideas for how the sounds may have been created.
  7. Finally, show students the following videos, which were created by the soundscape designers at Novel Effect and explain how they used common objects to create different sounds.
    Video 1
    Video 2

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.