For the past eight years reading and storytelling have helped me create a bond with my two granddaughters. Living two hours apart, we bridge the distance with reading sessions on the phone and Skype. Recently, I discovered a creative reading source for connecting with them that will definitely appeal to long-distance grandparents: Be There Bedtime Stories.
Be There Bedtime Stories is webcam storytelling for families that are far apart. It’s one of the easiest online technologies I’ve ever tried with three user-friendly steps: You choose a children’s book from their online bookstore; read the story in front of your webcam; and they send the recorded video with you right on the pages of the book!
There are three excellent tutorials that demonstrate the product and explain exactly how to select a book and record it. You start by looking at their online bookstore which includes over two hundred titles for ages two through eight years. The books are organized in several categories: books that entertain, build character, or educate. You can also select books by age and topic. The nice feature about Be There Bedtime Stories is that you can view the entire book to decide whether it’s the one you want to record. Once you record it, you can preview it before you send it and decide whether you’re satisfied with your recording.
After you select a book, you follow the simple prompts to make sure your webcam and sound are working properly. I was amazed at how easy and fun it was to record my first story. I didn’t have to adjust anything because the website does all the work in matching up your voice and the recording. They even offer suggestions if you don’t have a webcam yet.
When you finish recording, you have several options: you can simply send it, preview it, record it over again, or delete it and try a different story. Then you select who you want to send the story to by entering their email address. You also add a personal note to the child receiving your story.
Once you complete all that information, you choose the payment method. You can record your first story for free by typing in the coupon code: summerreader. In August they’ll be launching a 14-day free trial so be sure to check back then. If you have children who are already reading, you can give them a gift of unlimited Webtime Stories through September 7 for $29.99, so they can read to you!
After you send your story, the recipient receives an email with a link to your story on Be There Bedtime Stories website. Then you can save all your information for the next time you want to read a story.
I talked with Alison Sansone, creator of Be There Bedtime Stories, and learned that necessity truly was the mother of invention for her. She’s the youngest of six children who are scattered across the country and was only able to visit her two young nieces once a year. As a video editing aficionado, she knew there had to be a way to create video media that would connect her to her nieces. She spent two years developing and testing the technology then launched her company in September 2010.
Alison wanted to offer Be There Bedtime Stories to military families as well. Her company has formed a partnership with Blue Star Families, a national military family support organization. Through this partnership, users are able to donate Webtime Stories to military families who have loved ones overseas to help them stay connected—a truly unique way to support our troops!