Over the years, LATKids has made much use of text-to-speech, the technology of converting written words into audible speech through the use of computer-generated voices. For instance, text-to-speech forms the foundation of our Speak for Yourself program.
Along the way we have watched - and listened - and synthetic speech has progressed from the robotic, monotone sounds of the early 90’s to the more natural, fluid-sounding speech of today. Only recently, though, have we decided that synthetic speech is up to the task of reading great works of literature.
We have been experimenting with a web service called Odiogo, which converts written text into computer-generated speech, then provides it as both streaming audio and MP3 files which can be listened to or downloaded from our web site. Our experiments with this service led to our latest project: The Library at LATkids.
Using Odiogo, and books in the public domain, we have created a site where great works of literature are now available to children who are visually- or literacy-challenged.
“We want to help teachers and parents immerse children in language,” says LATKids director Bob Crisler. “We want to do what we can to help expose them to literature they would otherwise not have the chance to learn about.”
We have launched the library with William Faulkner’s famous Nobel prize acceptance speech, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” and Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” New works will be added regularly, with Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and Stephen Crane’s “Red Badge of Courage” coming up next. Great documents such as the Declaration of Independence, and great speeches such as the Gettysburg Address, will also be featured soon.
“Listeners can come to the web site any time they like and listen to these books, or they can download them to their MP3 players and take them anywhere,” said Crisler. “They can be incorporated into classroom settings or just about any kind of lesson plan. Most important, though, is that the barrier to these great works has been removed, and they are available at no cost here at LATKids.”
The library web site address is http://library.latkids.org.
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