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The Novel Effect – Interactive Reading App

the novel effectThe Novel Effect is an interactive reading app that automatically adds sound effects and a soundtrack to stories as you read them aloud to your kids. Imagine you’re reading The Cat in the Hat to your kids. As you read, there’s playful music in the background and the sounds of breaking glass as Thing 1 and Thing 2 subject the home to their mayhem. Parents love the app because it keeps the kids more engaged in the story – teachers love it for the same reason.

The way it works is the app uses voice recognition software to gauge where the reader is in the story. As you read, appropriate music or sound effects play through your smart phone. Creators Matt and Melissa Hammersley came up with the concept while reading to their first child. So far, they have about a dozen classic children’s books available in the app. The music and sound effects come from some of the top sound people in the movie/TV and video game industry.

The Hammersleys created the app “to make it easier for you and your child to come together around a book.” Their hope is by turning into more of a “multi media” experience, kids will enjoy books more. The app acts kind of like a recorded book, except the narration/reading isn’t recorded. It’s free in the app store, but they need to figure how to best monetize it. That’s Matt and Melissa Hammersley probably what they want from a Shark when they pitch the idea in episode 902.

My Take on the Novel Effect

I read to ALL my kids every night when they were little. I can still recite Goodnight Moon, Curious George, and Go Dog Go from memory! As I read, I’d often add my own sound effects – monkey sounds while reading Curious George were always a favorite. Reading to your kids isn’t just about the book, though. The time spent, cuddled up on the bed, is just as important as the act of reading itself.

When my older kids were little, there weren’t any smart phones or iPads. Kids today play with smart phones before they even know what a book is! This early screen dependency cuts down on attention spans and makes kids less attentive to books and other media. For good or bad (I think it’s bad), the screens are here to stay – maybe we shouldn’t give them to our kids until they learn to read!

The Novel Effect reinforces this screen dependency. Perhaps reading to your child should be just for reading – without the distractions of a smart phone. It’s my opinion that everyone – ALL AGES – spends too much time with their nose in their phones. Kids start looking at them too young and it effects their attention span. Perhaps the Novel Effect would be to lose the phones altogether! For now, I’ll wait for grandchildren and just read to them. I’ll provide my own sound effects.

Do the Sharks Read a Deal Here?

The ABC press release for episode 902 says: “the Sharks are skeptical of their (the Novel Effect) business model. When the press release raises doubts about a pitch, it spells trouble for the business’ chance for a deal. Couple that with apps generally faring poorly in the Tank, and it’s my bet the Novel Effect leaves empty-handed.


About Rob Merlino

Entrepreneur, auteur, raconteur. Rob Merlino is a blogger and writer who enjoys the Shark Tank TV show and Hot Dogs. A father of five who freelances in a variety of publications, Rob has a stable of websites including Shark Tank Blog, Hot Dog Stories, Rob and more.


  1. Rob – I don’t think you understand what Novel Effect does. There is NO SCREEN TIME! Novel Effect works with print books and uses voice recognition to trigger the theme music and sound effects as you read a PRINT book aloud. The phone sits to the side, screen off, while you read aloud. This is the whole point as it is built to foster time spent together rather than distract or take away from the parent/child time. I encourage you to actually try it!

  2. I hated this idea with a passion. The sound effects are, in effect, CUEING the child as to how they SHOULD respond: laugh now, say “ooh” now. There is no room for the child’s own response. What happens when the kid wants to talk, wants to repeat a page, go back, ask a question. This does nothing to enhance the experience of reading aloud to a child, and does not “foster time spent together”. As a librarian, as a parent, as a writer, I hope it fails as quickly as possible. And I don’t usually get THIS irate over a dumb idea!

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