Story time has officially expanded beyond the written word. Amid a wide array of online reading opportunities and e-books emerges One More Story, a unique subscription-based online library of illustrated children’s books with a focus on making learning to read accessible to readers of all ages. A creatively curated collection of classic children’s books has proven to provide early language skills that are not necessarily only restricted to children.
It all began with an idea shared between siblings Carl Teitelbaum and Rona Roth: that that best way to interest children to read is to read to them. Roth, a kindergarten teacher for more than 25 years in the Scarsdale and Hartsdale school systems, and Teitelbaum, who produced live action films for Sesame Street (as well as films for other children’s programming) combined their experience in the classroom and creating and presenting visual information to children to found and cultivate One More Story.
Beginning in 2005, the site launched a five-year process partnering with publishing houses, selecting books and validating its concept: to interest children in learning how to read with the assistance of having a story read to them.
“Early and frequent exposure to literature is essential in the process of learning to read, and of course, it’s best from an adult going to a child,” says Teitelbaum. “But certainly in the classroom situation, or in the home, that one-on-one relationship is not always available.”
Among the online database’s collection of both classic and contemporary titles, it was important to Teitelbaum and Roth to use only books with illustrations, so that a child could have a visual complement to what was being read to them (and in turn, what they were learning to read). “At the same time, we’ve chosen not to animate books because we think that’s distracting and really takes away from the literary aspect of the book,” says Carl. Nor does the site host any interrupting advertisements; it is purely an educational site, with its primary goal to enhance the literary skills of early readers with musical interludes (by former music director of Sesame Street, Robby Merkin), and voice recordings by actors who speak the words aloud as the readers follow the words on the page. There is also Benjamin D. Bookworm, the site’s friendly mascot who helps users navigate through pages.
While the site is aimed toward an audience of pre-readers and early readers (children about the ages of 3 to 8 years old), the site — and close to 10,000 unique words across its library — has also gained the attention and use by learners of English as a second language. The company recently began incorporating with schools in Turkey, solely for English acquisition purposes. “[Readers] get to hear 30 different narrators speaking the language in a clear, well-written prose, a variety of speakers that is very good for training the ear,” says Carl. “It’s very useful for mastering pronunciation.”
More than 1,000 schools and libraries are currently using One More Story in the United States, with an increasing number of users overseas in Europe, Asia and Latin America. The subscription service is offered free of charge to hospitals. Classic titles include works by authors like Ezra Jack Keats, Stella Luna and Bernard Most. “I think the thing that really makes us distinct from other sites that are out there is that we have books from 12 publishing houses, so it’s really like a library,” says Carl. “It’s a variety of books and authors that you would find in a library and production value is very high.”
Books are selected to incorporate into the site based on their quality of writing, subject matter (“a variety of subject matter that children will relate to and build up over time”) and beautiful artwork to appeal to children (and all readers) and to help them retain what they read in their mind. Many books in the One More Story Library can also be incorporated with use in other aspects of a curriculum. For Carl, “It’s really introduced as a literary arts resource, or an English language resource, but we really want it to be used with History or social studies, and math and science, and so, we’re introducing a lot of fact-based fiction.”
When creating an online version of a classic or contemporary children’s book, everything is enhanced with a focus only to increase the literary skills of the children. The text is edited into a size type that can easily be followed, and as the words are spoken, they’re individually highlighted. Readers learn about left to right hand directionality, end of line return, and the relationship between the written and spoken word. While they’re enjoying these books, they’re increasing their literary skills.”
Among parents’ choice and top digital resource awards, One More Story has also received a James Patterson Page Turner—awarded to individuals or organizations that encouraged or promoted a love of reading. “Children’s books are a wonderful format for imaginative thinking. There are no limitations,” says Carl. “You’re not bound by reality, the world opens up to you.”
Carl’s company is charged by a team of six New Yorkers. While the OMS office is in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, team members reside in Millerton, Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Upper West Side of Manhattan. On living and working in New York, Carl’s state of mind reflects upon what kind of people make up New York City: “There are so many different types of people here, and the energy and creativity they have. And, New York’s live and let live attitude. You can be as strange and wonderful as you want, so long as you’re not bothering people. I’m not sure that exists anywhere else.” Carl grew up in the Bronx and then Yonkers before moving to Manhattan after college. He now lives in Brooklyn.
In fact, one of Carl’s favorite children’s books authors, Ezra Jack Keats was exactly that kind of New Yorker. “I recommend [The Snowy Day] as something every parent should read to their child,” says Carl. “I think he had the ability to understand children and understand their playful, unbound-by-reality mindset and expresses that very beautifully in his books.” Carl expressed his admiration for Keats’ ability to create such contemporary illustrations, despite the book being written more than 50 years ago. “His books are really like poetry, it’s really a short amount of text. And if it’s written well, every word counts.”
For NYSOM Readers only, visit OneMoreStory.com for a limited time offer: