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“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” ~Winston Churchill


Gigi Franklin
Gigi Franklin
Gigi Franklin's Blog

Elementary Students Learn How to Make Audiobooks

Elementary Students Learn How to Make Audiobooks!

We recently had the pleasure of hosting students from two elementary schools in Austin, TX and Princeton, NJ. A great day was had by all.  The excitement was contagious as they entered the building.  You could see the wonder on their faces, as they are so familiar with Learning Ally and how much it impacts their day to day accomplishments at school. Without you volunteers, none of this would be possible!  Here’s a look into each school visit, and what the students were able to experience while they were here. 

Highland Park Elementary Students, Austin TX

On February 27th, 32 students and 6 teachers, parents and school administrators visited the Austin studio to learn about how our audio books get from volunteer’s voices/home studios into the app they use to listen to their books.  

The students listened to the history of Learning Ally, back to 1948 when we were called Recording for the Blind and recorded material onto flexible record albums.  They saw how we have kept up with technology over the years through reel-to-reel, cassettes and CD’s and now to the Learning Ally Link App.  They watched a video showing how our books are chopped and scanned to make the PDF and EasyBooks files our volunteers use to read.  They learned how volunteers can now work anywhere in the world to help record their books thanks to our virtual technology!

Highland Park students are experts at using the Link App, so they enthusiastically helped staff demonstrate how to search for and download books, find chapter headings, page numbers and change the speed of the audio and the color of the text on the screen.  

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/7ih1EQSGpePr_XnYs_V4dVLFHk8pjF0zhzbDGEidQsy8glfQOXH4djdQ0_bQqE3f56NOcrETW6yKmodaVqB1FoNVCOkSZS9wL9FCV2EXwPWjdhxNoluwXLQbgvHqk_RAU7uZkMiP

Students got to step into our old recording booths and make a recording on a Learning Ally Flash Drive to take home to their family.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/MubY8coDJ3e3zFv09_yNqpttWrGgqgw2q5bXjMAtBXaE4_fCE5Mzn9sempqfucp509aJ6h-1GbhtqYASvwssLV8PRsZUy3paMOwP1oD6oKxJvh1lB1m6jF-TgfSzKrf25RAU_UHx

Austin volunteers Kathi Jensen and Robert Miller helped staff members Cheri Nightingale and Gigi Franklin with the tour.  One little girl told us “This is the best field trip we have ever taken!”  Their two hours at the studio flew by, but their enthusiasm for reading will last a lifetime.  They all gathered in the studio conference room before getting back on the bus and yelled “THANK YOU!” to all the volunteers around the world who help brings books to life for them.  

Village Elementary School, Montgomery NJ

On January 24th, we had an amazing group of students from Village Elementary School, visit us and get to experience firsthand how an audio book is made from beginning to end!   They were able to experience LINK and be “testers” with some new advanced features coming up!

The students had an opportunity to meet learn about guide dogs, and how they are trained to lead the blind and visually impaired around obstacles.  Abigail Shaw, a Learning Ally staff member was gracious enough to bring her guide dog Kit, for the students to meet.  This was a huge hit with everyone, and it helped bring an understanding how important these companions are!

We had a great voice over session, where students recorded a clip of a short story of their choice and brought it home on a flash drive for their parents to listen to! They were so proud of themselves and loved hearing their voices on the recordings! 

It was a great day that couldn’t have been possible without the help of our wonderful staff and volunteers that joined us for this impactful event.  A special thank you to Maryfran Annese and Joe Clark for making a special trip to Princeton to join the fun! 


Literature Books Completed in January!

The Literature team completed 53 Books in January!  Thank you for the hours of narrating, listening, teamwork and talent that makes this possible!

Shelf Number Book Title Narrator Listener
NB271 Chocolate : Sweet Science and Dark Secrets of the World's Favorite Treat JB Kump Les Wiesenfelder
KZ716 Hear the Wind Blow Barry Kaufman Joe Clark
NA599 The Fixer Lindsey Dodson Virgil Howarth
NA673 Bravo! : Poems About Amazing Hispanics Lenny Delgado Susan Smith
NA135 The Dark Prophecy James Sie Susan Newman
NB534 The Meltdown Grant Patrizio Susan Smith
NB279 Out of Wonder : Poems Celebrating Poets Michael Burgess Halina Bustin
NB204 The Great Pet Escape Elena Muntean
NA169 Voice of Freedom : Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement Leesha Saunders
NB509 The Illusion Queen Judith Lanzinger
NA482 The Firefly Code Cindy Kay Halina Bustin
NB165 The List Sue Heisner Halina Bustin
NB123 The House of Tailors Christine Kessides Les Wiesenfelder
NA769 Johnny Appleseed Maryfran Annese
KQ503 Flowers Paul Morgan
NB312 Be Quiet! John Martinez
NB028 Krakens And Lies Paul Morgan Halina Bustin
NB459 Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen? JB Jump Bill Payne
NB307 Prince Ribbit Maryfran Annese
NA944 Who Was Pete Seeger? Jerry Byrd Matt Armstrong
NB309 Click'd Erin Setch Bill Payne
NB504 Chasing King's Killer : The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin Jerry Byrd Bill Payne
NB230 Search for the Lightning Dragon Sara Parlier Jim Strong
NA505 March of the Mini Beasts Sue Heisner Bill Payne
NB172 Confessions of a Former Bully Kate Fitzgerald Beira Winter
NB063 Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops Maryfran Annese
NA980 Race to the South Pole Joanne Pittman Helene Alalouf
NA167 Chester and Gus Vincent Oddo Maier Fox
NB066 Anne of Avonlea Sybil Johnson Bill Payne
NA145 Marty McGuire Digs Worms! Judith Lanzinger Betsy McClure
NA780 The Fire Cat Reynolds Washam
NA051 Rise of the Isle of the Lost Savannah Newton Bill Payne
NB551 I Am Peace : A Book Of Mindfulness Lynda Kluck
NA900 Smart Cookie Judith Lanzinger Thomas Keleher
NA593 Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry Myra Parker Les Wiesenfelder
NA079 Horizon Chris Abell Paul Morgan
NB496 Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties Grant Patrizio Susan Smith
KZ344 Say Cheese - And Die Screaming! Adrianne Ondarza Clyla Boykin
NA955 Who Are the Rolling Stones? J.B. Kump Bill Payne
NB497 Orphan Train Girl Lois Hofer Beira Winter
NA536 My Dog, Bob Jim Connell  
NA155 Bailey's Story : A Dog's Purpose Novel Vincent Oddo Bill Payne
KZ861 The Ghostfaces Paul Morgan Les Wiesenfelder
NB453 Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy Ken Pruchniewski Frances White
NB318 Jabari Jumps Darrell Johnson  
NB227 Flight of the Moon Dragon Sara Parlier Susan Snookal
NB450 Juniper Berry Sharon Martin Jim Strong
NB439 One Last Word : Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance Clyla Boykin  
NA796 Ghosts Krysta Gonzales  
NA960 Who Were the Three Stooges? J.B. Kump Susan Crawford
NA954 Who Is Ralph Lauren? J.B. Kump Bill Payne
NB159 Flute's Journey : The Life Of A Wood Thrush Maryfran Annese Betsy McClure
NA759 How The Camel Got His Hump Elizabeth Klett  
We encourage you to take a listen to any of these books in our Learning Ally Link App.  If you don't see a book in the App that you have read and want it added, please contact gFranklin@learningally.org.

Volunteer Spotlight: Beira Winter and the Rose Parade

Rose Parade float detailImagine having something you have created seen by millions of people around the world. That’s what happened for me on January 1, 2019 during the annual Tournament of Roses Parade.  Here’s the story.

 

While the large, elaborate floats are commercially built, there are 6 smaller floats that are “self-built.” That means that all aspects of the float are handled by volunteers. I have friends who are volunteers with the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association. Each year they design, create, build and decorate the Rose Parade float that represents the City of Burbank.  

 

Much as I would love to be part of that, I am a complete disaster when it comes to glue or paint. Not to mention the more skilled tasks like welding, sculpting, animating, and well, you get the idea. But last year, there was something I could do that none of the regular volunteers could do. I can spin fiber into string.

 

If you saw the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, you may remember the Burbank float presented cartoon animals who brought their instruments together to jam. It was an eclectic collection with a saxophone playing pig, a bass drum playing skunk, a huge bear with a concertina, and an alligator playing a washboard.  

 

Then there was also a hound dog playing a banjo. A wolf playing a fiddle and a HUGE white rabbit playing a string bass. That’s where my contribution came in. One of my friends who works on the float knew about my spinning, and asked me if I could spin strings from raw cotton for those instruments.  

 

Spinning is easy, but cotton is hard, because the fibers are short and they tend to ball up instead of lying flat. But with patience, I came to a compromise with the cotton and was able to produce custom strings for each instrument.  The fiddle strings were thin, the banjo strings were more funky, and the string bass had thick strings. The bass strings took the most time because I had to spin 4 threads then ply them together.  

 

Spinning was something I learned when I was working in a living history center in Maryland.  We used antique wheels to demonstrate making wool yarn, therefore, I never learned to use modern tools.  That was unfortunate for the float because the rabbit was supposed to be covered completely in cotton “fur.” I had to help the decorators find a woman with the machine that could produce batts (flat plates) of cotton. She prepared over 4 pounds of cotton batts needed to completely cover the 6 foot tall rabbit.

 

No, I didn’t go to the parade, I watched it on TV. But after the parade, all the floats are parked together to allow people to see them up close.  I had seen the pieces while they were being built and decorated, but seeing the completed float with my strings on the instruments was breathtaking. Building a float takes thousands of hours by many talented people. Being a very small part of something as big and amazing as a rose parade float is a memory I will treasure.  

 

From Staff:  Beira has been a volunteer since 2006 and has managed to rack up almost 1700 hours of time as a listener for Instructional Text and the Literature team.