Working Parents Lizzie Cruddington

Meet Lizzie Crudgington, creator of StorySnap

What exactly is StorySnap and how does it work?

StorySnap is a superbly simple and user-friendly app that enables you to create children’s video and audiobooks on your iPhone or iPad, to share and treasure forever. It is for anyone who loves stories, particularly those who like to tell them in their own way, and for those who love listening to them.
Browse the wonderful library of stories, choose a story to read, then record it page by page on your iPhone or iPad, linking your voice to the illustrated text. The best thing about StorySnap is being able to share the stories with your loved ones to play back again and again, on any device. You can even create story lists – much like playlists in iTunes – and invite others to record stories and join the fun, creating circles of friends and family members.

How do you select the stories to include in the app? Which is your favourite so far?

Currently my two- and six-year-olds have the lion’s share of the votes for selecting the stories to be included in the app! It’s hard to say what criteria they have, as they love many diverse stories, particularly those with great characters and stories that invite different voices in the telling. Humour always goes down well too, which probably explains why my son’s favourite at the moment is ‘The Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business’, whilst my daughter is loving Jonny Duddle’s, ‘The Pirates Next Door’. At the same time, having always worked in the development and environment field, I’m always looking for a good message. We will be adding these types of stories to the app in the near future.
My favourite story in the app so far is ‘The Really Magic Carpet’ by Caroline Twigg. It is a book very dear to my heart that helps adults speak with children about loss and grief. It is a beautiful story about family, love and hope in a time of huge sadness. We also have some wonderful classic poems and we’ve commissioned a few of today’s most talented illustrators to bring a fresh look to these. One of my favourites is ‘My Shadow’ by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Does StorySnap work for multi-lingual children? How many languages does it accommodate?

StorySnap absolutely works for multi-lingual children. My children are bi-lingual (English-French). Growing up in Switzerland, it is important to us that their English is strong. As they are speaking French all day at school and nursery, story time at home is incredibly important to us. I also wanted to bring my family in the UK into the mix, which was actually the original reason that we started creating audio and video books of illustrated stories, and inspired the creation of StorySnap!
English, French and Spanish are the first three languages for the app. Other languages will follow. That said, stories of any language could be included in the app straight away. App users would just need to be able to navigate the app in English, French or Spanish. Plus we are setting up a trusted team of translators to review all of the content!

So usually the parents will be the readers of the story, can children record their reading too?

StorySnap is for both adult and child readers. This year my daughter’s reading has really taken off and she has been so proud to bring books home and read them to me, then to daddy, and then to an audience of grandparents, uncles, aunts and younger cousins at the dinner table after a family lunch. Of course we then had to create recordings to share with family in the UK too! So yes, I really see this as a great platform for child readers. The app has been designed to be really simple, user-friendly and intuitive so that anyone can use it. A number of teachers see great potential for using the app in the classroom too and have contacted me to put some pilots in place in 2016.

In your opinion, why is reading with our children so important? How can we motivate children to read more?

Reading with children is, for so many, an incredibly important, cherished moment of the day. In our busy lives racing between home, school, the crèche and work, there is often little time left for much more than homework, dinner, bath, teeth-brushing and bed. Despite our best efforts, we can’t always take the time we’d like to stop, look and listen and question things thoughtfully. The best conversations I have with my children are regularly in bed with a good book, once all other distractions out of the way. Reading with them not only introduces new words, but new concepts and ideas too. Most importantly, we draw parallels between what we are reading and the things happening in daily life, helping us chat about concerns, things we’re grateful for, hopes and dreams.
I believe the key to motivating children to read more is taking time to read more with them and to chat about what is being read. Add to that encouragement and praise for their own efforts reading aloud – whether in person or in a voice recording that can then be replayed and shared – and I think you’ll find you’ve got motivated little readers.

What was the impetus behind the StorySnap idea and what inspired you to create it?

A few years ago I asked family members to record audiobooks for my children for Christmas. I had already been creating them myself when on work travel, especially when timezones made it impossible to Skype with them at bedtime. So when Christmas came around (in a family in which homemade gifts are prized highly!) it was the natural next step.
A few weeks later I had a wonderful playlist of stories for relatives to record, but they also had a lot of questions, including: “Which book should I record? I can’t choose!”, “Which voice recording app should I use and what format do you need the file in?”, “The doorbell rang – how can I edit my recording?”, “Can you add the images for me?”, “Can you send us copies for our kids?”, “How did you create the playlist in iTunes – can you share it?”. I thought there must be an easier way for Grandad’s incredible recording of Roald Dahl’s The Twits to be immortalised.
In addition, everyone I had been in touch with really got behind the idea and wanted to know how they could recreate it with their own children. Then in December 2014, in the wake of the death of a wonderful friend’s husband, I resolved to bring StorySnap to life!

Is there a certain type of parent or child who benefits more than others from StorySnap?

Families in which people are regularly separated for whatever reason will benefit particularly. Across time and space, StorySnap brings people closer!
But StorySnap really is for everyone, and in our family the stories are not just for bedtime. We listen to the storylist we’ve put together whilst doing arts and crafts. We listen to them in the car, on trains and on planes. Listening to them as audiobooks (without the illustrations) is also really valuable, focusing the children even more on the voices rather than the screen and enhancing their listening skills and imagination!

What stages are the product and the company currently at?

A working prototype of the StorySnap app with core functionality in place is now available. Users can start recording stories in the StorySnap library right away. These include stories by emerging, talented authors and illustrators, as well as copyright-expired poems with new illustrations. The next step is to go from this prototype to a market-ready app available in the App Store with full functionality (making it even more user-friendly and easier to share with loved ones), as well as a more extensive library of wonderful stories.

What are you hoping to achieve through the Kickstarter campaign?

Until now all investment has come from family savings. We’ve just launched a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter, hoping to match this investment. Doing so will enable the creation of the market-ready app ready for launch in Spring 2016.
The Kickstarter campaign goal is ambitious! Reaching it would be a dream scenario. At the very least, I hope that the campaign shows a community interested and willing to support the project! As such, ALL support is really valuable. It is as much about the number of supporters as the amounts pledged! So please, if you like the idea, pledge anything from $1 upwards to show your support! Of course, if the goal isn’t reached, no pledges are collected.

What is motivating people to donate to the campaign? Why should others join the cause?

Over Christmas, people have been accessing the prototype to record stories as gifts, and realise how much they love the idea. That has been a big factor motivating people to pledge to the campaign. Those who get involve in the campaign also receive beautiful art prints for children’s bedrooms, created by illustrators, specially for StorySnap.
The greatest driver for supporting any crowd-funding campaign is belief in the project, wanting to see the creation of the product and being the first to receive it once launched! Some are also motivated by being able to be a part of and shape the creative process.

What are your most creative recommendations for things to do on a rainy weekend with your kids?

I’m a huge fan of the Mission: Explore series of books for children. I just love them – for both indoor and outdoor things to do.
I love museums and science centres. A half-day at the Natural History Museum in Geneva is perfect, choosing just one section to explore in detail. Last time it was birds and we went around trying to figure out as much as we could about birds just from what we could see, looking at different feather types, beak types, feet types and body shapes to determine what environment they might live in, what they might eat and so on.
This summer I spent two whole days with my six-year-old at the At-Bristol Science Centre and could easily have spent more time there! One of my favourite bits was animating Wallace’s mouth saying ‘Put the kettle on Gromit’!
If we are staying in at home we love cooking; getting out the puppet theatre at home for impromptu performances; singing and dancing along to our favourite musicals playlist, including ‘Colonel Hathi’s March’ (aka the elephant song from The Jungle Book). On the whole, the more creative, the better!

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