Most of us are probably familiar with products that turn digital text into speech. Programs like Read&Write Gold and Kurzweil are feature packed applications that will not only read almost any digital text to you, but also provide numerous other supports such as advanced spell check, word prediction and more. Other programs, like ReadPlease are basic (but free) and allow you to copy and paste any text in and have it read out loud.
The only major downfall to these programs is that a student must be sitting in front of a computer to use them. Having one computer with text to speech capabilities doesn’t do you much good when 15 kids need it at the same time.
To help remedy this, there are several products out there that allow you to turn text into an audio file (typically an mp3 or wav file). Once created, students can listen to it on their portable mp3 player, cd player, or even their computer at home. Granted, this isn’t always as effective as being able to see the text as it’s being read out loud, but it does work for many students. Surely you’ve seen all of the earbuds hanging out of kids’ ears haven’t you?
Before I list some options, I should mention one concern I consistently get is that not all students have the mp3 players. This is true, but according to a recent report specializing in tracking the use of digital music and digital music players, over 70% of respondents ages 12-17 already have some type of portable music player. This is up from 54% last year. What’s more is that not all portable media players are as expensive as iPods. A recent search on WalMart.com showed a 2GB video and audio portable media player for under $30!
Now that that’s out of the way, how do we turn text into audio files? Well, there are really 2 ways: a software application (or one feature of a software application) and a web site. Let’s look at each…
On the Web: These websites allow you to paste digital text in and they will automatically create the audio file for you.
- Read&Write Gold – Contains a “Speech Maker” feature that turns text into a wav or mp3 file
- Text to Speech Maker
- Other options – a website containing several low cost text to audio programs
If you know of any additional programs, especially free programs, be sure to post in the comments section or send me an email.