Inspiration

Over the last 25 years, a small canon of research on family storytelling shows that when parents share more family stories with their children—especially when they tell those stories in a detailed and responsive way—their children benefit in a host of ways.

10 Amazing Benefits Of Storytelling For Kids

  1. Instills Virtues In Your Child
  2. Makes Them Aware Of Their Own Culture And Roots
  3. Enhances Verbal Proficiency
  4. Improves Listening Skills
  5. Encourages Creativity And Imagination Power
  6. A Great Tool For Sharpening Memory.
  7. Broadens Horizon.
  8. Makes Academic Learning Easier
  9. Better Communication
  10. Helps To Face Difficult Situations With Ease

Alt text

Sometimes, long stories or book reading can be boring, that is why we got My Short Stories

What it does

My short stories - Make your own stories.

The skill allows parents to create their own stories and ask alexa to read the stories for kids. This gives great flexibility to choose right stories according to their taste and listen to them as they like. Sometimes, long stories or book reading can be boring, that is why we got My Short Stories that will make listening to story and learning interesting!. .

Users can invoke story by following options.
1) Ask alexa to read story by story title.
2) Ask alexa to read random story by story category.
3) Ask alexa to read any story.

Also, they can ask alexa to list all the stories from their catalog. The skill can be enabled by following the instructions mentioned below:

step 1 : Enable the skill on the alexa mobile.
step 2 : Link the skill with your amazon account.
step 3 : Go to website by clicking on the below link and register new account (NOTE: The email you provide while registering should be same as the alexa login account email ID).

 NOTE: Please use chrome browser.  
 http://alexashortstories.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/  

step 4: Login back into the website and start Adding your stories.
step 5: Invoke your story from alexa by saying "alexa , ask my short stories to read <>".

So why not Amazon Kindle?

Some might ask, why not use Kindle and make alexa read stories? This skill allows users to create their own stories which is different from asking alexa to read existing books from Kindle. Also, alexa does not support the following types of Kindle content and features:
Comics and graphic novels
Narration speed control
Immersion reading

What's unique about this skill?

There’s something about sound that puts our imaginations to work, making us more active participants in the story we’re hearing. Not only that, sometimes, the adding expressions, whispers to the stories will make it more engaging.
The best and unique part is that the skill allows users to add awesome predefined sound affects or speechcons to the stories! like crowd clapping, magic wand, fairy or even some cartoon effects. The skill uses special tags to add audio effects and simple SSML tags for speechons and other expressions.

Click here to listen to audio clip of story with sound effects and speechcons told by alexa

Actual story that is input on the web page.(the audio effects are enclosed with $$)

$$fantasy$$ <say-as interpret-as="interjection">vroom!</say-as> Once a Chinese emperor organized a race for animals. The first twelve animals to finish were to be given a place in the Chinese Zodiac. The cat and the rat, both lazy creatures, asked the ox to wake them on the day of the race.$$whistle$$ The day arrived. The ox tried to wake them up, but could not succeed. The race was about to start.$$applause$$ The ox coaxed them onto his back and started running. The rat woke up when the ox was crossing the last hurdle, a river. The rat pushed the cat off the ox's back. When the ox reached the other side, the rat jumped off and scampered to victory, just ahead of the ox. The tiger came third, crossing the river by using the backs of the animals swimming across as stepping stones. So the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac begins with the rat After him come the ox, tiger, rabbit dragon snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The cat, however, has no place in the zodiac. So all the cats still remember the humiliatior heaped on their ancestor by a tricky rat and thus chase the rats to punish them.$$crowd_laugh$$

Apart from website on S3, we have managed to get Android app to update and manage stories as well.(mobile app screenshots)
Android apk application can be downloaded from Android

Mobile 1

Mobile 2

How we built it

The skill was developed using aws alexa skill sdk, S3, and DynamoDB. We have also used amazon account link service to link account to amazon profile in just 2 steps. The skill requires web site through which you can enter and save your story and have alexa to read your stories. So, we need to build a simple web site that allows user registration and add or edit stories, for which, we used ReactJS / DynamoDB. We had used s3 for storing files earlier, but for this skill we have used to s3 to host static web site which we were able to do it in 10 min.
The entire skill development (end to end) was complete in just 4 days! Amazing! shows the power of AWS along with Alexa.(there was no need to use any other tool, even notepad!)

Challenges we ran into

We have developed many alexa skills and published to alexa store. However, developing a skill targeting kids are definitely challenging. It requires lots of focus, analysis, content validation and sometime we need become kids ourselves to understand from their point of view. Lesser the age of kids, more challenging it is. Developing skill for kids below 5 years is difficult than more above 5 years kids. Many thanks to Amazon and Devpost for providing crash course and guidance for developing skill for kids. This made our life a lot easier. Also, the other major challenge we ran into was account linking with our webpage hosted on s3. We had decided to keep the account linking simple and loosely coupled with skill, this is what we did.

  1. Build a standalone website where user can register with email ID (emailID used for alexa login).
  2. Save the stories in dynamoDB against emailID.
  3. Ask user to enable skill with amazon account link.
  4. Get user profile and emailID when user invoke the skill.
  5. Use the emailID and pull the stories from dynamoDB.
    And, it worked!

Accomplishments that we are proud of

Developing skills for kids are not easier and definitely proud now and will be even prouder when the skill is used by kids around the world and benefited. Also, definitely, we are proud dads as well!

What we learnt

Learning, Learning and Learning. With AWS, there are many things that we learnt;

  • Keep things simple.
  • Think from kids point of view.
  • Develop simple android app
  • Host static website on S3
  • Create simple HTML5 app with Bootstrap and ReactJS

What's next for My Short Stories

Allow users to share stories with friends or make it public.
Allow users to add sounds and interesting speechons to their stories.
Create mobile apps to update stories instead of web page.
Capture stories through alexa devices itself.
Enable on EchoShow devices by showing pictures as well (Pics can be uploaded by users)

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