New fairytale app brings multilingual bedtime stories to Czech, Slovak, and English families

A Prague-based American developer (and dad) created a tool that gets kids exciting about reading while helping families connect.

Chelsea Steeb

Written by Chelsea Steeb
Published on 13.01.2021 10:31 (updated on 15.01.2021)

Snack, bath, and off to bed for a night-time story -- for most families with children this is the norm, but multilingual households might occasionally long for an English-language version of a beloved foreign-language fairytale while every parent could use some special effects to liven up the proceedings.

Developed by Ilya Novodvorskiy, an American developer and father who has now lived in Prague for over half a decade, Readmio is the first mobile application of its kind that allows bilingual families to read classic stories in multiple languages and listen to every story with sound effects and music.

"If you read a sentence in which a piglet is described as grunting in the yard, for example, a sound effect is triggered and the child hears a piglet grunting," said Novodvorskiy of the app's speech recognition feature.

Coming from multilingual households, as a child in New York and now as a parent in Prague, Novodvorskiy said he purposefully embedded a cross-cultural component into Readmio, which introduces traditional Slavic stories to English-speaking audiences and vice versa. 

Ilya Novodvorskiy (second from right) and the Readmio team.
Ilya Novodvorskiy (second from right) and the Readmio team.

But Novodvorskiy and his team quickly found that their interactive fairytale app has another equally important use. “We often hear that parents use it as a motivation for kids to start reading,” he said. “Children get excited because they know if they keep reading then a sound will play. So it's more of a learning tool for them.” 

Novodvorskiy, along with co-creators Jozef Šimek, Martin Brunck, and Radoslav Rajčan cooperated closely with the Slovak Academy of Sciences in order to perfect their speech recognition system for Slavic languages.

Some 1,756 voice-activated sounds (including anything from a fireplace slowly crackling to the roar of a stream or birds tweeting through the forest) accompany 100 traditional fairy tales originating from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and lesser-known stories from around the globe.

readmio
readmio

A number of early users told Novodvorskiy that the Readmio app has become an important part of their bedtime ritual. “That inspired us to create a portfolio called Sleep Stories specifically designed with softer sounds and music to bring on sleep,” he said.

Multilingualism has been shown to have many social, psychological, and lifestyle rewards. Researchers are continuing to find evidence of health benefits associated with speaking more than one language, including delayed onset of dementia.

The Readmio developers plan to add a fourth language, German, this month as well as debut the app on the international market.

readmio
readmio

In light of the recent pandemic, maintaining a connection with grandparents has become especially important -- the Readmio app has a replay function that allows users to record and playback a particular story. Novodvorskiy hopes the feature will help keep distant families closer during lengthy separations. 

“We agreed from the start that we wanted to develop something that would bring a smile to people’s faces,” said Novodvorskiy who added that he and the creators of Readmio acknowledge “the rarity of family moments spent together” and kept this in mind as they developed the application.

Readmio is available for iOS and Android and comes free to download via the App Store or Google Play. Access to some stories and features such as recording are available only when you sign up for an annual subscription. Currently more free stories are available in Czech and Slovak than in the English language. The stories can be accessed offline.