Childhood literacy rates in the United States leave something to be desired. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 children in the U.S. grows up without learning how to read. But Tracy Weil is determined to inspire a love of literacy (and listening to stories) with her new company, Tales 2 Go, a subscription-based service that puts amazing tales told by top narrators at parents (and kids’) fingertips. Here’s her own truly awesome tale.
Let’s talk about life prior to Tales To Go. What were you doing?
Well, back in the day, I was working in New York in public relations, doing strategic PR. I got married and got pregnant, and I decided to be a mom. And I loved being a mom and I have three children. They’re 10, 8 and 7 — Stearns, Phoebe, and Lucy. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years.
Tales 2 Go is a place where kids can listen to great audio books and stories on Apple mobile devices. It’s a subscription-based service that delivers over 1400 audiobooks and stories to kids ages 3 to 11 up to preteen through an app for Apple iPhones, iPod Touches or iPads. We’ve been called we’ve been called the Pandora for kids’ stories. Kids can listen to stories anywhere and anytime. It’s a gigantic library of books that kids can listen to anytime.
Now, what made you think of the idea for this?
When my son was little, we used to play music in the car, and on the go, and a teacher who was a friend gave me a story CD. And he was about three, and I played it for him. Instantly, I could tell he was engaged and listening. From that point on, I would go and get store tapes. I would library and I purchased them and attempted to download them from the Internet, although somewhat unsuccessfully, because there’s always something that happened. But he loves listening to stories and it was just magical. As he went through kindergarten, I could tell that it really was something that captured his imagination and made his brain working.
I had purchased an iPhone and saw the magic of what the iPhone was all about. And one day, I said to my husband, “I wish I had a library of stories at my fingertips that that just came from the sky out of my iPhone. Now, I’m a co-founder with my husband in Tales 2 Go and he had a background in kids entertainment and business. You put two and two together and between my desire as a mom to have books on the go to entertain and educate kids and his background in kids’ media entertainment — it just all came together.
That’s really cool. Now, where do the stories come from?
All of the books are professionally narrated stories. They range from stories for younger kids, like the Curious George series, Henry and Mudge, Clifford, and fairy tales for little kids all the way up to bigger kids, books like How to Train Your Dragon, and kids classics like
The Secret Garden to Treasure Island and Swiss Family Robinson. It’s all produced and published by trusted audio publishers like Scholastic and Recorded Books, and Audio Holdings, and they have narrators who are professional narrators. It ranges from professional storytellers, like Jim Weiss, who tells great fairy tales for little kids and some other storytellers like Bill Harley, who have very unique individual classic stories and humorous stories, too.
What has the response been like?
Every day we get emails from parents saying how great the service is and how they’re how kids are loving it. We’re finding teachers are signing up, too. So many people are just responding at how their kids love and listen to the stories.
Now, there are going to be people who say that kids should be reading stories rather than listening to them. How would you respond?
Well, we believe it’s not an either/or; we think of it as it’s both. In fact, there are many studies that show that the beginnings of reading start with listening. You’re hearing the words and you’re building your vocabulary by listening to the story. Listening comprehension builds into reading comprehension.
What has it been like going from being a stay-at-home mom to now creating this thriving business?
Yes, that’s the challenge. I’ve become a master at juggling three balls in the air — my job, my family, and my life. And I try to keep them in the air as best as I can. I really look at it as juggling and sometimes the ball drops every now and again and I’ve got to pick it up and get it on the air and keep it moving again. Sometimes my husband steps in and in picks up the juggling, too!
But for now, we plan to continue adding stories and grow the library. It’s been exciting and rewarding to do. It brings back the age-old art of storytelling but in a modern way that allows you to have these wonderful stories right at your fingertips.