So I’m in my jammies and all snuggled up and ready to share my interview with Alison Sansone, the creator of Be There Bedtime Stories. I was curious to find out more about her clever storytelling – personal connection – technology solution. Cuddle up and read on…
From what I’ve read, the idea for Be There Bedtime Stories came about in 2010 because you are a devoted aunt who wanted to stay connected to your nieces in a meaningful way even though you live 1,500 miles apart. I love that personal connection…
How is your relationship with them today because of your saying good night via storytelling?
I remember my first visit and after their second Webtime Story…I should explain that we created a quick term for ‘Be There Bedtime Stories’ calling them ‘Webtime Stories’ because they’re essentially bedtime stories shared from the web.
So, back to my story. When my first niece was 2 years old I felt like a stranger during my visit..you know, when a toddler’s mom has to ‘tell’ them to hug you or kiss you. So, fast forward to my first visit after my first two Webtime Stories, when Abby was then 5 and Cassie was 3, and they came running to the door shouting ‘AUNT ALI!’ with open arms.
Wow, really? That’s Amazing!
Every visit since then, I’m a part of the bedtime routine and they invite me to cuddle before they go to sleep; I feel like a family member in the house. Their affection is spontaneous and conversations are engaging. And I’m about to start the process all over again with my new 1 year old niece, Sophia, in San Francisco.
Can you share the basics of how this “be there” storytelling works?
That’s easy! To quote one of our customer/storytellers…”the website does all the work.”
- Just pick a book from our online bookstore and the website will make sure your webcam and microphone are working before it begins recording.
- You read the story aloud, as the book displays on the computer screen. Add props or anything that can be captured into the video frame! You’ll find it quite intuitive to stop and ask questions to the child, relating to the story. And you can preview your storytelling work of art before you send it.
- Enter the email address – or addresses – of the kid[s] you’re reading to, along with a special message that will accompany the email with your storytelling experience. Then we’ll make sure your Webtime Story link gets delivered, securely and promptly via email.
Families can view them at their convenience and enjoy them over and over again.
You mention on your website that your service is ideal for grandparents, traveling parents, military parents (and aunts)…who tends to record their ‘goodnights’ the most?
It’s a pretty close mixture, but grandparents have a slight lead when it comes to Webtime Stories. Grandparents today are tech savvy baby boomers and using digital media to connect with the new sprouts in the family makes perfect sense.
In my experience, the keepsake value of Webtime Stories really appeals to me. My father passed away last year and we have 4 precious storytelling recordings of him, on BeThereBedtimeStories.com. It’s amazing for me to think how he (and I) will ‘be there’ in the lives of his grandchildren (my nieces) through more than just photographs or casual home movies.
Other than at bedtime, how are people using their Webtime Stories? Are there any interesting and unique applications you’d like to highlight?
Great question! One of our first storytellers shared with us that he was sending Webtime Stories to his pregnant wife, as a way of building excitement for the new baby.
And my sister has made it a tradition in our family to send a story on each of Cassie and Abby’s 5 aunt’s and uncle’s birthdays; and a special Webtime Story was sent to grampa to cheer him up after his surgery.
We came up with the tagline Say More Than Just Goodnight because we realized that storytelling is an experience. A video of a family member is a unique way to connect visually; and the creative process of storytelling is a developmental activity for the child…and for the relationship.
Now that you’ve been in operation for 3 years, what has surprised you the most?
In all the experiences that we’ve heard about or shared in our own family since going live, I think the reaction of the kids was the biggest surprise for me. We focussed so much on accommodating adults as storytellers, so to see how natural and entertaining kids are in front of the camera has been a delight!
For me personally, when I watch the recordings of my nieces, I see their distinct personalities and I am witnessing them evolve. I knew this would be entertaining, but I didn’t expect it to be so touching.
Be There Bedtime Stories has earned you some impressive honors…would you mention them?
Well we started off with the business model recognized as one of the best entrepreneurial ideas, by the Irvine Chamber, in 2011. We’ve also had some wonderful interest from mommy-bloggers, and earning the esteemed Mom’s Choice Award for family-friendly digital media was a really important stamp of approval.
You must be so proud of your mission to “create happy moments.” What has been the best part of this experience for you?
Again, it’s the experience of watching my nieces grow and having a relationship with them because of the storytelling experience. It’s really built a foundation for us, and I can’t wait to revisit these recordings with the girls when they’re adults, or to show the Webtime Stories to their own kids.
I also love the fact that the activity can build literacy. We’re pretty involved with other literacy organizations to raise awareness on the research about the imperative of reading aloud to a child during the first 5 years of their life. It’s such a simple, fun thing to do that makes a lifelong impact!
What are you working on now and what does the future hold for Be There Bedtime Stories?
Well, getting the experience onto the iPad and other tablets is our current focus. In fact, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to help us accelerate that development and to connect with people that share the value of the product; their pledge represents a commitment to the intention of connecting families with storytelling.
Any final thoughts?
To ‘Create Happy Moments’ is our Mission, while our vision is centered on the core value of storytelling. There are a lot of games and digital media for kids, and our platform leverages technology to deliver this entertaining, developmental, centuries-old activity to the 21st century.
Thank you for telling us the tale of Be There Bedtime Stories, Alison…May your story always have a happy ending!