How to read to your kids when on a work trip

I’ve heard some studies say that one of the most important activities you can do with your children is to read to them.

Well, I’ve been traveling quite a bit for work lately,and as of this writing I’m averaging about 2 weeks of work travel a month now.  That’s about 8 evenings a month I don’t get to read to my kids (at least mom picks up the slack when I’m not home).

Through the use of available recording technology, here is a little something a traveling parent can do so your child can hear you reading to them whenever you are on travel (or when they want to hear your voice).  The cost is minimal and there are numerous positive benefits.  I did this for my boys so they could hear me reading to them whenever they wish.

  • Purchase a headset to connect to your laptop or computer (analog or USB is good, see my AV gear page)
  • Install & Use some audio recording software to record your voice (I use Audacity)
  • Read your children’s favorite books and record the audio (a WAV file would be nice to input to the Levelator)
  • Make a MP3 from the recorded and leveled audio.
  • Purchase a set of computer speakers (about $12) and a low end MP3 player (about $28), both pictured above
  • Put your recorded MP3 “audiobooks” on the MP3 player
  • Put the speakers and MP3 player and speakers in your child’s room where they read
  • Show your child how to select the audio for a book they want to read
  • Press play and let them read along with the audio (or just listen)

I know this in no way substitutes for real in -person reading with your child (so much more is communicated to your child through non-verbal language and touch), but it’s a great alternative for the traveling parent to invest some up-front time recording to allow your child to hear your voice later.  My little $40 investment in each of my boys will have future benefits that can’t be measured.

Here’s a small audio sample of a book I recorded so my kids can play and read along when I’m away from home.

Download the mp3 here.

Enjoy!

– Dom

Conexant HD SmartAudio 221

Just a quick post on this to help out others who use only the sound card on their laptops for recording audio.

I discovered today with my new Lenovo W500 (Win XP based) and using Audacity & Camtasia Studio 7, that the sound recorded sounded less than ideal (seemed to be missing some audio due to a bad sampling setting).  The output files sounded equally as bad.

Now, I’m a fan of using a USB connected microphone or mixer (like the Centrance MicPort Pro & Alesis MiltiMix 8 USB) to avoid this type of problem.  It allows me to use my professional (XLR connected) microphones like the Shure PGX wireless mic and Shure Beta 58A.  But when I’m traveling on the road, I like keeping my setup simple, so I use the laptop and a Plantronics .Audio 470 USB Stereo Headset (sometimes with and without the USB connector).

I checked the drivers for the sound card using Device Manager, and what came with the laptop was the “Conexant High Definition SmartAudio 221” at version 3.53.0.0, this was the first release of this audio driver.  With any version 1.0 software, drivers included, there is a higher likeliness of software bugs or settings not set properly since there is little customer feedback before release.

The current version of the Conexant audio driver is on the Lenovo support website here.  At the time of this writing it was at version 3.64.10.51.

I updated to the current version and the bad sampling problem went away.  It also changed the device name to “Conexant 20561 SmartAudio HD”.

Hope this was useful for those using the microphone port on the laptop to record audio.

– Dom