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Youngsters read, tell tales on StoryBoxes

| Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011

Stories and poems by local children can be heard via interactive story boxes that have been installed at 18 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh branches and could appear at other Western Pennsylvania locations before long.

The boxes equipped with sturdy headsets sit on tables or hang from walls at the branches, and each features about eight children ages 4 to 17 from neighborhoods around that library talking about school, favorite books, sports and other subjects.

SLB Radio Productions Inc., which produces "The Saturday Light Brigade" public radio show, put its SLB StoryBox units in the libraries about a month ago, Larry Berger, executive director, said on Saturday.

"Part of my strong desire with this is to bring children's voices to adults," Berger said, and that could mean placing boxes in office building lobbies, hair salons or doctors' waiting rooms.

Each box tracks its usage, and the device at Allegheny Traditional Academy in the North Side with stories from students there has gotten about 9,800 plays in 10 months.

Each 21- by 12-inch box has touch points under a thin vinyl cover that, when pressed, turn on the prerecorded stories. Hear Me, an initiative of Carnegie Mellon University's Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment, or CREATE, Lab, provided money and other resources for the library project.

In all, about 50 SLB StoryBoxes have been installed so far in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh in the North Side, where SLB has its studio, along with schools and local attractions. Another 80 are in production. Initial boxes in a series cost $1,500 to $4,500 to create, while others cost less, Berger said.

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