Raising Their Voices

Thanks to his own experience, Morgan ’29 has some advice for aspiring voice actors.

“When I read my story, when someone was saying something, I would express a lot more than what was actually there,” he said. “Instead of saying, ‘Please let me go,’ I would say, ‘PLEASE! LET ME GO!’”

Morgan and the rest of the 4th grade class are all making their voice-acting debut by recording audiobooks for the fundraiser that will support their class gift to the Lower School before they head off to the Middle School.

“Traditionally, that fundraiser has been a car wash or a bake sale,” said Sherrese Smith (P ’29, P ’31), one of the 4th grade class representatives. “The challenge we had was finding something that will excite the kids, still be interactive, not put a lot of responsibility on the parents, but really be a community project.”

“We looked at half a dozen of different ideas, and I remembered hearing about how a lot of the Harry Potter celebrities read different parts of the Harry Potter books as a charity project,” said Tarun Upaday (P ’29, P ’32), another class representative. “And I thought that was interesting, and that was the basis of the idea. We kicked it around a little bit: Can we do a podcast? Can we do a video? Ultimately, we wanted to do something that all the kids could work on together, but asynchronously at their own time.”

“And with the School’s focus on literacy in general, we thought that this would also work well with the other initiatives that the School really promotes,” added Smith.

So, after the grown-ups made sure all of the stories were in the public domain, the students started reading. They also adapted some of the stories that may not have aged well.

“In the beginning of the book, there was originally a cake and a bottle of wine,” said Morgan, who read The Golden Goose. “That’s not very appropriate, so we changed it to milk. And in the original, the prize was going to be the princess, but we decided to change that so the prize was a diamond.”

“It was an easy way for these subjects to be brought up, where you can say, ‘Hey, does that make sense? Would that happen in this day and age?’” said Smith. “And a lot of these kids would say, ‘Oh, that is not appropriate.’ It was a good way to tackle difficult issues, so it added another benefit to a great project.”

“I enjoyed the diversity that we were able to bring in,” Upaday said. “There were a lot of stories which are very well known, but we were able to include stories from other cultures. We got some stories from the Hawaiian culture and the Filipino culture, and it gave a little bit of a wider perspective.”

Though they’re younger than most audiobook narrators, the students see their age as an advantage.

“It makes kids who listen feel more included,” said Kabir ’29, who read The Queen Bee. “If it’s adults reading, kids may not want to listen to it, but if it’s kids reading, they’ll feel like it’s more about them.”

“Even though the students have been working at home, they understand that they’re a piece in a larger puzzle; I think it has really given them a connection,” Smith said. “The hardest thing this year is keeping that sense of community and keeping the 4th graders feeling like they are a class in a very important year. And this is not just a 4th grade activity; it really is a School activity. Even if you don’t have a 4th grader, what a great gift to give to parents who might have younger ones who will get a kick out of hearing someone their age reading these stories.”

“Raising money is a big part of why we’re doing this, but even more important is that the kids have fun doing this, that they can relate to the purpose, and that they are doing it together for a good cause,” Upaday said. “And it hopefully, it will last a long time. It’s something that we can play, or their grandparents can listen to and play and remember what their student sounded like.”

In fact, Upaday already has future plans for his son’s audiobook: “I’m looking forward to playing it at his bachelor party.”

The audiobooks are available here. To make a donation to the 4th grade fundraiser, click here. 

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