How To Make a Kids Audio Book With Audacity

We got our 3 year old a CD boom box for Christmas and have been making audio CDs for her with us reading her favorite books to her. Since these are kids books, every page turn is a separate track on the CD. This makes it easy for kids to go back and forth through the book if they want.

We’ve been using the good old free Audacity.

Start by downloading Audacity and a page-turn sound. I used a spring sound I found on a free sounds website.

Recording the Story

To record simply click the red Record button. Doing so will create a new stereo track and start recording. We read the book’s title and author and tell the kids to turn the page when they hear the *SPROING* sound.

Then we just read the book. I like to read it slightly slower than I would if I were reading to the kids so the ones who can read can follow along. At each page turn I pause for a few seconds to give the kids time to turn the page.

Click Record and Read the Book
Click Record and Read the Book

Sound Cleanup

To clean up the sound I do two simple things.

Noise Removal

To remove background noise (like fans, air conditioning, the hum of a fridge) select a section of the recording that should be silent. Run the Noise Removal tool found in Effect -> Noise Removal.

 

Profile a silent segment
Profile a silent segment

In the noise removal dialog click Get Noise Profile. This will analyize the selected section of supposed silence and use it in the next step. Run the Noise Removal tool again, but this time click OK.

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Normalize The Audio

Use the Effect -> Normalize tool to make your volume more even.

Add Page Turn Effects

Open the page turn sound effect you downloaded earlier in another copy of Audacity. You can simply use copy and paste (Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V) to copy the page turn sound effect where you want it. Be sure to leave enough time after the page turn noise for a kid to actually turn the page.

Prepare The Book For Export

Add another track to the project. We’re going to use a Label Track to indicate where our page turn.

Use Tracks -> Add New -> Label Track.

Add a Label Track to determine break points
Add a Label Track to determine break points

In the label track simply click where you want to place a label, then start typing. I named my labels 001, 002, 003 etc. because those labels will become the file names later and I want my files to be in sequential order.

Set Labels
Set Labels

Export CD Tracks

Finally we’re ready to export the separate tracks. Use File -> Export Multiple to bring up the dialog.

Export Multiple
Export Multiple

Choose the WAV export format. Split files based on Labels, and include audio before first label. If you have named your files 001 etc, then you can set the first file name to 000.

Click the Export button.

Include audio before first label
Include audio before first label

This dialog will pop up once for every file. I’m sure there’s some way to suppress it but since my books are short I haven’t bothered figuring out how. Just press OK a bunch of times.

Close this window a bunch of times
Close this window a bunch of times

 

Burning Your Book to CD

You should now have a folder full of WAV files somewhere. You can use whatever program you want to burn these to CD. I use k3b on Linux, and my wife uses iTunes on her Mac.

For iTunes, create a new playlist and name it the name of the book. Drag all the files you made to the playlist. Right click on the playlist and select Burn Playlist. Make sure there’s no gap between tracks, and make sure that Use CD Text is checked.

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