Text-to-Speech Technology: What It Is and How It Works
The Understood Team
At a Glance
Text-to-speech (TTS) technology reads aloud digital text—the words on computers, smartphones and tablets.
TTS can help kids who struggle with reading.
There are TTS tools available for nearly every digital device.
Text-to-speech (TTS) is a type of
assistive technology that reads digital text aloud. It’s sometimes called “read aloud” technology.
With a click of a button or the touch of a finger, TTS can take words on a computer or other digital device and convert them into audio. TTS is very helpful for kids who
struggle with reading. But it can also help kids with writing and editing, and even focusing.
How Text-to-Speech Works
TTS works with nearly
every personal digital device, including computers, smartphones and tablets. All kinds of text files can be read aloud, including Word and Pages documents. Even online web pages can be read aloud.
The voice in TTS is computer-generated, and reading speed can usually be sped up or slowed down. Voice quality varies, but some voices sound human. There are even computer-generated voices that sound like children speaking.
Many TTS tools highlight words as they are read aloud. This allows kids to see text and hear it at the same time.
Some TTS tools also have a technology called
optical character recognition (OCR). OCR allows TTS tools to read text aloud from images. For example, your child could take a photo of a street sign and have the words on the sign turned into audio.
How Text-to-Speech Can Help Your Child
Print materials in the classroom—like books and handouts—can create obstacles for kids with reading issues. That’s because some kids struggle with
and understanding printed words on the page. Using digital text with TTS helps remove these barriers.
Did you know that your child may be eligible for free digital text-to-speech books?
And since TTS lets kids both see and hear text when reading, it creates a
multisensory reading experience. Researchers have found that the combination of seeing and hearing text when reading:
Depending on the device your child uses, there are many different TTS tools:
Built-in text-to-speech: Many devices have
built-in TTS tools. This includes desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and digital tablets and Chrome. Your child can use this TTS without purchasing special apps or software.
Text-to-speech apps: Kids can also download TTS
apps on smartphones and digital tablets. These apps often have special features like text highlighting in different colors and OCR. Some examples include
Voice Dream Reader,
Claro ScanPen and Office Lens.
Text-to-speech software programs: There are also several literacy software programs for desktop and laptop computers. In addition to other reading and writing tools, many of these programs have TTS. Examples include Kurzweil 3000, ClaroRead and Read&Write. Microsoft’s Immersive Reader tool also has TTS. It can be found in programs like OneNote and Word. See more examples of
software for kids with reading issues.
How Your Child Can Access Text-to-Speech at School