A few months back when I asked for your help, you showed up in the comments like kind neighbors with casseroles at the house of a sick person. Would you do it again?
Can you tell me about your family and audiobook listening?
Listening to audiobooks together has probably been one of the most consistent activities we’ve done in our family’s thirteen years of homeschooling–a close second only to my reading aloud. From the time H was about five, we’ve almost always had an audiobook running in the car. We’ve listened to everything from Ramona the Pest to The Odyssey. Nowadays H isn’t in the car with us very often, and the book is usually one that T and I have chosen together–but Lulu often surreptitiously switches off her iPod and listens along.
Both older kids also spent years listening to audiobooks in their rooms. Lulu especially. She’s an auditory learner and didn’t love reading until she was about eight. But she loved her audiobooks. And she listened to them again. And again. And again. And–it must be said–again. Mr. T has been doing the same for the last three years or so. I can’t believe that our Harry Potter discs haven’t worn down to wafers by now.
In my notebook, I’m jotting down notes about why I think we love audiobooks so much. Here are a few random thoughts.
- Audiobooks make me feel less guilty about all the driving we do. All the activity-schlepping and errand-running is instantly transformed into a literature appreciation session.
- Professional readers even make the classics captivating. Have you ever heard Tim Curry read A Christmas Carol? And Patrick Fraley’s rendition of Huckleberry Finn is a revelation. (I’ve decided that no kid should be expected to read Huckleberry Finn and all its confounding dialect, when the spoken version is such a joy.)
- On days when I’m feeling sick or lazy, or one of the kids is feeling sick or lazy, we can curl up on the couch and have someone read to us. Someone who reads really well. (And if Mama isn’t feeling too sick or lazy, she might even be able to knit.)
- Audiobooks allow kids who might not be reading yet–or may not enjoy reading–to lap up literature.
- Likewise, audiobooks allow kids to enjoy books that might be more advanced than their reading abilities.
- Listening to books–and re-listening to them!–helps kids internalize the flow and rhythm of good writing.
- Some books I just don’t want to read aloud. All those thick-as-a-dictionary Harry Potters? You may call it sacrilege, but I just couldn’t do it. And why would I want to, when Jim Dale and his universe of wondrous voices does it so much better?
- If you’re into silly phrases like vocabulary-builder, audiobooks are it. I’ll never forget the morning when seven-year-old Lulu accused her older brother of having “a severe lack of moral stamina.” (Thanks, Lemony Snicket!) I’m also pretty sure that audiobooks had something to do with H’s high SAT reading scores. Not that we listened because I cared a dang about SAT scores back then, but it’s a useful fringe benefit.
- And perhaps most dear to my heart: when we listen in the car together, our drives often become impromptu literature analysis sessions. Casual book clubs, if you will. This isn’t something I instigate, mind you, but something that just happens. Someone will say something like I think J.K. Rowling makes the beginning drag on for too long or Why is it so funny when a bad guy like Count Olaf says a word like yep? And suddenly we’re all throwing in our opinions and dissecting just what makes writing good. It’s a beautiful thing. And do I see the results of these conversations come into play in my kids’ own writing? Um, yep.
I am still a great fan of reading aloud, and would never let audiobooks replace reading to my kids. But there’s something discretely captivating about a good audiobook. Maybe it’s the professional reader. Maybe it’s the fact that we manage to get through audiobooks faster than our read-alouds–and momentum can be an important factor in enjoying a book. Maybe it’s because it takes no extra energy from me to stay in the car a little longer when we get to a really good part. I don’t know. But I do know that listening to audiobooks has played a large role in my kids’ development as writers. And I want to include a chapter about that.
So tell me: Does your family listen to audiobooks? How? When? Where? Could you share some favorites?
Please feel welcome to respond to any or all of the above, or whatever else crosses your mind. Thank you. Your feedback means even more to me than a pan of homemade vegetarian lasagna.