If you, as an adult, say that you listened to an audiobook and highly recommend it, people take note. If you, as a homeschooling parent, mention that your child recently listened to “A Tale of Two Cities,” you might be met with frowns and questions about why your child did not really “read” the book. When dealing with homeschooling, just smile, nod, and let it go. People who offer these sorts of opinions are generally just looking to prove a point, not to have a real discussion.
While listening to an audiobook is not a substitute for reading, it is not a waste of time for adults or for kids. What is the value in having a child listen to an audiobook? It depends on the child. Some kids like audio versions for their entertainment value (Harry Potter, Hank the Cowdog). Other kids hate to read and like to think they’re getting away with not reading.
The truth? An audiobook, particularly a version of a classic book will help your children, even the one that hates to read, with fluency, pronunciation and finding a natural rhythm. These books are a great way to introduce new or difficult authors to kids. For example, we read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum’s original version, and after completion, we had a picnic and listened to the audiobook (we also watched the movie, but that’s another discussion). I even sneaked in a little learning moment when I had Stringbean compare and contrast the two versions.
If you focus on getting unabridged editions, you can have your child read along to the audiobook or not. Additionally, audiobooks are a great way to introduce poetry, Shakespeare and other material written to be heard rather than read (See my post on “Mensa for Kids” for more on poetry).
It’s no secret that computers, phones, video games, and television have shortened everyone’s attention spans. Audiobooks are a way to train your kids to listen, without doing anything else, for extended periods of time. For reluctant readers, once they have listened to a few audiobooks, reading may not seem like such a dreaded chore. Our favorite go-to resources are Librivox (Extensive collection of free audio books read by volunteers; the goal is to record every book in the public domain) and Storynory (They’ve published a free audio story every week since November 2005).
Another great use of audiobooks is when you and your kids have to travel or run errands. Find something that appeals to most of your passengers and enjoy the journey together. Stop the book if the kids have questions or off-topic observations. If you’re a mom chauffeur like me, make the time worthwhile and memorable.
Additional resources to consider:
- Audible.com (This is a subscription-based service)
- Various audiobook apps for iPhone & iPad
Do you use audiobooks? If so, what’s your favorite audiobook source?