This is a slight deviation from my normal type of blog post, but well worth it. I have recently been reminded just how amazing audiobooks are for kids. When J was younger, she liked to listen to audiobooks, memorize the stories, then “read” them herself. Then for many years, we didn’t listen to them at all. All of a sudden, audiobooks have come back into our lives big time.
For the younger set (3-5), audiobooks are a means of helping kids learn how to read through memorization. Part of the reading process is knowing when to turn pages and to recognize the words. I’ve found that my kids get a sense of accomplishment from “reading” without mommy around. These days many audiobooks out there also feature the voices from animated features, which is a big draw for little children, and anything that gets them excited about books works for me.
E has been obsessed with audiobooks for a while now. She turned 3 in October and it was probably around that time that she really got excited by stories on CD, or mommy’s iPhone. For a period of time, she had a CD of four 20 minute Disney stories that she would listen to each night at bedtime. For Hanukkah I suggested books with CDs and she listened to Frozen over and over again. There are times during the day that she will shut herself in her room and listen to audiobooks. At other times, she grabs a pile of regular books and plays librarian. All in all, I am sure that I am raising a reader.
J really liked the Disney books with CDs when she was in that age range. Then at some point we moved into audiobooks for chapter books that she enjoyed listening to only if she had the book in front of her to follow along – a great thing, but also a hinderance when I tried to borrow audiobooks from the library for books we didn’t have. She listened to many Magic Treehouse books and Charlotte’s Web during this phase.
At some point, we found the Barefoot Books podcasts. If you don’t know Barefoot Books is an awesome “independent publisher specializing in carefully crafted books, gifts and digital content for children that combine the best of the present with the best of the past to educate our children as the caretakers of tomorrow.” I’ve thought about selling their books, but for the time being, I just buy them through a friend (shameless plug for Lauren). Anyway, as I was saying, for a long time there were putting out weekly podcasts of stories from around the globe narrated by some amazing talents. Some of our favorites were “The Musicians of Bremen,” “The Faeries and the Cake,” and “The White Mare.” These are classic fairy tales told in their original formats, rather than the overly sweetened versions we have grown accustomed to. There are 135 currently available at iTunes and they are free downloads.
Then for a period, we really stopped listening to audiobooks. I believe that it has been our infatuation with Harry Potter coupled with E’s love of Disney stories that encouraged J to start listening again. When J loves a book, she reads it over and over and over again. She enjoyed listening to Harry Potter, and who wouldn’t with the marvelous Jim Dale doing the reading? Then she heard me listening to The Land of Stories – The Enchantress Returns, and desperately wanted to read and listen to the first book, The Wishing Spell, herself. As I mentioned in the last post, we got her the book and she has been devouring it. A few days ago, our hold of the audiobook came in and she has started listening to the book as well as reading it – she is at different parts of the book with each format! We both agree, Chris Colfer has done an absolutely amazing job narrating his own story. If you want an example of perfect audiobook for kids, this is it. J listens to this whenever she gets the chance and goes to sleep with it every night.
We have also been listening to the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland through the website Storynory, which is a free online collection of stories. They are also available through iTunes, but the stories that J enjoys tend to have lots of parts, or chapters, and it is easier to just download them or let her listen straight through their website, which also allows kids to follow along with the story. While writing this post, I just realized that they had the Snow Queen in 3 parts and have downloaded that for our collection.
Just like there are many ways to write -pen on paper, straight to computer – there are also many ways to read a book. I never used to understand the lure of audiobooks, and then I found a few that really work that way and allow me to listen to a book while doing something like cleaning the house or driving. That does not mean that all books lend themselves to be listened to, but it is another way to bring it to life. J has talked about being an author and now she is seeing that it can combine her two biggest loves – stories and acting. Audiobooks are a great thing to have for long car rides and a great thing to enjoy at home. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t read to our children ourselves, but who can argue with another source for them to love books?
I’m continuing to look for other great ways to download audiobooks for my girls to enjoy. There are a lot of great places out there, if you have a favorite, please let me know!