Friday, January 7, 2011

Audio Books

I am a firm believer in reading aloud to kids. When I was a teacher I read both fiction and non-fiction books to my students. For students who were struggling readers, improving verbal reading comprehension skills and vocabulary often were ignored at the upper elementary level. Reading aloud did not prevent students from working on independent reading skills. Instead, it strengthened listening skills and gave them a chance to access material they might not have independently.

One long standing gift giving tradition has been buying books in combination with toys for presents for the kids in my family. I asked one relative for some book recommendations for his daughter. He credited me with buying, Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians on CD for his daughter. I have often lost track of which books I have bought for which kids. I come from a large family. My brothers and sisters now have kids and some even grandkids. Keeping track of which child has a certain book can be challenging. However, the CD was the key. I realized I rarely buy books on CD. Unless I know a parent is going to play them in the car, or the child will listen at home, the gift can be more of a burden than a help. If the parents request them, I will look. Normally however, I stick to print.

Sadly, this was the only book in the series that had been issued on CD. I bought the set that has been published to date in print for the child. It was a hit and by vacation's end, even Grandma had finished the first book before her flight back to Florida. It did get me rethinking the benefits of audio books.

Recently I started borrowing audio books from the library to listen to while exercising. I hate exercising and need distraction. I have tried music and TV, but they are not enough of a distraction to make me forget that I am torturing my body. After thinking about how excited the whole family got over listening to this book while traveling to and from school and errands, I got to wondering how distracted I might get while listening to a book and working out.

The first book I borrowed was Stephen King's The Colorado Kid from the library. I had been watching the TV series Haven that is loosely based on this book, but lacked the patience to wade through the book. My exercise times doubled as I found myself wanting to finish the disk. I am currently working on Salem's Lot . My exercise time is up to an hour and a half.

I have one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels and the book that started my interest in audio CD's on request from the library to keep my exercise routine going.

This could also be a great strategy to increase literacy time for families. Many spend a great deal of time in the car traveling. This time could be utilized to improve comprehension and listening skills by adding audio CD’s to the travel time. Libraries do carry a number of titles or these books can be great presents. Choose titles that make kids frustrated when the car stops. I had forgotten how useful audio books were during my MBTA commutes to work years ago. I would hate to turn off the story if I was at a good part when I arrived at work. It made me look forward to the trip home so I could return to the plot.

Choose stories for interest more than education. If you want to improve listening and comprehension skills, there are many good titles will keep kids coming back and improve those valuable skills. If they are bored, they will lose interest in the exercise.

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