Children's Audio Books - Portals to a New Galaxy

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Children's audio books were a chance discovery.

It was a fluke.

Kate Winslet can help parents, but you remain Reader no. 1
But before you accuse me of being dimwitted, let me explain myself.

Of course, I knew about audio books.

But what I did not know about was the amazing power of children's audio books.

They have quadrupled the amount of reading aloud/listening that we can do in a single day.

It's no longer just me reading to my kids.

Nowadays, my kids are enjoying the voices of Kate Winslet, Kelsey Grammer and Ted Danson reading to them.

Did I mention that Tim Curry, Walter Mathau and Billy Crystal also drop by from time to time?

Yes, we are having a blast enjoying read alouds from all these amazing actors and many more. 

They share the spotlight with Read Aloud Dad now.

Want to have a real Hollywood star read to your kids? Choose an audio book.

Do you want a Shakespearean actor to take the stage in your home or car? Choose an audio book.

Do you want new accents, new voices, new emotion in your children's lives? Look no farther than an kid's audio book.

Don't get me wrong, I read aloud to my kids daily, but as they grow older their time is more precious to them and mealtime has become the only read aloud time that I can take for granted. 

Show me a kid who doesn't love entertainment during his or her meals and I'll eat my (figurative) hat. 

Today we listen to audio books every single day.

Every single day.

And before you ask, let me assure you - audio books have never stopped me from reading aloud. They just complement the daily reading.

Audio books work in different settings, especially in cars, during the daily grind from home to school and back. During our trips to town and basically anywhere we go on wheels.

Nowadays, I avoid CDs as much as I can. They are a pain in the neck in the car.

I go for digital book downloads and one of the best sources is the Audible audiobooks program.

Digital books can't be scratched, you can't forget to take them along (once you load them up), and you can take loads and loads with you!

Let me digress briefly here - with some advice for parents/grandparents who are also car owners.

Just make sure you have an MP3 player hooked to your car's sound system or if you are buying a new car - one of your top priorities should be a car that can play music/audio from a USB flash drive and/or via Bluetooth (from your phone).

We replaced our ten-year old car in January 2015 and the first thing that I looked for in my new Ford C-Max was a sound system that could play audio books from a USB stick and/or over a Bluetooth connection from my phone.

 Technologies change fast - so make sure that you are up to speed in your vehicle in order to reap the benefits.

Even if your pre-historic radio (I had one too!) doesn't have a USB port (that accepts a USB flash drive with all those lovely stories) and you don't have Bluetooth connection capabilities in your old car (to connect to your phone with all those lovely stories) there are many cheap crossover solutions that will allow you to plugin your USB flash stick into a Bluetooth USB FM transmitter stick that connects to your radio via FM .

So, by using a Bluetooth FM transmitter (here is another model) stick you can connect that new piece of equipment to your car's FM radio, which enables you to play audiobooks off the USB stick (that you plug into the transmitter stick) or off your phone/tablet that you connect via Bluetooth to the transmitter stick.

Too complicated? Don't worry, it should be relatively easy. Just go for a popular model of transmitter stick that has a lot of good reviews online.

I just want to point out that old technology is not a good enough excuse. Every problem has a solution!

End of digression...




Too Early or Too Late?

A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success
Bo Bennett

Admittedly, I was wary of exposing my kids too early to audio books, especially as I knew that live contact and interaction between the reader and listeners have a special value for the young ones - as it is not one-dimensional.

Early on, I tried to play a few children's books to my twins at home when they were around four or five, but they were so into reading aloud with me that they rejected it out of hand.

As soon as I would start playing an audio book from the music box, be it a Dr. Seuss or another children's favorite, they would reject - not so much the story - but the voice.

They seemed to hate other people's voices reading to them.

I almost sensed it in the air. The voices were either too loud or too soft, too fast or too slow, too British or too American, too masculine or too feminine...

Nothing was perfect enough for my kids to give the audio books a chance.

So, I silently shelved them, biding my time.

Waiting for another opportunity.

Biding my time.


The Car is The Key
Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.
Corrie Ten Boom

The trick to a successful introduction of audio books is learning how to take rejection.

Your kids will probably be somewhat skeptical of this new push towards audio books, make no mistake. (Except when parents already enjoy audio books themselves and the kids have been exposed to them).

"Why fix something, when it is not broke?" is a child's attitude.

A parent reading aloud is good enough for kids, no need for intruders.

But, audio books are a crucial crutch that supports literacy habits in read aloud families.

Namely, we were able to read all 13 books of A Series of Unfortunate Events thanks to world-renowned actor Tim Curry, who lent his expressive voice and British accent to make our car drives to and from school much more exciting!

We started with The Bad Beginning audio book, the first book in the classic Lemony Snicket series this summer.

Now, half a year later, we are finishing The End audio book, our 13th and last audiobook  (two more chapters left, happy to report) in the series.

Tim Curry's range of characters and voices have been amazing and the classical English diction was astounding.

The funny thing is that my kids can remember small details from the entire 13-book series, which I can't. This tells me they have been listening real carefully.

But, as I said, this is the last audio book treats that we have been enjoying.

Prior to the Lemon Snicket extravaganza, we listened to Kate Winslet's extraordinary rendition of Roald Dahl's amazingly entertaining Matilda. We soared through Matilda on our summer holidays, although we mixed it up with a bit of Enid Blyton.

How did we start our audio book adventure?

Well, I played it safe and introduced audio books by first using books that my kids were familiar with.

Dr Seuss's The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites audio book (as read by Kelsey Grammer, John Lithgow, Walter Mathau, Billy Crystal...) opened the door to the world of audio books.

How could I miss the audio recording of Curious George? We enjoyed the manic monkey's escapades on our car's sound system too!

And I discovered something completely unexpected. Before we started listening to audio books on our car trips, our drives used to be complete mayhem - punctuated with screams, shouts and fights from the back seat.

Audio books changed that forever. Now, my twins just scream "Play the story!" as soon as they buckle up in their booster seats and that's about it.

No more: "When are we going to arrive?" or "Are we there yet?" or "Let's stop!!!"

The only shouts you can hear in the family car are "Play it!"

As soon as we finish the last two chapters of Lemony Snicket's The End, our next audio book adventure is going to be the entire 12-unit audio set of Arthur Rackham's Swallows and Amazons book series.

Please don't tell my kids.

It's a surprise!

PS If you wondered, I listen to all these audiobooks together with my kids. I don't leave them to it. It's family entertainment! Reading still has to be a shared enjoyment.






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