So half-term is over for us but picture this if you will. We're in a (very small) car and It's raining. We have five hours to go until our final destination, which is not the most cheering of thoughts, but we have resolved - with a winning combination of gritted teeth and forced cheerfulness - that we are not going to rely heavily on individual devices to keep us amused but instead listen to the same music and stories together. Especially the stories. This is a good habit we are trying to get ourselves into but it often requires a bit of forward planning in the form of a download or a new purchase. So for all the effort required, why bother? Much like going to the cinema or the theatre as a family, engaging altogether in a narrative can be an opportunity to have something to have a chat about as quick reactions and critiques to events and of characters are given.
The act of listening to being read to requires nothing but a mild engagement in order to build a picture of the setting, characters, plot and dialogue, whilst delving into an actual physical book demands layers of attention - deeper reading using the whole cognitive process involved in reading. There's merit in both of course but as an adult I've listened to books that I've been reading at the same time to get through it (Book of Dust I'm looking at you). Admittedly it's easy sometimes to miss details that you need to pick up later because of visual distractions (wild horses in the New Forest lost us a whole chapter in Katherine Rundell's The Explorer) but there's no race to finish and we can always rewind.
The other merits of listening are to completely fall in love with the sound of someone else's voice. David Tennant was always going to be a winner but his reading of Cressida Cowell's The Wizard of Once was almost poetic. Likewise, Stephen Fry for Harry Potter and Anne Hathaway's Wizard of Oz. Frankly, I'm pretty sure I couldn't do a better job and we also love hearing the voice of a real author - Maz Evans was a joy to listen to.
There are times when listening feels complementary to an activity; our youngest adores listening whilst playing with Lego and the eldest is happy to do any artwork with a narrative in the background. The voices fill voids and create moods and an atmosphere of small focus, which help create quiet contemplation. They also help me feel like I haven't wasted my time entirely in a supermarket.
We love a play as well. I might be showing my age but a radio play or drama is a fine thing to get lost in. A dramatised book is even better! We've loved the radio (and much condensed) versions of Little Women and revisited Northern Lights this way.
We know we are not alone in this love. Neil Gaiman talks of his passion for them - he reads his own of course - and states to not appreciate is "just snobbery and foolishness". The accessibility is of course the bonus. A child with dyslexic tendencies can often find the decoding too much and yet is able to comprehend from text when read to them. A good audio book can support comprehension and through contemplation, help us to make those inferences we need as readers.
A final observation is that we haven't had a car journey for a long time now where children have said they are bored. In fact, there's been very few times where any of us have bickered (adults included). This in itself justifies any download time or cost. In fact it's a veritable investment!
Audiobooks we have enjoyed of late:
Wizards of Once (5 hours and 55 minutes) Read by David Tennant
Who Let The Gods Out? (7 hours and 16 minutes) Read by Maz Evans
Matilda (4 hours and 18 minutes) Read by Kate Winslet
The 1,000-Year-Old Boy (7 hours and 23 minutes) Read by Chris Coxon
A Boy Called Christmas (4 hours and 29 minutes) Read by Stephen Fry
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow (7 hours and 32 minutes) Read by Jessica Preddy
The Explorer (6 hours and 13 minutes) Read by Peter Noble
Posted in: Curriculum