Summer Listening

May 27, 2019

As many families embark on vacations this summer, and kids are captive audiences in the car, it's a great time to utilize a sometimes overlooked method of reading for kids - audio books!  Audio books are a completely valid way to experience books, and for certain books, they can be the best way to experience them. Kids may not be enthusiastic listeners at first, but I encourage parents to push past any initial resistance and insist on some family listening time anyway. The benefits can be priceless, and even if they never admit it, the kids will probably find they don't hate it. And I say all this as someone who is not an audiobook person myself! I much prefer to have a book in my hand, and it takes some extra mental effort for me to focus on listening to one instead. But I have found that there is value in making the effort, both for the benefit of those of my kids who are audio learners, as well as for whole family. 

A key to enjoying an audiobook experience, however, is finding the right one. No one likes listening to a narrator with a grating voice, and if that's the case for one you begin, don't feel guilty about not finishing! There a plenty of good ones, though, and it's worth the time in finding them. Personal tastes will vary, of course, but here are a few I would recommend:

1 Rascal, by Sterling North, narrated by Jim Weiss. (Pretty much anything by Jim Weiss, actually, as he has a soothing voice and unparalleled storytelling ability.) Rascal tells the tale of the author's adventures with his pet raccoon in 1918, and it's at once humorous and touching. 

2. Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan, various narrators. At ten and a half hours in length, this is one for particularly long trips! It's a fascinating mixed-genre tale that is part fairy tale/fantasy and part historical fiction. The audio version includes musical sound effects that greatly enhance the listening experience, and it's altogether enchanting and compelling.

3. The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Graeme Malcom. This is a fantasy tale about a mouse, but the threads of forgiveness, love, and redemption are very real, and it's wonderful as a read-aloud or as an audiobook. 

4. Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. Try to find the version also narrated by White, as it's particularly charming and heartwarming. I have read that it took him numerous takes to record the chapter in which Charlotte dies, because he kept choking up with tears, and that emotional connection with his beloved characters is evident in the telling. 

5. Gregor the Overlander, and the rest of the Underland Chronicles, by Suzanne Collins, narrated by Paul Boehmer. I know I keep mentioning this series, and waving it in the student's faces every time they ask for a book recommendation...but I really love it! It's a great series, and the audio version is pleasing. 

The links all lead to Amazon's Audible versions, but that's just one way of accessing them.  You can also try your local library's digital collection, especially if they have Hoopla or Overdrive, and of course you can find CD versions in a library's Audio CD collections.

Share your own audiobook recommendations by posting in the comments below! And if you listen to any of the ones above, I'd love to hear what you think of them!

-Mrs. Meester

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