By Karen Hendricks
How hard (or easy) is it to encourage summer reading time for your kids? Even if your kids are voracious readers like mine, it’s good to change up the reading routine with a fresh approach. And if it’s a struggle to keep your kids reading through the summer, this idea might also help hook them on books. The idea? Audio books!
There’s no question that reading is one of the most valuable skills our children can acquire during their school years. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that audio books are the best format for kids to latch onto during the summer. Here are a few reasons why:
- The change in format makes reading more fun, less like “homework.”
- The narrations are entertaining, and the art of listening / focusing is so important. Kids who can truly listen and comprehend a book will be able to better listen to adults, instructions, speeches, etc.
- Listening to a book allows the narration, sound effects, music, etc. to paint a picture of the book’s events in your child’s mind. I think it’s a great way to spark the imagination! This would be as opposed to “seeing” the book come to life in movie format. Movies are never as good as the books. But I would argue that audio books are usually as good as the book—sometimes even better because it gives your child’s imagination a jump start.
One of the best times to listen to an audio book is in the car while traveling. My family has listened to numerous audio books while traveling on vacation, or during regular road trips to summer camps, sports practices/games, etc. It’s made the miles fly by and I really enjoy the fact that we’re sharing the experience of listening to the same book. We often talk about our reactions to the plot—great discussions! This brings up another topic: Do you have family rules for traveling? Are the kids allowed to listen to iPods, MP3 players, etc? Or is there one “family” radio station / CD / etc. playing for everyone to listen to? Or do you watch DVDs while traveling? This might be a great topic for a future blog! Reminds me of Jen’s previous blog on screen rules.
Back to books… Sometimes the narrator or characters’ voices can “make or break” an audio book. If you don’t enjoy listening to a particular voice, give another audio book a try. Most of the ones we’ve tried have been very good. Here’s a list of suggested titles or series to try—all enjoyed by my family through the years:
- The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne (Ages 8+) – A wonderful collection of books that combine a love of nature and history with learning, in an entertaining way. Fairly short audio books are perfect for shorter car rides or shorter attention spans.
- The American Girl series by various authors (Ages 8+) – This series instills an appreciation for history in young girls and is beautifully done. My husband and son deserve special pats on the back for listening to many of these books during vacation treks!
- Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (Ages 8+) – A classic that “children” of all ages enjoy. Even if you have a range of ages in your family, hopefully the older children will enjoy revisiting this childhood favorite.
- The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (Ages 9+) – These audio books will transport you straight to Hogwarts! Even if your children have read the books, it’s fun to experience the audio versions, and again, I think there’s appeal to children of all ages. I have to say, I truly enjoyed listening to the series!
- The Shiloh trilogy: Shiloh, Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Ages 8+) – From Amazon: When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight — and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun — and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his? Great family discussions can come from this series.
- Holes by Louis Sachar (Ages 8+) – From Amazon: This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (Ages 8+) – Amazon.com’s review: In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, (Lois) Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price. This book, I have to admit, freaked me out a bit, but ultimately, led to some great family chats.
If you enjoy audio books, let us know which ones you and/or your children recommend! Happy reading (or listening)!