When I was a kid, I looked forward to visiting the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library to check out read-alongs, which in those days took the format of a book and a cassette tape in a clear plastic bag with a convenient handle. As I remember, they were shelved on a wooden dowel in a little alcove underneath a set of stairs, which I thought was super-cool. But when I graduated to chapter books some time around third grade, I left audiobooks behind, and (wrongly) believed I wouldn’t like them. Finally, in my twenties, after about three months of a 3-hour round trip commute, I grew tired of listening to the radio and music CDs, and gave audiobooks a try. There’s been no going back. I still prefer to read my books on paper, but that’s not exactly something you can do safely while you’re driving. Plus, with the right reader, sometimes the audiobook is actually better.
Here are a few reasons to try audiobooks:
- Audiobooks offer your family the opportunity for a shared reading experience similar to reading aloud, but they are more convenient to squeeze into your busy schedule- you can listen in the car, while you clean the house, or while you draw or work on crafts.
- They give kids access to books above their reading level, which introduces them to new vocabulary.
- It helps kids (and adults) build their listening skills- you must pay attention, because it is harder to back-track in an audiobook than in a printed book.
- By listening to a professional reader, kids build fluency, especially when they follow along in the printed book.
Here are some of our favorite audiobooks for listening together as a family:
The library offers several convenient ways to bring audiobooks to your family:
- CDs– If your car comes equipped with a CD player, this is probably the easiest way to listen together in the car. We have hundreds of titles to choose from.
Playaways– All you need is a pair of headphones to plug into this convenient, lightweight, pre-loaded MP3 player. The controls are intuitive to kids who have been raised in the digital age- my child could navigate a Playaway on her own at age 4 with just a few basic instructions. She loved being able to wander around the house while she listened to a book rather than sitting in one place.
Read-alongs– These picture books with a CD tucked into the back pocket are perfect for kids just learning to read.
Playaway Bookpacks– A special kid-friendly playaway with fewer buttons as well as several read-along picture books are conveniently packaged into one item for easy check-out.
Downloads– The library has three digital download services that include audiobooks: OverDrive, OneClickdigital, and Hoopla. All three have user-friendly apps for your smartphone or tablet. If you have a wi-fi connection, you can have a new audiobook in minutes! Bonus: these items automatically return at the end of the checkout period, so that’s one less thing on your to-do list.
Playaway Views- Check out the bookshelf below for easy-to-use video players that feature engaging children’s stories narrated by professional actors.
- On the web- Visit Tumblebooks or Storyline Online through the Kids Library webpage. Your elementary-aged child has probably used one or both of these before at school, so take a backseat and let them teach you how!
The time you spend listening to audiobooks definitely counts for summer reading, so don’t forget to log those minutes!