In this 3rd post in the “Friday Favorites” series, I’m continuing with the literary theme. To read past Friday Favorites, click here.
When our oldest son was about three, my husband and I were on a mission to find an age-appropriate children’s Bible. Our hunt led us to many favorite children’s Bibles, but one, in particular, left an imprint on our family that we weren’t anticipating.
I still remember the day that we were in our local bookstore. Our beloved friend worked there, and we had solicited him for our mission. (He chose to accept it. :) ) We were desirous of a children’s Bible that had an accompanying set of CDs with it. This book introduced to me the idea of having a child listen to the Bible while following along in his/her corresponding paper copy. So, the mission commenced, and our friend directed us to The Word & Song Children’s Bible , which had a Bible and coordinating cds. We immediately bought the Bible and cds and began letting our son listen to them during afternoon nap time and at bed time.
To say that my husband and I were flabbergasted as we discovered how much of the Bible our son was comprehending would be….an understatement. For example, one morning he wakes us up, all decked out in warrior fashion with his homemade weapon, which consisted of a cell phone charger cord tied around a yard stick. “Dad, I need to kill the people who don’t worship God.” My husband, the sage that he is, begins explaining to our son why, according to Scripture, it is wrong to kill other human beings. Our son quickly retorts, “But Dad, God had to destroy the Edomites because they didn’t worship Him.”
My husband knew that our son was referring to the story from the Minor Prophet book, Obadiah. Who had been teaching him stories from the Old Testament?!?!? It wasn’t us, and it wasn’t his Sunday School teachers. After a few minutes of racking our brains, we remembered the Word and Song Bible cds. Yup, that was it; the culprit was the Bible cds. He had soaked up the story of Obadiah by listening to it on a cd. In that moment, we didn’t consciously vocalize the decision, but from then forward, we began using cds as a means of exposing our oldest son (and, now, all three of them) to literature.
I write often about books that we read aloud as part of school or together as a family. If it were up to me, I would read aloud to my boys all day long. However, the piles of laundry, mounds of dust bunnies, and stores of uncooked food in my fridge thwart my read-all-day plans. Sigh. Wish that I may, Super Mom, I am not. As we learned from our oldest son’s early years, audio books can be used to “read” to my sons, even when I am not able. As a result, audio books have become a significant medium in the life of our sons, and our entire family, frankly, whereby literature is introduced. So, today, for this edition of Friday Favorites, I share this family favorite, audio books, with you and why we love them so much!
Why I Love Using Audio Books With My Children
1) Audio books expose my sons to great stories that are above their reading level.
In the book, The Core, by Classical Conversations founder Leigh Bortins, she recommends that children read consistently on three different levels: below, at, and above their reading level. One way that I have my boys “read” above their reading level is by listening to audio books. Of course, my heart’s desire is to read every book known to man to my sons, but time does not always permit that. Audio books have helped me stretch the amount of time each day that my boys are being “read to” above their reading level. The audio books that I select for them fall into that category 99.9% of the time. They could not independently read the book they’re listening to, but they can easily comprehend it. An audio book gives them the opportunity to “read” classic literature now at ages 8, 6, and 4. They would have to wait 5-10 years to be able to read such books independently, but why make them wait that long when they are fully able to understand them now? Audio books assist significantly with this.
2) Audio books expand the “Mosley Homeschool” classroom.
Two years ago, we started The Story of the World as a history curriculum. With additional subjects that had to be completed and adding a second child to our homeschool “classroom,” the time that I had to read aloud our Story of the World chapters was diminishing. I checked out one set of the Story of the World audio books from our library, and my boys devoured it. They listened to the entire book in a week! This was the same book that was taking us months to read through together. I eventually bought all 4 volumes of Story of the World audio books, and my boys have listened to them multiple times. The audio books allowed my sons to independently take on a segment of their school, which freed me up to focus with them individually on the subjects that only I could teach. If you are a homeschooling family, perhaps an audio book is available with curriculum that you are using or one can be used in a strategic way with an existing subject that you are teaching.
3) Audio books increase fluency and vocabulary.
A dear friend is a public school teacher, and she introduced me to the Barnes and Noble Online Story time website, which has 16 books being read aloud with simultaneous video footage of the book. She used the website in her classroom and was the first person to explain, from an educational perspective, the benefits of audio books. Audio books aid a child in increasing his/her fluency, which is the ability to smoothly, correctly read while simultaneously comprehending what he/she is reading. Audio books also expose a child to new vocabulary and introduces it within the context of a story, which increases his/her grasp of the new words. I, naively, assumed that audio books were handicapping my sons’ reading ability when in actuality they work just the opposite! To read more about this, peruse this article or this article.
4) Audio books make free time constructive.
Most afternoons in the Mosley casa, you will find our 3 sons enjoying some quality rest time in their rooms. Though nap time is long gone for my sons, the need to quiet themselves and have some time alone is still a reality. (There Mom needs this time too!) Rest time is also known as “audio book time” in our home. The bulk of my sons’ audio book listening occurs during their afternoon rest time. We may not be sitting at our school table plodding along through a school subject, but rest time in our home is wonderfully educational. This is the time that my boys have listened to the Story of the World audio books and other classics like Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Charlotte’s Web, and (a family favorite!) The Chronicles of Narnia.
Beyond rest time in our home, our family enjoys a good audio book while on a long trip. When we plan to travel an hour or longer, I make a special trip to our library to stock up on multiple audio books before we depart. Because our boys have grown accustomed to listening to audio books (remember, it won’t happen overnight!) for entertainment, they enjoy passing the time in the van with an audio book. On such occasions, I, personally, enjoy that we are listening to the same thing, which affords us great conversations as a family based on the book. I love how books can be used to create unity in our family. (Thank you, Honey for a Child’s Heart for letting me in on this little secret!) Of, if my husband and I want to have a conversation, a “date” in the car if you will, we turn the speakers to the back of the van. They listen to their audio book, and we enjoy time “alone” together. :)
5) Audio books cultivate a love of literature.
“Readers are leaders,” was a quote my Dad preached when I was a young girl. It has always stuck with me. I think about it often with my sons. Exposing a child to a vast expanse of literature ensures that he/she will find stories, an author or genre that the child enjoys. The child begins to associate positive sentiments and associations with reading; thus, a love of literature is being cultivated. I have no idea what God will call my sons to do, but I know one of the best ways I can prepare them for their unknown future is to cultivate within them a love of literature. To accomplish this, I read aloud with my boys…a lot, and I let them listen to audio books. Audio books, as a parent, have enabled me to introduce my sons to a variety of books that I may not have been able to read to them otherwise. In doing so, I have observed, first hand, their eyes dancing with joy and their talking-so-fast-I-can-hardly-understand-them summary about a book’s hero; they love books. As a disclaimer, this hasn’t always been the case! However, their love of books has grown through the intentional exposure to and the investment of time with books–being read by me and my husband or by a narrator on an audio book.
So, the next time you find yourself at your local library, ask the children’s librarian to direct you to the children’s audio book section. Let your child pick out a couple of audio books and create time in his/her life to listen to them. Remember that it may take several books for it to “click” with your child. Let them have some alone time in their rooms, listening to an audio book and building with Legos or playing Barbies. Pop in your child’s favorite book on cd in the car rider line at school or en route to soccer practice. Look for creative ways to incorporate audio books into your child’s life. You’ll be glad that you did!