Monday, October 12, 2015

Making the case for Audiobooks

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” ~Becoming a Nation of Readers

At the beginning of the school year, I hosted an “Ideas & Info” morning in the library. Parents were invited to come and hear the lowdown on volunteering, our new Makerspace, and future author visits. I also spent a few minutes encouraging parents to be deliberate in making reading an enjoyable experience for their children. Included in my soapbox spiel was the importance and value of audiobooks for both reluctant and proficient readers. I grew up in a family where audiobooks were a part of daily life. We listened to them in the car, at night, during meal preparations, and during rest time. Therefore I was shocked by a post-soapbox comment from a parent. She expressed to me and the other parents that she thought audiobooks were a hindrance to a child’s literacy development. She called them “a crutch” and a “lazy way of reading”. As other parents added their two cents, I discovered that the majority of the parents considered audiobooks the easy way out and only benefitted struggling readers or children with learning struggles. After recovering from the shock, I quickly reassured everyone that the opposite was true.  Unfortunately, a few of the teachers also believed that audiobooks were “cheating” and forbade students to check them out or listen to them.

The revelation sparked a fire in this teacher-librarian and I spent the rest of the year dispelling the lies and spreading the truth about (to quote Rocket the dog) “glorious, wonderful” audiobooks. Here are a few things that I implemented in my audiobook awareness campaign:

·       Infographic Listening Library and the Audio Publishers Association has a wonderful Literacy Toolkit available on their site. I downloaded the Infographic and sent it home in students’ Friday folders.

·       Playaways in the Classroom Most elementary classrooms’ Literacy block included centers. I worked hard to get playaways into the classrooms as one of the center rotations, “Listen to Reading”. Teachers were reluctant at first and so I basically did all of the work and delivered the “center” to their classroom. My center included a folder with Listening Response sheets, a few sets of headphones, and several playaways and the coordinating books. I then visited each class and did a detailed step-by-step lesson on playaways. Students are personal technology natives and caught on very quickly. I keep playaways and their coordinating books on a bench so that student and teachers can come trade them out as needed. Limitless Libraries (@LimitlessLib) was a huge asset in supplying teachers with playaways. They have an extensive collection of Playaway Bookpacks available for checkout.

·       Whole Class Novels I teach RTI for 1st-4th grade. For each of these classes, I chose a novel that was above most of the students reading levels. For example, Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Nim’s Island for 1st grade and a Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World for 3rd grade. The school had class sets of several of the novels and I was able to order the rest of the novels. I wanted each child to have a copy of the novel during class. I also checked out the audiobook from the Nashville Public Library. The 45 minute blocks have the following structure: 1) Students put their notebooks/pencils on the tables, pick up a novel from my basket, and gather on the rug. I quickly go over new vocabulary using a powerpoint with short definitions and pictures. Then I choose three students to give me one sentence summarizing what happened in the previous chapter. Then each child turns to the day’s chapter and I start the audiobook. Students are instructed to follow along “with their eyes” and I am diligently scanning to make sure that they are indeed following along. After we are done with the day’s listening we have a quick discussion and the students go and journal or complete an activity in their notebooks. If time allows, I’ll occasionally show parts of the movie if there is one that follows the book closely. Once they know the routine, students love this structured reading and reading a book together allows us to share a reading experience.

·       Summer Reading Tip Sheet I sent home a summer reading packet in May. Included in the packet was an Audiobooks YES or NO tip sheet. I summed up several research studies encouraging parents to include audiobooks into their family’s summer.

Here are a few of my favorite audiobooks:
The Ramona Quimby series (narrated by Stockard Channing)
The Henry Huggins series  (narrated by Neil Patrick Harris!!)
Charlotte’s Web (narrated by E.B.White)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (narrated by Roald Dahl)
Young Fredle (narrated by Wendy Carter)
The True Meaning of Smek Day (narrated by Bahni Tupri)
Little House in the Big Woods (narrated by Cherry Rose)
How to Train Your Dragon (narrated by David Tennant)
Fudge-a-mania (narrated by Judy Blume)
The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (by the BBC Full-Cast)
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World (Taylor Mali)
Titanic Voices from the Disaster (Mark Bramhall)
The House at Pooh Corner (narrated by Peter Dennis)
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (narrated Nick Sullivan)
Matilda (narrated by Kate Winslet)
Peter and the Starcatchers (narrated by Dave Barry)
The Wizard of Oz (narrated by Anne Hathaway)
The Boxcar Children (narrated Phyllis Newman)
Jim Weiss is, “a master storyteller and author.” He brings legends, myths, and historical stories to life.  His original audio recordings have been best-sellers for over two decades and have won scores of awards, including (among many others) honors from the Film Advisory Board, the American Library Association, Booklist, and Audiofile.

MNPS Teacher-Librarian

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