On August 2nd, I was dismayed and confused by a disparaging article about audio books that ran in the NY Times. The article, “Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways,” expounded on the idea that listening to a book is inferior to reading that same title. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE books–the varieties of covers, the feel of a page, even the different fonts all enhance my reading experience. However, the merits of audio books are numerous and shouldn’t be discounted just because the format is less conventional than the printed word.
Audio books allow people to spend their commuting time reading (for many this is hours every day!). They also provide an option for readers who have failing eyesight or for multi-taskers who enjoy hearing a good book while working, painting, cooking, cleaning, etc.
In addition to these groups of adults, children and teens can gain invaluable literacy experiences through listening. Whether it’s a car full of kids going on vacation who pass the time by listening to Hoot, or a challenged teen reader who loves listening to Artemis Fowl, they’re all learning by listening. Audio books stimulate imagination and help immensely with vocabulary, comprehension, and pronunciation. Listening also draws in reluctant readers and exposes children to books they might not be able to tackle just by reading. Pairing audio books with text is especially advantageous, because it helps children read by providing audio cues to aid in decoding written words.
While researching and writing this post, my mind kept wandering back to comic books. In many ways these two formats (audio books and sequential art) are similar because they represent different ways of reading, not inferior ways, not cheating ways, but different ways. Comics require specific visual literacy skills; audio books require the listener to sharpen their auditory abilities. Both formats have been unfairly criticized in spite of their popularity with the general public, the silver lining being that they do seem to be finally gaining some of the credibility they deserve.
If you’re a fan of audio books then you know how wonderful the experience of listening can be and if you’ve never tried reading an audio book, check one out today!
For our youngest patrons (ages 4-7): Rabbit Ears Treasuries J CD SPOKEN RAB
Independent Readers (ages 8-12): Harry Potter Series J CD SPOKEN ROW
Young Adult Readers (ages 12 and up): Twilight YA CD SPOKEN MEY (COMING SOON!)
Challenged Readers: The Tale of Despereaux J CD SPOKEN DIC
For Grown-Ups: Shalimar the Clown CD SPOKEN RUS
Maugham, Shannon. “Summer Listening 101: Audiobooks Enhance Required Readings Lists.” Publishers Weekly June 14, 2004: 37.
Wilde, Susie. “Listen! It’s Good for Kids.” AudioFile Apr.-May 2007: 23-28.
~ Tricia is the youth librarian at OWL and loves books, movies, dark chocolate, Puccini Operas, playing Scrabble, and learning how to be a better cook.