I have to be honest, the thought of audiobooks never appealed to me. I tried, tried, and tried again to listen to no avail. Sometimes, the minute the narrator's voice came on, I shut the story off. I just could not listen to that voice! That is, until two very different situations occurred. They were unrelated, but turned out to have the same solution...audiobooks.
The first was a common situation that most parents find themselves in eventually. As most seasoned parents know, the older your children become, the greater the time spent in the car shuttling them from school to sports, dance, and whatever other activities they are involved in at the moment. Sometimes, it feels like if there were a bathroom and shower in the vehicle, you may never leave.
The second situation was a cross-country move to an area of the world where radio is intermittent at best. My commute takes me across two or sometimes three states in one day, several times a day. It is difficult if not impossible for me to figure out radio stations and program them into my car stereo. Frankly, I don't have the patience for that kind of detail. I'm lucky if my keys, sunglasses and coffee leave the house with me at the same time. So, I spent much of the time in the car tuned to the sounds of silence. My iPod was a poor substitute and there is only so much music I can listen to at a stretch.
These two situations were fast becoming untenable. Not only do my children have the attention spans of about a minute and a half for whatever activity I have brought to keep them occupied for whatever length of time we will be in the car, but their favorite activity is to irritate each other when they think I'm not looking. And most of the time I am not looking because I'm trying to figure out where I'm going and navigate through traffic, tolls, etc. Sound familiar? After mediating what felt like the one thousandth battle of the siblings from the front seat, having no agreement from them about the type of music they wanted to hear when there was actually music to tune into, I decided to give the audiobooks a shot. Desperate times call for desperate measures to be sure.
I chose Harry Potter, Book One for my first foray because I had read the book several times and I could almost recite it by heart. I was not up for a book that seemed innocuous enough only to be embroiled in a discussion about something that I really didn't want to be explaining. By the way - I recommend this practice for all people shuttling children. Read/listen to the book before assuming that it is appropriate for kids.
Jim Dale, the narrator of the audiobook I chose was nothing short of spectacular. I put in the first disc and heard something I have never experienced before - silence in the car. It was so quiet, I actually adjusted the rearview mirror to see the kids and make sure they were ok. After driving for about ninety minutes, we were at our destination. When I shut off the radio it was to a chorus of "hey! I was listening to that!" Music to my ears.
As a librarian, I am always looking for ways to put books in people's hands...or in this case, their heads. Children love to be read to. If you cannot do it, how about borrowing an audiobook or two and giving it a try?
I liked the audiobooks so much, I listened to all the Harry Potter's on audio. Now I'm on to David McCullough's John Adams. I'm hooked. Of course, every audiobook I have listened to came from my friendly public library. Can't beat the price!
Try it for yourself. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!