The Educational Benefits of Audiobooks

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. –Jim Trelease, author of The Read Alound Handbook

audiobook kids

The Benefits of Reading Aloud

When I attended college back in the 1990’s, we elementary education majors got an earful about the 1985 findings of the U.S. Department of Education’s Commission on Reading. Study after study was telling us that reading to children is one of the very best ways to help children become successful readers.

That consensus hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. It’s a philosophy that was pushed heavily in the schools where I worked. When I stopped teaching to raise a family and it became apparent that two of my kids struggled with varying degrees of dyslexia, I read widely on the subject. Guess what the experts recommended? Reading aloud in a variety of formats: teachers reading to students, students reading to teachers, teachers reading chorally with their students, students reading chorally with other students, students performing practiced text aloud to an audience, students recording practiced text, etc, etc, etc.

brainAgain and again studies suggest that listening provides many of the same benefits as reading. And it seems that taking in language audibly and visually creates connections within different parts of the brain that aid a variety of reading skills: decoding, comprehension, increased vocabulary, fluency, word recognition…

I opted to homeschool my low readers so I could impliment these suggestions liberally throughout the school day and across the curriculum. It was a wise decision. Though they aren’t quite up to grade level, their proficiency has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years.

Audiobooks: A Practical Solution

But very few teachers have a 1:2 teacher to student ratio. And parents may not have time to read aloud as much as they would like to. Let me suggest a very practical solution: audiobooks.

Many teachers I know actually record themselves reading classroom books and provide their students with MP3 players so they can listen while reading along. I did this with my boys. It’s a great way for kids to practice reading without direct help. But pre-recording all those books takes a lot of time. And the quality? Um… Let’s just say listening to professional voice artists is far more enjoyable. Reading along can be really FUN!

But aren’t audiobooks expensive?

They don’t have to be! If you buy an ebook on Amazon, the audiobook is often available for a ridiculously low price. For example, the audiobook for The Candle Star lists on Amazon for $14.95. But if you purchase the ebook for 99 cents, you have the option of adding the audiobook for another $1.99. That is a significant savings! Just look for “Add Audible narration” on the page listing.

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I don’t know how to listen to an audiobook.

No problem. You can turn any device you own into an audiobook player (Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Android phone, iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, Android tablets, even your PC or MP3 player). Just download the appropriate app and bingo! You’re listening.

If you’re still not certain you want to jump onboard the audio bandwagon, let me suggest that audiobooks are absolutely AWESOME for family road trips. (They’re not bad for work commutes, lawn mowing, cooking, or other brain-free, hands-busy moments either.)

Before you go, please pop over to my audiobook page where you can listen to the first chapter of each of my audiobooks free. My comrads over at Emblazon also have a growing selection of kid-friendly titles, often for dirt cheap through Amazon’s narration option. Now that you know about that little secret, you can watch for it on thousands of Amazon titles.

Audiobooks should never replace the special one-on-one time a parent and child share reading books together. But they’re an effective, practical, and inexpensive option for all those other “listenable” moments. Pick one out to enjoy with your family today.

Read an excerpt from chapter one of The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, “Why Read Aloud?”

 

Alora series, by Tamie Dearen

Today I have the honor of introducing you to author Tamie Dearen. I met Tamie last spring. We’re in the Clean Indie Reads group together. When she asked for initial proofreaders for book two of the series that features below, I had just finished up Ella Wood, so I volunteered.  (My mini-review: clean, compelling, hugely imaginative, and lovely. I’d suggest age 12+.) It releases soon. Here’s a sneak peek and cover reveal guest post from Tamie…

Cover Reveal for Alora: The Portal

The compelling story of the young soulmates, Alora and Kaevin, continues…

The adventure begins with Alora: The Wander-Jewel.

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Fifteen-year-old Alora has visions.

Only while in the shower. And only of one stranger: a handsome boy with long brown hair, intense green eyes, and the oddest clothes. A boy who vanishes whenever she opens her eyes.

And then one day, he doesn’t…

Alora’s safe world is soon turned upside-down as she’s thrust into another realm where her soulmate waits, magic abounds, and unfathomable evil seeks to claim her.


The epic fantasy continues in Alora: The Portal.

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Cover design by StunningBookCovers.com

If one of them dies, they both die.

Bound together as soulmates, something compels Alora and Kaevin to abandon the safety of their refuge for the dangers of Kaevin’s realm.

The soulmates arrive in the midst of a raging battle as Stone Clan warriors defend their capital, an attack made more deadly by the pervasive evil of her father. Alora and Kaevin face mortal danger as they fight against man and magick to preserve Kaevin’s home and heritage.

For Alora’s father will have her allegiance. Or her death.


Praise for Alora

“…I have to admit – I wish the book had not ended! …The romance is sweet rather than steamy making this a clean read for young adults, but the action and adventure is thrilling enough to keep any age reader turning pages…” Today’s Visions

“I found Alora to be a breath of fresh air in the YA fantasy genre! … A YA fantasy with characters you will adore and cheer for, Alora is a book I would recommend to any of my friends!” Books Are Sanity

Alora: The Portal is available on Amazon for the special pre-order price of 99¢ through the August 31 release date! As a bonus, Alora: The Wander-Jewel will be FREE on August 30 through August 31!

Find Tamie Dearen on her website, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.


Excerpt from Alora: The Wander-Jewel

Alora fought the urge to beat on the tile wall. He’d disappeared again. Who was this
boy she kept seeing? Why did he only appear when she was in the shower? He seemed so
real, and she could have sworn he looked as confused as she felt. As if he was trying to
figure out who she was, as well. Was he a figment of her imagination? His eyes were so
unusual. They were green. Not an ordinary green, but a deep, intense jade, the color of
her aunt’s emerald ring. He was really cute, although he wore his wavy brown hair a little
long for her taste. Yet she could only see his head—never his clothes or the background.
Today he’d tied his hair back in a ponytail. Surely the fact he’d changed his hair was
significant. Wouldn’t a figment of her imagination have his hair the same every time?

She peeked around the shower curtain at the clock on the bathroom counter. It was
five a.m. on a Saturday, and she had chores to do, feeding the horses and letting the
chickens out. But it was winter, so she had plenty of time to spare before the rising sun
tolled the beginning of her responsibilities. Living on a ranch in the backcountry of
Montana meant cold winters, lots of work, and little time for leisure. It was the only life
she’d ever known, and she usually enjoyed it, despite the heavy work involved.
But right now, she wanted another stab at seeing that boy. The image was always so
fuzzy. If only he wouldn’t disappear when she opened her eyes. She couldn’t summon his
visage at will. He didn’t come every time she closed her eyes in the shower; it seemed to
happen when she was relaxing and letting the water beat down on her head and shoulders.
Maybe, if she were soaking in the tub, she might see his image again.

She pushed the curtain back, put in the stopper, and turned the faucet on full blast. As
an afterthought, she added bubble bath, filling the tub with fragrant suds. Soon the bath
was full, with aromatic bubbles foaming on top. She eased into the soothing water,
closing her eyes at the blissful caress of the heat on her tight muscles. And she waited.
Anticipating. Would he come? She tried to stay alert, but the relaxing warmth seeped into
her skin, lulling her to sleep.

Awakening with a start in the cold water, disappointment formed a knot in her
stomach—he’d never appeared. She released some water down the drain and added hot
water, swirling it around until the temperature was comfortable again. She had five more
minutes before she had to abandon her bath to start her workday. She lay back down,
sinking below the water with her eyes closed, swishing the fresh water over her skin to
remove the bubble bath film, her face floating above the surface to breathe.

He appeared. She held her breath, clamping her eyes shut tight, trying to hold the
image as long as possible. Though the apparition was still slightly blurry, she could see
all of him, head to toe. She took advantage of her increased perception, thoroughly
studying his image. She almost clapped her hands when her mental measurement
estimated his height at over six feet. At five feet ten, she was taller than most boys her
age. But she scolded herself for examining him as if he were a potential boyfriend. He
wasn’t even real. His clothes were made of supple-looking brown leather. The attire was
odd—held together with ties and toggles rather than buttons or zippers. The fit was close
enough that his well-formed muscles were evident. She noted his long hair was tied back,
as it had been earlier. She could only see the front of him as he stood frozen, stock-still,
with his mouth agape, his jewel-green eyes wide and… moving. His eyes were moving, up
and down, as if he were scanning her body as she had done. And it occurred to her if she
could see all of him, he might be able to see all of her.

She gasped, opening her eyes to dispense with the specter. But his image remained,
now sharp and clear. And he seemed to be standing in her bathroom. She cowered under
the water, attempting to hide under the few remaining bubbles. His eyes dropped down to
her navel, and as they widened, he whispered, “Wendelle?”

Lunging for her towel on the floor, she screamed at the top of her lungs. Hastily
covering herself and preparing to leap from the tub, she looked up, only to discover the
vision was gone—if indeed it had been a vision.

Read the first two chapters of Alora: The Wander-Jewel here.

Redwall, by Brian Jacques

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(I just got home from 2 weeks without internet. I’ve been off the grid and out of touch, but I’m back and trying to catch up!) :)

I’m very late to this party. Before there was Harry Potter (90’s), there was Redwall (80’s). Where was I?

I thought perhaps I had read this long ago, as I had faint impressions of it, but on the advice of This Kid Erik, I decided to grab a copy and read it again. It was completely new to me. Then I found out a cartoon series has been done of this series. After looking it up, I’m pretty sure that’s where my obscure memories stem from. I must have seen an episode or two.

So how’d I like the book?

It was really cute and adventurous, though I wasn’t blown away by it. Probably as a kid I would have been. It’s the bigger than life kind of tale I would have treasured.

Redwall is a monastery. The mice of Redwall are peaceful and practice good to all. But a monstrous rat, Cluny the Scourge, sets out to capture the abbey and claim it as his own. This is the epic battle between Cluny’s evil army of rats, stoats, and weasels against the loveable woodland creatures on the side of right. And at the center of the adventure, an old legend of the long-ago hero of Redwall blends with a brave young mouse who possesses the heart of a champion.

The cast is comprised of all animals. Though the goings-on inside Redwall have a distinctly middle ages flavor—it feels almost historic, other than there are no humans. I’d judge the reading level to be approximately fifth grade, but I’d rate entirely appropriate for ages 8+ with one caveat. Keep in mind that the entire pretext is a battle, with weapons and death, villains and heroes. The violence is not gratuitous, and the animals give it a fairy tale flavor. It’s definitely a high stakes adventure. But not all the furry woodland animals make it to the end of the book, if that poses a problem for your young reader. Definitely an engaging tale. It’s no wonder it’s considered a classic by so many. Highly recommended.

News! News! Two Audiobooks!

Just a quick post with news. Summer gets so nuts, I don’t think I ever announced that my Song of the Mountain audiobook released a couple weeks ago. And today Taylor Davis and the Flame of Findul released. So excited! Both narrators are absolutly fantastic!

Song is probably my favorite book to date, but Taylor had me laughing out loud as I proofed the audio on a road trip over the Fourth of July. My daughter (who was trying to sleep) kept grumbling, “Mom, quit laughing. You wrote it.” She’s obviously underwhelmed having an internationally famous author for a mother. :)

Song of the Mountain

SongOfTheMountain_AudioBook-Cover

Buy it links:
Audible | Amazon | iTunes

Click here to get a free copy of Song of the Mountain with a 30-day trial membership on Audible.

Taylor Davis and the Flame of Findul

FlameOfFindul_Audiobook_coverBuy it links:

Audible | Amazon | iTunes

Click here to get a free copy of Taylor Davis and the Flame of Findulwith a 30-day trial membership on Audible.

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

the-invention-of-wings-sue-monk-kidd_t580This book isn’t exactly children’s literature, though it is appropriate for a young adult audience. I’m featuring it today because its subject is so incredibly intertwined with that of my latest book, Ella Wood. In fact, The Invention of Wings was recommended to me by two of my blog readers after I began sharing snipets of research this past spring in anticipation of Ella Wood‘s May release. I had dedicated an entire post to the Grimke sisters. I chose not to read Ms. Kidd’s book until Ella Wood was completed. A couple months have now passed, and I finished The Invention of Wings last night.

This is the slightly fictionalized story of Sarah Grimke and a fictional slave whose character was inspired by Sarah’s actual childhood maid. It’s a beautiful, engaging tale that breathes life, motiviation, and emotion into an important historical figure, making her eminently relateable. Ms. Kidd has a grace and beauty to her prose. You all know how I love word pictures. Her writing is chock full of them. And her characters live. The harsh backdrop of history provides the only villian needed. I guarentee you will become engrossed in Sarah’s struggle to change the institution of slavery and suffer along with Handful as she endures the cruelties inflicted on her. This is a story, not a history text. One that will capture you from beginning to end. One I highly recommend.

I must stay again, Sarah and Angelina Grimke were an amazing pair of ladies. Pioneers in the abolitionist and women’s movements. Ms. Kidd, in her author note at the end of the book, mentions how shocked she was to never have heard mention of them before, and she a resident of Charleston, the Grimke’s home town. I felt much the same way when I first discovered them. I’ve done so much reading and research about the Civil War, how had I not come across these names sooner? But I did, last year, and I had to work them in Ella Wood, even though it takes place a few decades after Sarah and Angelina stopped lecturing. They provided a historical justification for my character of Emily, both for her anti-slavery and female ambition leanings, and their literature proved an excellent resource for Emily’s growth.

I read two of the biographical sources Ms. Kidd listed in her bibliography during my research last winter. Being familiar with the Grimke’s life stories made reading this fictionalized account doubly fascinating. But you don’t have to have background knowledge to enjoy a beautifully rendered tale grounded in our country’s past. Pick it up for yourself!

I know Ms. Kidd is leagues above me in fan base and notoriety, but I tweeted her anyway. I also know how busy authors are, and how obnoxious other authors begging for help can be. But Sue, if you actually read my tweet and landed here, I assure you I’m not looking for a leg up. If you’re so inclined, I’d simply like to offer you a complimentary copy of Ella Wood with no strings attached. Just because we share a love of history as well as admiration for these two fabulous ladies. And because the two books compliment each other so beautifully.

Taylor Davis Serial Adventures

Yes, after announcing yesterday that I’ll be posting less frequently, I’m back already with big news to share! Taylor Davis is releasing as individual episodes!

Findul episode 1 Findul episode 2 Findul episode 3 Findul episode 4 Findul Episode 5 Findul Episode 6

Clash Episode 1 Clash Episode 2 Clash Episode 3 Clash Episode 4 Clash Episode 5 Clash Episode 6

My Taylor Davis series has been something of an enigma. When I poll kids familiar with my work, it’s almost unfailingly cited as their favorite of all my books, yet it is my worst selling series. My only explanation for the difference in sales is that my other books, particularly my historical fiction, are being picked up by adults who aren’t necessarily buying for kids. Of course, kids aren’t buying for themselves. So my everlasting question is, how do I get this book in front of parents? A tough one, since most parents purchase through schools, and traditional publishers still have a stranglehold on school markets. In other words, all school-related outlets are absolutely closed to indie authors.

So releasing each individual episode is my newest idea to get Taylor in the hands of kids. Since the humor and action are so ideal for reluctant boy readers, I decided to make the length reluctant reader-friendly, as well.

Both Taylor Davis books were originally written in six 10,000-word episodes for Amazon’s new-at-the-time serial program. But Amazon wasn’t interested in children’s serials, so I ultimately released them as a two full-length novels. While the novels will remain available, I am releasing each individual episode as a separate book in a perfect size for youngsters who may be intimidated by the complete work. New bright covers have the same quirky kid-appeal as the text. And the price for each is absolutely as low as I can make it.

All six episodes of Taylor Davis: Flame of Findul are now available in digital and paperback. Taylor Davis: Clash of Kingdoms will be finished soon! Book one is currently in production as an audiobook, but each episode will also be released as a separate audiobook. Book two is pending.

You can find blurbs and links to the entire series here. Or grab Episode 1 now. It’s FREE!

Findul episode 1Taylor Davis: Flame of Findul, Episode 1

Kindle | Paperback | Nook

Keeping Safe the Stars, by Sheila O’Connor

KeepingSafe_FINAL.inddThis is a sweet, unhurried story that takes place in 1972. Pride Star, newly thirteen and the oldest of three siblings, lives with their grandfather, Old Finn. Except Old Finn left for the hospital and doesn’t come back. With just ten dollars in the cupboard, Pride tries her hardest to take care of her family. Old Finn taught them to be fiercely independent. To keep to themselves and never trust strangers. But as the days stretch longer and Old Finn is still away fighting encephalitis, she fears someone will call the county to take them away and put them in foster care.

This story is told against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal. Even as Nixon found himself encased in a web of lies, so does Pride. She’s only trying to do what’s best for her family, to keep them together and provided for. Eventually, she must acknowledge her deceit and seek help. But who to trust?

This one is rich with the cultural history of the 70’s (some of which I remember), that adds richness to the story and grounds it in reality. But the book never grabs me. The characters are okay. I do feel sympathy for Pride, and the other kids are likeable, but the story moves quite slowly. Especially the ending, that stretched about fifty pages beyond my attention span. O’Conner does provide some solid reasons for Old Finn’s reclusiveness—disagreement with Vietnam that attracts government attention as well as a desire to not call announce to the fact that an old man is raising and homeschooling three young children. He fears the county may take the children away and place them with someone younger. Someone female. His fears transfer to Pride, but sometimes I just rolled my head at her stubbornness. I guess this one just didn’t resonate with me.

I wouldn’t write it off, however. The writing is very lovely, and the story sound. It’s safe and low key—the kind of book my young nieces enjoy. But I prefer a bit more unpredictability and adventure. I’d rate it a solid three stars.

Find it on Amazon.