My latest toy is an 80 GB ipod classic, and one of the benefits of owning it is that I have been able to introduce Arjun and Rishi to the world of audiobooks. Previously used mainly (but of course not solely) by the blind and the illiterate, audiobooks have gained new popularity in the wider world because people are so busy multi-tasking that it is easier to listen to a story while they get something else done, than put everything aside and sit down with a book. I am not saying that listening to books is better than reading them. Reading develops a different skill set- one that is very valuable. But sometimes it’s fun to just listen while someone tells you a story, and you know, listening develops a whole new set of skills that are as valuable as the ones that reading does.
I often visit a site called audible.com, because they have so many audio resources. My favourite downloads from the site so far are the Intelligence Squared debates. But they also have great resources for children and students, and on my last visit, I picked up an audiobook for kids called ‘No Talking’. It is set in an American elementary school, and tells the story of a particular group of fifth graders who embark on a competition to see which group among them, boys or girls, can get through 2 whole days using the smallest number of words. Such a simple story line, but so well developed. The writer, Andrew Clements, spun the tale so well, taking advantage of all the possibilities that such a situation would throw up: teachers’ reactions, kids’ alliances and arguments, parents’ doubts, and so many more.
We started listening one day in the car- you can buy this transmitter that connects to the car radio, and hook it up to the ipod- and we were all hooked. It became such a joy to share the story together. We kept talking about it even when we weren’t listening, and tried out some of the things the kids did to avoid speaking. In between listening we often had to hit the pause button because one of us wanted to comment on something. The book itself was brilliantly written, but because of the audio format, it became something that we could all share at the same time.
See if you can find the book at the library. You don’t have to listen to the audio recording to enjoy the story. I’m sure the book is equally engaging. I know the story was written for children but I learned a lot from it, and had a marvellous time along the way.