How recording audiobooks preserved memories, strengthened family ties, and made my kids smarter
I am often amazed at how the simplest things can result in the biggest blessings. When my kids were little, I decided that we would only use the DVD player in the car if we were going on very long car trips. I wanted them to get used to being bored and to learn how to entertain themselves. Once a week, we would drive to my parents’ house, which was about 45 minutes away. They were too young to read or color in the car, and the ride was long enough that I wanted something to distract them. I decided audiobooks were the best way to do this.
So I started to record myself reading their favorite books. The kids were familiar enough with the books that they already knew the pictures on the pages by heart and they didn’t need to see them. Even though my eldest was only two at the time, the kids loved it and listening to the books soon became a favorite tradition. I recorded many of the books with my kids in the room with me. It was a struggle trying to keep them quiet while I was recording, but now those recordings are priceless. I love hearing their little voices and commentary.
Even though it has been over five years since we started, my kids still enjoy listening to the books I recorded when they were little. The kids are thrilled to hear themselves talking in some of the recordings and we laugh at how cute their little voices sound. They have grown up so much. Reliving those moments of reading to them when they were so small is priceless.
Strengthening family ties
I then started to ask family members to make recordings or I would record them when they were visiting. As a result, we were exposed to new books that I hadn’t heard before, learned about some of my husband’s childhood favorites, and my kids became familiar with the voices of family members who lived far away. Later, when we would visit family, my kids would remember aunts who they hadn’t seen in over a year because their voices were already familiar to them. It was also nice for me to hear their voices in the car with us. It made our family feel closer.
I also learned that my mother-in-law has a remarkable gift for reading out loud. I could listen to her all day. One of my husband’s favorite memories is of his mother reading to the family while they did the dishes. I can now see why. Whenever she starts to read “Helga’s Dowry: A Troll Love Story” by Tomie dePaola, the whole car goes silent. And if you haven’t read this book, you should. It is the story of an independent troll who takes charge of her life and destiny. She is a wonderful role model for girls.
Recently, I had her record “The Bee Who Would Not Work” so that I could share it here with all of you.
We love listening to the recordings so much, that I have started to request that relatives record books for us instead of sending gifts for Christmas and birthdays.
Recently my wonderful great aunt and bosom friend, Aunt Louise passed away. I can kick myself for not getting a recording of her reading. We have also missed recording my husband’s grandma. I am only now realizing what a wonderful way this is to preserve memories.
Making my kids smarter
It has also started a tradition of reading in our family. The kids both have strong vocabularies and were given a good head start at reading. They identify themselves as readers and love books. It has helped prepare them to listen to longer audiobooks and has given them amazing comprehension skills.
It seems incredible that so many blessings have come from something so simple. If you are looking to start a similar tradition, here are some of the things I have learned along the way.
Tips on Children’s Audiobooks
Recording is easy:
Nowadays most phones have an audio recorder. I do most of my recordings on my iPod and the audio quality isn’t bad. Once I am done, I email it to myself and burn it on a disk for the car. I find the quality is best when I am in a smaller room with carpet so that it doesn’t echo as much.
If you have a family member who isn’t comfortable with recording, do it for them the next time you visit. Just record while they read to your child. Some day, having a recording of your mother reading to your child will be priceless.
It doesn’t have to be perfect:
At first, I would try not to make any mistakes or have any interruptions. But now, some of those mistakes and interruptions are my favorite.s One of my favorite books to listen to is “Bugs!” by David T. Greenberg. At the beginning of the recording, B (who was about two) whispers, “I am just going to be quiet.” Then throughout the whole book he talks and interrupts almost nonstop. I remember being so frustrated at the time, but now I am in love with the recording and it makes me laugh out loud whenever we listen to it. If only for a few minutes, I have managed to freeze in time the boy he once was. It is priceless.
Sometimes I also fumble over my words. Instead of being embarrassed, I now realize it is a great way to show my kids that you don’t have to read flawlessly to enjoy reading. We sometimes laugh at my mistakes and my kids learn that it is okay to laugh at yourself.
In the beginning, pick out books that your kids already love and are familiar with. This will help them stay focused and to follow the story. With books that rely heavily on the illustrations to convey the story, my mother-in-law will fill in with a little commentary. When asking family members to record for you, have them pick some of their own favorites. They can even add some of their own memories of reading the book when they were younger at the end of the recording. Just keep it short and sweet enough so that the kids don’t lose interest.
Adapt to your kids:
If your kids struggle with staying focused, start small. The car was a great place for us because my kids are used to having to stay seated in the car. At home, they are too busy running around to listen to an audiobook. But my son will now request audiobooks when he is playing with Legos in his room. As my kids have gotten older, I have gradually increased the difficulty and length of the books.
Getting a hold of other recordings:
We don’t only use our own recordings, but others too. The library has audiobooks you can check out and we buy many of ours from Amazon. We recently bought “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and loved it. It saved us the other day during a nasty traffic jam.
You can also get audio books from librivox.org. I have listened to books like the Anne of Green Gables series from here. Some of the readers are more distracting than others, so you can look around a little to find one you like. And the books are all in the public domain, so they are all classics.
Although it isn’t technically an audiobook, we love the recordings from Jim Weiss. He is a wonderful storyteller and has CDs that cover everything from Mythology to American history. I love hearing my kids drop references to people like Archimedes, Jefferson, and the Egyptian gods. It has given them a wonderful start on topics they will eventually cover in school and has made them very entertaining to talk to. I love when my son draws connections to what is happening in the world now to things he knows about the past.