Totally honest: only recently did I discover the magic of audiobooks.
Audiobooks are magical because they allow me to READ while I am doing other things, like BEING STUCK IN RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC ON THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE. .
I’ve been using YALSA’S Amazing Audiobooks lists as a starting point for my auditory adventures. By listening to stories, I’m able to arrive at understandings that I might not get from ink and paper. For example, when I first read Katherine Applegate’s One and Only Ivan, I felt pity for the Ivan, a gorilla trapped in a shopping mall. However, when I listened to the book on audio, I heard Ivan proudly talk about “domain.” I realized then that Ivan is not able to understand his situation well enough to reflect on it the way I (a human adult) do.
Another example is Jason Reynolds’s GHOST, a book about a boy who joins a track team that was love at first page for me when I read it in print. Guy Lockard’s voice work brings Ghost’s vulnerability to the surface, and his voice for Coach sounds like a teenager trying to impersonate an old man instead of an old man. As a result, we hear the version of Coach that Ghost tells us about, not Coach as we might hear him if we met him.
My own studies are making me think more about how I can use audiobooks in the classroom. I have some ideas about how I might bring these treats into the classroom:
- Share and compare. Give students a passage to read silently. Then play them the audiobook selection for that passage. Did students hear what they expected to hear? Did they hear something different? (The One and Only Ivan and GHOST are terrific mentor texts for this work with middle schoolers; for high school I might recommend a chapter from Wink Poppy Midnight by April Tucholke because the chapters are brief and the book did won an Amazing Audiobooks award.)
- Inquiry and discussion of award criteria. Play a section from an Amazing Audiobook with or without accompanying text. What makes this reading award-worthy? Or is it award-worthy?
- Create your own mini-audiobook. Especially if we want students to slow down their reading to notice voice and word choice, giving students an opportunity to read, direct, and/or produce their own mini-audiobooks would invite students to invest in their books and make that sharing public through a podcast or a rehearsed live performance. Kelly Gallagher already does something similar with the reading minute.
Do you do any work with audiobooks? Continue the conversation in the comments!
Amy Estersohn is a middle school English teacher in New York and a recipient of the NCTE Gallo Grant. Follow her on twitter at @HMX_MsE