From The Beacon: Audiobooks offer unexpected benefits

Book recommendations and more from the Beaufort County Public Library

August 7, 2011 

One of the neat things about good stories or learning more about a subject is that you do not always have to sit down and read a book.

Don't get me wrong -- I love nothing better than curling up with a good book at the end of a busy day. However, taking short or long walks or commuting to work are just two ways audiobooks are ideal for catching up with the your favorite author's latest title or listening to the biography of someone you've always wanted to learn more about.

The two primary audiobook formats found at most public libraries today are CDs and "Playaways," which are single titles downloaded to an MP3 player. Perhaps you do needlework, quilting or even woodworking. Both audio formats are great ways to "read" while you are otherwise occupied. The reading is done by the book's author or professional actors. All Beaufort County Public Library branches have a selection of adult titles in either one or both formats. Browse the collection at your local library, go online or ask a reference librarian to search the catalog for a particular title. You can request any titles that are not available at your local branch to be sent there. And remember our great resource, the SCLends Consortium libraries. Titles from these public library systems can also be requested to be sent to your local library.

BENEFITS FOR TEENS

Pam Spencer Holley, past president of the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Service Association, notes in an article titled "Top Ten Educational Benefits of Audiobook Listening" that teens everywhere are "plugged in" to an iPod, MP3 player or other portable electronic device. There are also studies showing a positive correlation between audiobooks and reading improvement. So after reviewing the literature, Holley compiled a list of reasons why it is important for teens to listen to audiobooks aside from the enjoyment. Here are a few:

  • It increases vocabulary and speaking and writing skills.

  • It introduces storytelling, an important tradition in human history.

  • It engages imagination by allowng students to create mental images of the story.

  • It improves listening skills -- very important in the 21st century multimedia world.

  • It makes ordinary and repetitive tasks, such as exercising or room cleaning, more tolerable.

  • Here are two titles from YALSA's list of Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults; they're available in CD or Playaway format in the Beaufort County Library system or one of the SCLends libraries.

  • "The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had," by Kristin Levine, read by Kirby Heyborne: Dit and Emma create a powerful friendship that transcends racial lines in the American South during a time of strife and upheaval. Kirby Heyborn's lilting southern accent brings to life this tender coming of age story.

  • "Boys are Dogs," by Leslie Margolis, read by Ellen Grafton: Annabelle doesn't like surprises or change, but as she starts her first year of middle school, she must cope with both. Grafton creates an authentic voice for Annabelle, moving from childhood into adolescence, with all the dilemmas, wit, moodiness and confusion of that age.

  • BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN

    In her article "In Praise of Audiobooks for Children," Elizabeth Kennedy strongly encourages children and their parents to listen to audiobooks. There have been changes to children's audiobooks in recent years to include the addition of sound effects and music appropriate to the story.

    Like the adult and teen audiobooks, the reading is done by professional actors or the authors. There are many benefits to children when they listen to audiobooks, especially when going through several years when their reading ability is lower than their intellectual capacity. Children also improve their vocabulary and their listening and comprehension skills. The bonus is an enjoyable family activity as everyone listens to the story. Below are two well-known children's stories that are available in the Beaufort County Library system or in SCLends.

  • "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," by Judith Viorst, read by Blythe Danner: Everyone has a bad day, and the entire family will get a kick out of Alexander's troubles (recommended for ages 4 to 8).

  • "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White, read by the author: This classic story of friendship, first published in 1952, is the heartwarming tale of a little girl, a pig who needs help avoiding the slaughterhouse, a remarkable spider, and much, much more (recommended for ages 7 to 10).

  • No matter what your age, it's time to do yourself some good and check out an audiobook, or two, from your local library branch.

    Ann Rosen is the branch manager of the Bluffton branch of the Beaufort County Public Library at 120 Palmetto Way.

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