11 April 2006

Audio Books - Listening up a storm

Travelling can often be very tedious, especially when you live in a country area. A great solution is to listen to books on audio.
Listening to a book read with interest stimulates all the right parts of the listener's brain. Imagination is enkindled and memories are made.
We are have just begun listening to The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. We last heard this using a library version at least 7 or 8 years ago. Ariel would have been 6 or 7 years old. When the narrator said, "When I read a story, I skip the explanations; yet the moment I begin to write one, I find that I must have an explanation" Ariel exclaimed, "I remember that bit. I skip explanations too!"
We have heard all the children repeat quotes from an amazing collection of good books.
I have recently completed listening to War and Peace - 60 hours of listening. I drove a lot of kilometres (miles) to hear that book (about 4,500 km/2,800 miles) but it was a very enlightening read. I would never had read it if it wasn't for Audio books.
We have found that if a book is read aloud, even the littlest children can follow the story. When Peter was five we listened to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He understood the story then and remembers it now. All the children remember parts of the story that were not in the movies, showing that the books are a powerful means of absorbing information.
On our most recent Trek we listened to The Cat of Bubastes by GA Henty. GA Henty is reknowned for his historical fiction and this book is a great start. We learned about Egypt during the time the Israelites just prior to the Exodus, from food, life styles, warfare, religion - all wrapped in an exciting story.

There are several parts to listening to books while travelling.
Firstly you need to know the source of good books. Here are some options to get you started:
- Your local library should have lots of choices on tape and CD. With lots of travelling (and miserable weather or slow days), you will soon run out of material.
- CDs/tapes from various Christian sites such as Catholicity.com, Embrace the Grace, Bible Christian Society which always like a donation to help defray costs.
- Homeschool Radio Shows has a weekly email linking to old time radio shows which is very good. Also for around $20 US you can obtain one of his CD's filled with great radio shows and other audio.
- StoryNory has a number of free audio stories which are interesting, too.
- Peter Kreeft has free downloads of many of his talks.
- Audible.com - definitely not free, but very good quality and broad range of audio books. The plans work to around $12US a book.
- AudioBooksForFree.com - Low quality books are free, but we would recommend spending the $7 and getting the 48kbs versions. All the ones we have heard so far are well read and sound great. We purchased a 1 year $100 US subscription which allows you to download ALL their books within a period of 12 months. Some of the books are not for children, and don't click the Kalashnikov icon, but there is a wide selection for families. We have downloaded 24 books so far and have a lot more to go!
- Grandparents - they love giving the children good presents. Audio books sell in the stores for high prices, but the quality is good. They make much better presents than many toys and they have a great replay value.

The next thing is your method of playing the books:
At home:
Use your computer and iTunes. (Free!) Load up all your CDs and audio books into iTunes and use it as your sound centre. Many sound systems have the option of AUX input. Connect your computer's sound out port to the Sound system's AUX port and "Voila!", great sound! The other benefit to loading all your CDs is that they won't get wrecked, lost or be converted to sanding disks. We load new CDs straight in and put the original away.
You can also convert audio tapes if your tape/record player/amplifier has a sound out port. Connect this to your computer's line in port and using a sound recording/editing program you can save all those old records and tapes. Copy them in large files for each side and then cut them into individual songs in the sound editing program.
On the road:
Use an MP3 player: We use iPods and are very happy with them. This integrates very well with iTunes and we love having plenty of space for lots of our music and books.
Create your own CDs: This can be done but an audio CD only holds 74 to 80 minutes. An audio book can be anything from 1 hour to 11 hours (or War and Peace over 60 hours!). The Lord of the Rings came on Audio CDs - 45 of them! An alternative is a newer sound system in your car which plays MP3 CDs. Then you can have 6 to 8 or more hours of audio per CD.
Copy files to a USB drive: The iPod Shuffle is basically a USB drive with a small bit of hardware/software to talk to iTunes and a sound out port. Some modern car radios now have a USB port which is deisgned to play MP3s.
How to talk to your radio? If you have a tape player you can get an audio cassette converter which is inserted into the tape drive like a normal cassette and plugged into your player's sound out port. Now you can listen on the car speakers. No Audio Tape player? You can get little FM Transmitters which send a low power signal from your MP3 player to the car radio.
We purchased a new radio in our van which has an AUX port so we can connect directly from the iPod to the system.

Phew! A long post, but we have had lots of questions how to go about listening to audio books. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Henry Cate said...

Our daughters have spent hours listening to audio books. They'll often listen while playing.

It is surprising that children can appreciate so much at a young age. My wife picked up The Odyssey for herself. Our daughters started listening, and enjoyed it so much that they listened to the whole story.