Ten years ago, I was dying. 2005-2006 was a very difficult time in my life. At that point I was “that” mother who read out loud to her kids for several hours each day. Over the course of the school year, something began encroaching into our read-aloud time so slowly that I barely even noticed. I would get a little hoarse and stop reading early, or just be short of breath and have to stop. I couldn’t explain to my husband or my kids what was happening, but over time my breathing got worse and worse.
And then I got pregnant. And breathing went from difficult to seemingly impossible. And the doctor’s appointments started but nothing could be found. Terms like “asthma” and “allergies” and “you’re just overweight and pregnant” started getting thrown around, but no one really did anything that got to the root of the problem. My fourth son was born, and nothing improved.
And then we moved ten hours south to the nation’s capital. I accidentally inhaled some ammonia in the shower of a hotel when the housekeeper left a puddle of it right where I put my soap bar. And then I caught fire to a skillet in our temporary living facility and inhaled a bunch of smoke about a week later. I started looking for specialists and answers. And I finally told my husband the truth I knew in my heart. If no one figures this out, I am going to die. And I was right.
Finally, someone did figure it out and he saved my life. But in those two years, my ability to read aloud to my children was completely and irreversibly changed.
And audiobooks became the lifeline that allowed me to continue to homeschool my children without reading to them much again.
My love for audiobooks was almost immediate. I started using them in the car on all of the gazillion car rides we took the kids on. History? In the car. Science? In the car (mostly). Literature? In the car. It worked! Then as the kids got hooked on audiobooks, we got to where we could clean the living room up while listening to an audiobook. Or sit on the couch quietly listening together. I’ll never forget the time we finally got my husband completely hooked on audiobooks.
We were listening to The Long Winter in the car, and it was playing when we got in the car one night. Out of necessity, we were in the car for a lengthy period of time. And we listened to The Long Winter while we ate our popcorn. After that, you could find my husband listening to audiobooks as he mowed the yard, and as he fell asleep at night, and even more often than that. We were officially an “audiobook family.”
Besides the fact that my kids would never have the pleasure of hearing a long story read to them from start to finish without audiobooks, we have found that listening to stories on audio together has changed us all in ways we never expected.
All of my children are pleasure readers because of audiobooks
A few months ago, my son got a concussion during a tournament and we took him to a sports concussion specialist to be treated. One of the questions in the initial screening was “Are you a pleasure reader? DO you read for pleasure?’ My son answered in the affirmative, and they finished the screening interview. After the specialist left the room, my son looked at me and asked: “Mom, isn’t everyone a pleasure reader?”
That question made my day.
This is just the reality my kids see us living. We love to read. The adults read, the big kids read, the little kids who are learning to read love stories – all because we’ve spent many hours listening to others read amazing stories to our family. The big deal here is that children can listen to enthralling stories far beyond their ability to read in the early years. It truly whets their appetite and drives them to want to read on their own.
Here’s what my son had to say: “Audiobooks help me go to sleep. It has become my routine that every night I listen to an audiobook for a little bit and it calms me down and makes me sleepy. Audiobooks are a lot easier than reading books, because I can listen while I’m doing other things.” (age fifteen)
Audiobooks help with special needs learning
Special needs children who truly struggle to learn to read can greatly benefit from stories that do not involve struggle. It changes the whole dynamic of learning when a struggling reader can listen to all of their subjects. For us, this was an amazing pivotal part of our daughter’s growth process. It took us several years of hard work to teach her to read, far longer than most of her peers. But we didn’t want all other learning to stop while we waited for reading to “click.”
Audiobooks allowed her the benefit of the story without struggle and gave her a love of learning instead of hate. I do not think she would be a pleasure reader today if it were not for the thousands of hours she has spent listening to great books both before and after she learned to read. Today, she switches back and forth between audiobooks and regular books depending on her mood, and she reads well above grade level. Here’s what she had to say:
“I get to listen to a lot more stories than if I was reading them myself and it makes the experience better because hearing the story helps your imagination and creates more of an idea in your head. Without having to come up with everything yourself, you get good ideas of what is happening and then you get to fill in the details because those are up to you.” (age thirteen)
Audiobooks have allowed us more flexibility
We have been able to cover so much more material in our homeschool by taking advantage of the hours we spend in the car together. For a while, we were driving forty-five minutes each way to church – twice each Sunday. Our library has been as far as thirty minutes away. Sports practices are twenty minutes each way. We cover a lot of literature and history during those drives.
Audiobooks have also allowed me to hand children all kinds of science and history and give them the flexibility to listen whenever they wanted as long as they finished the material. The older children love this freedom.
Here’s what my oldest daughter had to say. “Audiobooks are the reason I love history.” (age seventeen)
Audiobooks have truly bonded us as a family
Together we have listened to so many audiobooks during our long trips to church, travels home, and cross country moves. Our conversations and the tears my children have seen me cry during poignant moments have provided so many times of bonding and given us so many opportunities to discuss our worldview and values with the kids.
Audiobooks have allowed me to listen to Shakespeare with my kids while lying in my bed to recover from twenty-two different surgeries on my airway. Audiobooks have allowed me to sit with my children on my lap and “read” to my children and with my children without getting hoarse, losing my voice, or running out of breath. These are priceless, fleeting moments I will forever treasure.