Audio book as an art form

I have been sitting and staring at a blank page, and toggling back to Twitter, Facebook, and BBC news for the past thirty minutes. Let’s be honest; I have repeated this useless process several times in the last couple of months.

I have been somewhat distracted by… work.

I know I have a lot to write about, but whatever it is, it has yet to make itself clear. And yet, I miss writing. It is a hole, an ache, even.

I am going to use the “write anyway” strategy and see what pops up.

One thing on my mind is the issue of audio books and whether they ‘count’ for the independent reading portion of our courses.

I was thinking about it the other day when I ran into a blog, Caution: Use as Directed, a blog by Jane Kise about  the reading of, rather than the viewing of, Shakespeare.

as intended

It got me thinking about the audiobook as an art form, and the telling of story as an oral language activity in its own right. Of course, I have always read to my high school classes, and I am a good reader, so my son tells me. He’s pretty good himself.

I also use audio books for anchor texts in my classroom. One the favourites at our school in Grade 9 is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Alexie reads it himself, brilliantly, and we all read along because of the funny and brutally honest comics that are scattered through the book. Another author who also reads some of his books is Neil Gaimon, and I have used all or parts of Odd and the Frost Giants and The Graveyard Book.

Audio books are so gorgeous these days. They are sometimes acted (read?) by an ensemble cast, as in Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori series where the male role is read by Kevin Gray and the female role is read by Aiko Nakasone. Sometimes, the voices of many characters are acted by a single narrator, as in Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider read brilliantly by Brendan Fraser.

But. When we get to our desire to have students read independently, do we ‘count’ audio books? My book-lover, story-lover self says, A book, no matter whether the student reads it her or himself, is still a story that got told, a story  that got heard. The reading teacher in me says, They have to read. They have to read. How else will they learn to read? 

Where are you on this one? What are your favourite audio books for high school?

Now, I better go make breakfast. And, truth-be-told, get on with my semester-end assessments that are waiting and the real reason for this Sunday morning procrastination!


2 thoughts on “Audio book as an art form

  1. While I encourage students to listen to audio with the book in front of them, I definitely count it as reading. My daughter made it through Moby Dick for an AP class that way and actually liked it (Well a lot of it. Not the chapters on whiteness or scrimshaw or…).

    I’m generally considered an expert on Jungian type; there’s clear empirical evidence, as well as credible neuroscience that Jung was right and we truly use mental processes differently. Two of these are Sensing and Intuition. Sensing types start with what is, what their five senses and past experiences tell them. Intuitives skip right past reality to the hunches, connections, and symbolism they see. Reading is at its core an Intuitive activity–symbols on paper that may or may not reflect reality. Sensing types have to bridge to the Intuitive world to read. They succeed, but think how adding the sense of sound to sight activates more of their natural way of processing information.

    Audio books…as an adult I’m hooked on the Patrick O’Brian Master and Commander series, and I’m not a naval history buff! YA books…So Yesterday, Millions, Evil Genius for sure. I try to mark which ones are audio on Join me there, as well as the many English teachers I’ve connected with who share titles.

    • Thanks so much for your perspective on this. It’s a fascinating point of view. It makes sense to me that texts become more accessible when people can listen. Ultimately, I want students to enjoy and love story, no matter how they arrive at them.

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