Inside the library: June is Audiobook Month, so go ahead and listen

Jill Fuller

I have fond memories of being read to as a child. I requested the same book at bedtime whenever I stayed at my grandmother’s house. I first entered Narnia through my dad’s voice as he read “The Magician’s Nephew” to my sister and I in his big reading chair.

Speaking a story aloud gives it such power and depth; even as a child, I understood the richness of language and words in the voices of those who read to me. This love of listening has not left me, so now I do much of my reading through audiobooks. June is Audiobook Month, so in case you haven’t hopped on the audiobook train yet, let me introduce you to the wonderful, powerful world of spoken stories.

Let’s start with the age-old question: does listening to an audiobook count as reading? This debate has been around for a while, but the fact is that listening to an audiobook can make you a better reader. Studies show that listening to a book can improve comprehension by 76% and reading accuracy by 52%. It also teaches pronunciation, expands vocabulary, and helps develop critical thinking skills, according to sources cited by the Audio Publishers Association. Plus, audiobooks make reading accessible to those who can’t read print books due to dyslexia, illiteracy, or poor eyesight. Librarians and teachers encourage parents to read to their children, but the truth is that everyone can benefit from being read to. Personally, I have noticed that the books I remember most vividly were those I listened to. If you listen to an audiobook, you’re not “cheating.” You’ve put in dedicated hours and have received all the benefits of reading a book, gaining new perspectives, ideas, or pure entertainment.

Here’s something else crucial to the audiobook experience: narrators make all the difference. The best narrators bring the story to life and create an intimate reading experience with the power of their voice. However, I’m not afraid to turn off an audiobook if I don’t like how the narrator is reading it. Some authors narrate their own books, while others are read by stage and screen actors who use their vocal talents to act out scenes and characters.

If you’re not sure where to start in selecting an audiobook with a powerful narrator, peruse the winners of the annual Audie awards to find the year’s best audiobooks in a variety of genres, as well as the top narrators.

Although I work full-time, commute daily, and have a toddler, I still read extensively, thanks to audiobooks. Audiobooks transform the most mundane tasks- like doing dishes or driving home from work- into an experience that engages my mind and pulls me into a story.

I look forward to getting in the car when I know another chapter of the book is waiting for me. Listening to audiobooks is also something I can share with those around me. Last month, I checked out a pile of children’s books on CD for our road trip so we could listen to books together as a family.

Audiobooks are more expensive than print books, but they’re free at your local library as CDs or Playaways. You can also download free digital audiobooks from Wisconsin’s Digital Library at wplc.overdrive.com or through the free Libby app. Enter your library card number to start listening, no matter where you are.

Jill Fuller is the coordinator of marketing and communications with the Bridges Library System of which the Karl Junginger Memorial Library is a member.

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