Learning as we play…and drive…and live
I recently realized that so much of our day could qualify as “school,” but I don’t necessarily think of it as such because it’s just life for us. I’m talking about the audiobooks and read-alouds that Ian listens to throughout his day. Yes, we listen to the iPod playlists I put together for our Bible lessons, and sometimes he requests other Bible stories too. But I realized I had the opportunity to introduce some quality children’s literature through my iPod as well.
It started when I stumbled upon some recordings of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. I have always loved the stories and thought I’d see if Ian would enjoy listening to them while he played as much as watching the movies. (He’d found my old VHS tapes and was asking to watch them far more than I wanted to have the TV on.) They were a big hit from the start. He started listening to them at bedtime. And in the car. And playtime. Everyday. I liked the initial recordings I’d found, but they were a dramatization, rather than a true reading of the book. Different actors (big names like Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, all fabulously talented!) read the parts of the different characters and they were so much fun to listen to, but I missed the full flavor of Milne’s writing. So I bought a complete set of A.A. Milne’s Pooh Classics recorded by Peter Dennis. They are everything I hoped they would be, and even now after a year of listening to both sets of recordings, I’m still not tired of Pooh.
I did want to expand Ian’s horizons a bit, however, so I started introducing him to other stories as well. I found some fun CDs at the library, such as Stellaluna, Thumbelina, and other classics like The Three Billy Goats Gruff (from a wonderful collection read by actors like Ben Kingsley and Holly Hunter). I knew there were tons of classic books out there that I wanted to share with my kids and I didn’t want to be limited by our library selection or my wallet, so I started looking at free recordings of books in the public domain. There are so many great books available at librivox.org! That’s where I downloaded Old Mother West Wind by Thornton Burgess. (I’d never read anything by Burgess, but some of his books are part of the Ambleside Online curriculum I’m planning to use later on, and someone had said their 3-year old enjoyed these stories, so I thought we’d give them shot. I was surprised at how even after one listening Ian recalled details of the stories and requested them for bedtime that night.) There are several books of “Mother West Wind” stories (all about the escapades of various little animals), so I downloaded some others as well. I tried Uncle Remus stories (remember Br’er Rabbit?), but the dialect was a little hard for Ian to follow and he didn’t get into them. I decided to save those until he’s older and his grammar is better established anyway. I’m going to try him on some of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy stories once we need a break from the animals in the Mother West Wind books.
The other free site I like for audiobooks is Lit2Go. They don’t have as wide a selection, but I like they way they put their info at the end of the book rather than the beginning. Sometimes Ian has lost interest before we even start a new story because he had to listen to the long promo for librivox. This is where I got a great collection of Beatrix Potter stories (like “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”). Podcasts are also a great source for children’s stories. I really like Tales from the Forest, but there are a number of good ones available on iTunes.
We rarely drive anywhere without listening to stories. As the boys play in the living room, Ian usually asks for stories. And every naptime and bedtime he likes to listen to stories before he falls asleep. Is he a little too addicted? Yes, probably. Especially since we also read picture books throughout the day. He (and Elijah, who is constantly bringing me books to read) is proving to be a lot like his mama when it comes to a love of books.
Still, I think all this listening has been SO good for Ian’s language development. I catch him using words and phrases he can only have picked up from the stories he’s heard. It gives us so many new things to discuss (though sometimes I have to clue Daddy and others into what on earth he’s talking about!) In addition to our audiobooks, I’ve started adding chapter books to our bedtime routine. We’ve always spent time reading a few picture books before bed, but now we read a chapter from whatever novel we’re going through as well. We started with Beverly Cleary’s Ralph Mouse books. I thought the first one The Mouse and the Motorcycle would capture Ian’s attention because of the subject matter, and boy was I right. As soon as we finished it, he wanted to keep going, so we moved on to Runaway Ralph the next night. Now we’re a little more than halfway through Ralph S. Mouse. I think we’ll try Stuart Little or Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White for a change of author.
So now you know our secret. Our days are not just Ian, Elijah, and Mommy hanging out alone at home. We have lots of friends like Pooh, Peter, and Ralph who share life with us throughout each day!