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Surviving Road Trips with Audiobooks

pippi_audiobookIt began with Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking. I was planning a four-hour road trip with my kids, and I was searching for something besides the fail-safe DVD to entertain them during the drive. Admittedly, as an author, I rail against relying too heavily on movies, TV, and gaming. Yes, they’re convenient, and keep lunacy on long car rides at bay, but I hate the idea of turning my children over to their powers, even for a car ride. Enter Pippi and our family’s first foray into the world of audiobooks. I’d watched the Pippi movies as a kid but had never read the book. I was curious, first to see if my children would enjoy the audio experience, and second to see if we’d all enjoy the story.

I uploaded the book onto my iPod and before we pulled out of our driveway, hit play. The narrator’s lively voice filled the car, and my kids, who’d been screeching and bickering mere moments before, fell silent. “What is this?” my six-year-old asked skeptically.

“Just listen,” I replied.

He did. We all did. Within minutes, I glimpsed a few smiling faces in the backseat, and soon, we were all giggling and commenting about Pippi’s antics. Three state lines were crossed that day without complaint from my children. The drive was more than peaceful or manageable; it was fun. And here’s what really defies belief: when we reached our destination and Pippi’s story wasn’t quite finished, none of us wanted to get out of the car. We wanted to finish listening.

poppins-audiobookSince that day several years ago, we’ve listened to Mary Poppins, A.A. Milne’s entire Winnie-the-Pooh collection, Harry Potter, and more. One of the perks of audiobooks is that they make stories with difficult vocabulary and sophisticated language more accessible to my children. Hearing words spoken in context by a talented narrator imbues them with meanings and innuendoes my children might not pick up as easily from the printed texts themselves. An audiobook is a shared experience — one we can discuss as a family and one that bonds us together in a moment when we might otherwise be lost in our own thoughts or tech devices. Audiobooks, too, offer all of us a new way of processing and retaining information.

I am not, by nature, an auditory learner. When I was a student, my saving grace was the volume of notes I took during class lectures. I could never have retained the same amount of information if I’d solely listened without writing and rereading. My reading life, until I became a parent, never included audiobooks. By sharing audiobooks with my children, though, I’ve learned to appreciate and value them. For my own private reading, I still turn to physical books. But there is something so relaxing, entertaining, and inviting about a perfectly-suited narrator capturing the mood, characters, and timbre of a story. A well-dramatized audiobook makes hours in the car fly.

storied-life-audiobookIn fact, a few months ago I had to make a five-hour drive alone. I needed to stay alert and focused, and I wanted a diversion to make the time pass. What did I do? I uploaded the audiobook of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. Enroute, I laughed aloud, I sighed wistfully, empathetically, and mournfully. I cried (and for the record, books never make me cry). I realized that I’m not just a book-lover any longer. I’m also an audiobook-lover. So are my children. Road trips, once tasks to be dreaded, are now adventures to anticipate and enjoy. And I have audiobooks to thank.

Suzanne Nelson About Suzanne Nelson

Suzanne Nelson is the author of Serendipity’s Footsteps, Cake Pop Crush, and several other middle grade and young adult novels. She is a contributor to The Washington Post “On Parenting” blog and a former children’s book editor. She lives and writes in Connecticut. Her website is suzannenelson.com. She tweets @snelsonbooks and instagrams @suzannenelsonbooks

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Comments

  1. Rachel Kamin says:

    Hi Suzanne! My boys’ first audio-book experience was with Holes by Louis Sachar and it too was absolutely magical. They also didn’t want to get out of the car when we arrived at our destination and they clapped when the book ended. Since then they have also enjoyed The Name of This Book is a Secret, I Funny, Titanic: Voices of the Disaster, Henry Huggins, Rump, The Fourteenth Goldfish, and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Right now we’re listening to Fish in a Tree but I will add Pippi Longstocking and Mary Poppins to our “to-read” list.

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