In the previous post, below, about author Susan Hill and reading literature in the classroom, JoVE commented about some comments in Miss Hill’s Standpoint article, about the benefits of reading aloud, even to older children. Readalouds are a central part of our day, something which we started long before we began home schooling. Here are the Standpoint comments (which you can read here), first from a teacher named Kit,
“To add a more positive note. I have regularly taught ‘The Woman in Black’ to GCSE students in an FE college. They have all failed the exam in school and so they aren’t the brightest or the best motivated students. I don’t believe in doing ‘bits’ of a novel or a play – it just spoils the whole thing, apart from any more academic considerations but I have to say that they way I cope with the whole text would not please any Ofsted inspector. I read the whole thing to them and they sit and listen, folowing [sic] in the text. It’s like Jackanory. They’re mostly boys and many of them are planning to join the armed services. After the first week, when they’re understandably a bit sceptical about it, they’re in the room before me, pushing the tables together so we can all sit round one space. Some even stop me round the campus to ask: ‘Are we doin’ more of that story about the ghost?’ I’m too old to care that my methods would not be seen as interactive enough. I know most of them can’t read well enough to enjoy the text on their own.”
And then a reply from Miss Hill, with her own capitals preserved,
“I am absolutely DELIGHTED that they should listen to it being read to them. It does not trouble me in the least that someone else is doing the physical reading bit. That is why I am delighted that the downloaded audiobooks of the novels are extemely popular among students. They are wonderfully well read and they help them to concentrate. I published a children’s book last year for the 7-12 age range [I think it may be this] and had a letter from a teacher to say she had started to read it aloud every Thursday morning to a class of unruly 9-10 year olds with many boys among them who found it almost impossible to sit still. But they became so engrossed in her reading that nobody so much as wriggled, and they were all sitting on the mat waiting for her, eager and attentive, every Thursday. Most of them had reading difficulties but once they had heard the book, wanted to try for themselves. She also reported several who had asked parents to buy it so that they could read at home. In three cases this was the first book the parent had ever bought. I am more proud of this, as I am of hearing about the army-bound older boys listening to the reading of The Woman in Black so attentively, than I am about almost anything. I don’t want them to have to strain to analyse and answer exam questions on my ‘text’ if this is something they genuinely find difficult, I want them to read or listen to the books and find that a positive and enjoyable and enriching experience which may encourage them to read or listen to another book.”
As Casey pointed out in one of comments in the previous post, “The great think [Casey meant “thing”, but “think” works equally well in this context] about reading aloud to kids is it helps them learn to listen and sustain that auditory attention. We (Hombre more than I) do a *lot* of reading aloud to the boys. I remember my teachers up thru 5th grade reading aloud to us daily. I don’t know that there’s time for that anymore.” It strikes me that most home educating families somehow include reading aloud in some form in the day or the week; it’s a habit that we don’t seem to outgrow once the kids “get too old” for picture books (mine haven’t yet) or start school.
Here we read aloud for fun and for school work. For school books, whether the subject is literature, history, or science, it’s a wonderful way to cover the same subject with three kids of different ages, helping us to stay on the same page. I’ve also noticed that my kids, unlike their mother, are very good and careful listeners, which I put down to once- or twice-a-day readalouds from the time they were babies.
Since we’re talking about listening to books, I’m going to stick add our incomplete and highly subjective list of audiobook and podcast links here, since Laura received an iPod Nano from her grandparents for Christmas, and I’m in charge of the syncing. It was my idea to get her an iPod, as a way to manage the vast collection of CDs that seems to filter down from our main floor to her basement bedroom and also to give her access to various podcasts without having to burn them on CD (and further add to our unwieldy collection). Laura’s iPod came with strings, and I’m not talking about the earbuds: first, the gizmo is a tool and not a toy; it will contain a healthy amount of the spoken word and audiobooks in addition to music; and it will be listened to mainly with speakers (I found an inexpensive alarm clock radio/dock with speakers which was under the tree, too) rather than earbuds and won’t make too many appearances out of the house other than for airplane trips.
Russell Educational Consultancy and Productions’ (RECAP’s) podcast directory for educators, schools, and colleges; a UK website I haven’t even begun to explore properly
Prufrock Press’s list of “Podcasts for Gifted Kids”, eminently suitable too for those who happen to be bright and motivated. Though the list of National Geographic‘s podcasts includes only the Dog Whisperer and not what Laura finds much more appealing, NG’s Traveler Magazine “Walks” podcasts. And I’m looking forward to the White House podcasts, especially the Presidential Speeches and the Presidential Weekly Radio Address, but not until later this month, I think.
On the Prufrock list, you’ll find Colonial Williamsburg’s podcast page, where if you scroll down to the bottom of the list and click on “People”, you’ll find all sorts of interesting things, including categories for “Historical figures” (“Hear the words that were catalyst to the Revolution, read by Bill Barker, Colonial Williamsburg’s Thomas Jefferson”), “African Americans”, and “Women”.
PBS’s “American Experience” (favorites include podcasts on Riding the Rails, FDR, Minik the Lost Eskimo, Buffalo Bill, Kit Carson, Annie Oakley, the Gold Rush, Hoover Dam, the Fourth of July 1826, Remember the Alamo, and Coney Island)
“Animal Planet” podcasts, some of which (Jane Goodall, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom) are better than others
CBC Radio’s “The Best of Ideas”, which archives podcasts only for four weeks
CBC Radio’s “Vinyl Cafe”
BBC’s “Great Lives” (Paul Robeson, Alfred Russel Wallace, George Cruikshank)
PBS’s NOVA, with oodles of science and history subjects
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (from William Bowler to Victoria Woodhull to Piltdown Man)
Scientific American‘s Science Talk
How Stuff Works, especially the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast
WNYC’s “Please Explain” with Leonard Lopate
Last summer I somehow tripped over the Children’s Vinyl Record Series website, which appeals to me because I had a great number of those LPs as a child. In fact, I still have them, but the record player is in the living room. The website, with downloadable zip MP3 files, is much more handy. You can find old Tale Spinners records, with a full cast and classical music telling everything from fairy tales to composers’ biographies (“The Story of Chopin”) to more advanced literature (“The Count of Monte Cristo”)
Golden Records, with some Danny Kaye, “A Child’s Introduction to” everything from the Orchestra, Gilbert & Sullivan, Mozart & Beethoven, Spanish, French, Jazz (with Bob Keeshan aka Captain Kangaroo)
Riverside Wonderland, with “Songs Children Sing: France” (one of my childhood favorites, and there are versions too for Germany and Italy), more “A Child’s Introduction to” records, including Jazz again (this one narrated by Julian “Cannonball” Adderley), Ballet with Moira Shearer, Multiplication, and Shakespeare