"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, November 14, 2011

On wooden snowmen and memorable listening experiences

I was in Toronto this past weekend visiting family and celebrating my uncle's 90th birthday.. My uncle who, I might add, traveled to the top of the CN Tower!  (I hope to be as savvy and cool at 90 years!).  My college age daughter joined me on the trip and while touring about the city, we came across this snowman. It shone in the mid day sun.    We stopped to look at it and noticed the sign that invited people to stop and take a picture.  You were then asked to upload the picture to a certain Web page and, for each picture that was uploaded, money would then be donated to the Starbright Foundation (I can't remember the exact amount).

When we saw the words "Starbright Foundation," my daughter and I were reminded of one of our family's first audio book experiences, The Emperor's New Clothes.  The book is a retelling of the classic tale, written and performed by an all-star cast of actors and celebrities and illustrated by an impressive group of artists.  It was produced as a benefit for the Starbright Foundation.  

It is a wonderful picture book and a great read aloud.  I actually read the book for quite a while before we tried out the CD (I chose my profession wisely - once a reader always a reader), but once we popped the CD in the CD player, there was no going back.  It is brilliant.  Performances by Robin Williams, Madonna, Calvin Klein, Penny Marshall and Angela Lansbury (to name a few)  are paired beautifully with illustrations by Sendack, Teague, Van Allsburg and Base along with others.  It is evident that each celebrity and artist had a great deal of fun creating this project. The puns are rampant! This book is really geared to older readers/listeners (ages eight and up); many of the jokes might be lost on or would be hard to explain to younger children.

I have audio books of all types of book in my library and they circulate well.  Audio books serve an important purpose for students who: may need encouragement to try a new genre; may need a more scaffolded reading experience; or, may be reluctant readers. Just as important though, I encourage students to borrow audio books for the sheer enjoyment of hearing books read aloud. A book is a book, but a good book is... memorable!

We departed from the snowman sculpture, my daughter and I, happily quoting the book and remembering favourite scenes. (This book became a staple on car rides and got us through many a back up on holiday weekend travels and was memorized at one point.  Given our immediate reaction on Saturday, it made an impression on us.) Here's what I walked away with (my own teachable moment), a reminder of the value of a great listening experience.

So, in honor of Picture Book Month and hearing books read aloud, check out an audio picture book today and start creating your own memorable listening experiences.

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