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I am old school, and I am not at all afraid to admit it. I like to grade papers with a pen and not on the computer, I make my students look up definitions in a physical dictionary, and I like to read an actual book, feeling the heft in my lap, turning those cottony pages, and smelling that wonderful book smell that is so recognizable but nearly impossible to describe. There is little that compares to the joy of reading. When my hubby bought me an iPad many years ago, I was seduced by the incredible accessibility of books, and the number of wonderful classics that you can download for free. But it didn’t take me long to realize that it just wasn’t going to do it for me. Reading on that sterile iPad, the cold artificial light back-glowing the words just did not give me the same thrill as an actual book in my hands. So my many free downloads have stayed unread, the characters and stories still undiscovered, hidden on the virtual bookshelf of my iPad.
Could an audio-book hold my attention?
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that I was not one to embrace audiobooks. Of course I love to read, I love a captivating story, but I need to see those words dance across the page. I am visual and kinesthetic; I couldn’t image that I listening to a book being read to me would hold my attention like actually reading a book.
Then we moved, and suddenly I had a forty-five minute (or longer, barring traffic) drive to and from work each day. I would daydream, flip the radio stations endlessly, and often hear the same songs (and, on days when traffic was especially horrible), sometimes even the same cheesy DJ jokes as entire radio segments would repeat themselves over and over again. It was mind-numbing.
A loaned audio-book opened up a whole new world
Around this same time, a student teacher observing in my classroom, upon learning with horror that I had never read the Harry Potter series, loaned me the entire audio book series. I accepted it reluctantly. For one, I have always claimed that I am not a huge fan of fantasy (although every time my husband encourages me to read one of his favorite books, I become immersed and find that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge), and two, I couldn’t imagine actually paying enough attention to the narration to feel like I was actually reading the books. But then, I had nothing but time on my endless drives to and from work, so I decided to give it a chance.
The moment that Stephen Fry began his narration of the young, misunderstood boy who was yet unaware of his family legacy and wizard status, I was drawn into that world. Fry, who narrated the entire series for the UK release, is absolutely brilliant in his recitation. I am still amazed by his ability to uniquely personalize each of the many characters in the series, making every one so distinctive that I could identify which character was speaking before the tagline was even spoken. I found myself actually looking forward to my drive, because the long trek meant that I would once again be reunited with my old friends. My mind did not wander as I feared, because I was enthralled with the story playing out in my vehicle.
Time in the car is no longer time wasted
Since my first exposure to the world of audio books, I have listened to many, many more. I’ve discovered that the wrong narrator can ruin an otherwise good book, while the right narrator can draw me in to the point that I do not mind sitting in endless traffic if it means the story can continue on. I no longer feel like my ninety minutes in the car is a complete waste of time, because at least it gives me the opportunity to meet new friends and explore unknown worlds.
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