Thursday, September 19, 2013

Building Fluency with Character Books

I'm completely fascinated by being a parent and having the amazing opportunity to watch these two little kiddos grow up right in front of me. I have learned so much about kids and how unique they are and about myself, too. One thing I have noticed about Little Bean compared to Peanut is that Little Bean will ask for a book over and over again. Peanut doesn't really do that but Little Bean definitely does. I'm not sure why they differ in this but they do. Peanut has always asked us to read the same book night after night, just not five times in one night. 

While we read all sorts of books in my house, there are a few that my kids go back to and ask us to read again and again and again and Donald Duck and the One Bear is one of them.
It's a cute story, a flipped sort of Goldilocks tale involving Donald Duck, his nephews, Daisy and a bear named, Pizza, on the loose. Towards the end of the book one of the nephews refers to Donald as "Unca Donald" and when my husband read that to my kids they cracked up. That's their favorite part and we're convinced they ask us to read it over and over just to get to that part. 

I actually learned something from reading Donald Duck and the One Bear. I know there are people who tend to lead kids away from books about television show characters or movies but in our house we let them read whatever they want to read. Of course, we pull out books and check books out of the library to supplement that reading, but when Little Bean marches into the library, finds the basket of Thomas the Train books all by himself and starts sorting through them, it makes me all kinds of happy. They boy knows what he likes and he has already made himself independent in being able to navigate the least according to his age. 
Sometime earlier this year, we bought the Wreck-It Ralph Read-Along Storybook and CD. We own the DVD and it's a movie that we have fallen in love with as a family. We've watched it lots of times and quote it all the time. When we spotted this in the store, my kids had to have it and it was actually only about $7, which I thought was a great deal considering it's an audiobook. 

All summer we listened to Wreck-It Ralph any time we went somewhere with the kids. They would hold the book in the back seat and listen for the chime so they would know to turn the page. I listened to it so many times that I can probably recite it from heart at this point. When the kids would bring the book to me to read, I was able to read and sound like the characters when it was their turn to talk in the book. It makes it a lot more fun for me and I think for the kids as well.

Little Bean is also a huge fan of Thomas. Peanut was when he was three but now it's Little Bean's thing. We have watched all sorts of Thomas shows and I find myself doing character voices when I read any of the Thomas books. Again, it's so fun to try and imitate the voices and my kids love it. Because we watched Wreck-It Ralph the movie and listened to the audiobook and because we have watched so many Thomas shows, we totally know the voices. (I have to add here that we don't watch that much television...but, like books, when the kids pick a show to watch, they like to pick the same show again and again.)
I have listened to a lot of audiobooks in my life with all of the driving I do during my commute. What I love is that when you listen to an audiobook narration, the best narrators do a good job of changing their voices when different people are talking. It really brings the book to life. There is such an art to reading a book aloud to kids and listening to audiobooks is a great way to build our fluency for reading aloud.

I love recommending audiobooks to parents to support their children with reading. We do a mix of reading with our kids and reading audiobooks but it's definitely a different and fun experience to listen to an audiobook.

What prompted this post was actually reading Donald Duck and the One Bear last week. As I read, I was reminded of how frustrated I get when I read it because I just can't do the duck voices. I can't. I desperately want to read in Donald Duck's voice and it actually sounds weird to me as I read because I don't use Donald's voice. I never really realized just how much listening to books and knowing how a character sounds has helped me to be able to read and change my voice to represent different characters. It seems I've gotten to the point that reading and not changing my voice seems strange. This was a huge revelation for me! I think it has implications for thinking about students developing fluency. For them to hear adult readers who read fluently or audiobooks where the narrators do a great job of reading aloud will truly make a difference in the fluency that they develop.

Basically, I just wanted to say hooray for audiobooks! And also, let you kids read what they want to read and over and over again. As long as you recognize that love of books growing, it's okay for them to read books based on television shows. Just try to supplement and show them other books along the way.

Who out there loves audiobooks? Do you like it when narrators change their voices to represent different characters? What do you love about audiobooks?

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