Audiobooks provide a whole new dimension for reading

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 1, 2015

By April Everett

Rowan Public Library

Like many in our community, I am fortunate to have parents who took the time to read to me every night before bed as I was growing up. I firmly believe this early auditory connection to literacy instilled in me a love of reading.

Fast forward 18 years to college, where I majored in English and managed to eliminate all the childhood joys of reading in one brief semester (reading 45 novels for one class will do that). Despite a four-year hiatus from “reading for fun,” I somehow found my way back to my roots and reestablished my love of reading.

Fast forward another six years to my first job out of graduate school, which came with a 50-minute one-way commute. By the time I would get home from work, I was exhausted and not in the mood to sit down with a book. Then a fellow librarian introduced me to audiobooks, these wonderful mechanisms that allow you to read and drive at the same time!

Audiobooks are not a new invention. The early days of audiobooks relied on LP recordings of available print materials. In the 1930s, the Library of Congress created “talking books” for the blind. By the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs were funding audiobook recordings of classic works that were staples of library and classroom collections. Early recordings were typically a straight reading of a printed text by one person with little or no characterization, music or sound effects.

Today’s audiobooks come in a range of options. Some productions offer a full cast of narrators, with alternating voices creating distinct characters for the listener. Others offer a single narrator tasked with a fully voiced recording.

Narrators can profoundly impact the way the listener perceives characters and plot. Take, for example, the Artemis Fowl children’s series, primarily narrated by Maxwell Caulfield. His ability to seamlessly transition between characters — whether female or male, Native American or British — is certainly notable. My husband and I listened to the entire series and were aghast to find that book five in the series had a new narrator. While the interim narrator was equally as talented as Caulfield, his characterization of Butler (one of the main characters) completely changed the way we had perceived Butler’s demeanor and even his stature.

For avid book lovers, it may feel like “cheating” to listen to an audiobook. But there are many proven literacy benefits to be gained from listening to a well-read audiobook. There has been a great deal of research supporting positive effects on vocabulary development, fluency and comprehension. Take, for example, “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. I tried to read the book years ago and found myself bogged down in foreign words and names that I could not pronounce. Listening to the audiobook allowed me to have an authentic reading of the text in which the narrator had done the work of researching pronunciation and accents.

Being an audiobook narrator may seem like an easy job, but there’s a lot that goes into making a top-notch production. Narrators are responsible for pacing, setting and mood, in addition to presenting the voices.

Many narrators color code scripts to keep track of changes in points of view, and they always read the book from cover to cover at least once prior to recording. As in the case of “Life of Pi,” narrators are also responsible for researching pronunciations of unfamiliar words or names and being able to sing tunes if required by the text.

Beyond the recording studio, there is a whole team of people who make the audiobook come to life, including a studio director, producer, recording engineer and postproduction engineer. Audiobooks can take anywhere from three weeks to three months to produce. Most audiobooks are released at the same time as their print counterpart, but publishers often have the ability to create one quickly if a book unexpectedly hits the best sellers list.

Before your next road trip or commute to work, stop by your local branch of Rowan Public Library and consider checking out an audiobook version of a book you enjoyed reading. If you have a mobile device or computer, visit and download a free audiobook from one of our subscriptions to NCDigital, OneClick Digital and more.

Compare how the narrator affects your perception of the characters, scenery and other aspects of the book this time around. In the process, I’m confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you get to your destination.

Computer classes: If you’re new to computers – or if you’ve never felt comfortable – Computer Basics is for you. Classes are free. Sessions: 90 minutes. Class size is limited and on a first come, first served basis. Dates and times at all locations are subject to change without notice. Call 704-216-8242 for more information. Headquarters, Feb. 10, 7 p.m.; Feb. 26, 9:30 a.m. Headquarters , Getting to Know Your iPad,  Feb. 24 ,  7 p.m. Registration is required. We’ll discuss components, navigation and the use of apps. Must bring your own iPad charged and have an updated iOS (operating system). Also, bring a current, valid Apple ID. For more info or to register call Paul Birkhead at 704-216-8242.

Annual chocolate festival for teens: 5:30-7 p.m., South, Feb. 10; headquarters, Feb. 17; East, Feb. 24. Free and open to middle and high school teens. Light refreshments served. For more information call 704-216-8229.

Anime/Manga club meeting: Headquarters, Feb. 10, 4:30 p.m. Free and open to middle- and high-school teens interested in Anime, Manga and comic books. In the Hurley Room. Call 704-216-8229 for more information.

Adventure Club: Feb. 14, 11 a.m.:  Adventurous hands-on science based activities and projects for all ages. This month’s theme is “Sugar Cube Science”. Yeah they are sweet but can you build an arch, bridge or tower with them? Come test your building skills and find out? Call 704-216-8234 for more details.

Book Chats for Children: A book discussion group for children in grade two (different grade each month), South only, Feb. 19, 4:15 p.m. “Freckle Juice” by Judy Blume. Registration is required and space is limited. Please call 704-216-7728 for more information.

“Learn App Grow” workshop: Feb. 23, 5:45 p.m. South Rowan Regional Library, 920 Kimball Rd. China Grove, NC Free and open to the public. Explore free apps that will inspire you to stay organized, get fit, and eat healthier. Led by Tricia Stagger. For more information call 704-216-7841.

Martha Bassett in concert: Headquarters, Stanback Auditorium, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. Join us for a special musical concert featuring Martha Bassett. Her musical inspiration moves effortlessly through swing, jazz, folk, country, and rock, guaranteeing playful variety at her performances. Admission is free, and all are welcome. Program starts at 7 pm; doors open at 6:30 pm. Show sponsored by Friends of Rowan Public Library.

Book Bites Club: Feb. 24, 6:30 p.m.,  “Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Book discussion groups for adults and children at South Rowan Regional Library meet the last Tuesday of each month. The group is open and anyone is free to join at any time. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments at each meeting. For more information, call 704-216-7841.

Celebrate Seuss: Feb. 28, 10:30 a.m., East Branch, 110 Broad St., Rockwell. Children of all ages are invited to celebrate Dr. Seuss and his very own “Day of all Days.” For if he’d never been born, well then what would we do? No Horton? No Lorax? No Thing One or Thing Two? That really just isn’t a world we can envision so come join us this day for a great celebration. Light refreshments included. Call 704-216-7842 for more information.

Explorers Club: Headquarters, Feb.   28, 11 a.m. Investigate different genres through activities based on books from throughout the collection. Programs are for children in third-fifth grade, begin at 11 a.m. and last one hour. This month’s theme will be “Kids Cook, Too!” Stir up your creativity as we learn basic kitchen skills to last a lifetime. Wear your favorite kitchen attire, aprons optional. Call 704-216-8234 for more details.

Special RPL Book Sale: South Rowan Regional Library, Monday, Feb.  2,  9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Displays: Headquarters, altered books by West Rowan High School; South, student art by Corriher Lipe Middle School; East, photographs by Shane Tolliver.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.

Children’s Storytime: Weekly events for children Feb. 2-April 30. For more information call 704-216-8234.

Baby Time — Simple stories and songs for 6-23 month-olds with parent or caregiver.  Program about one hour. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.; East, Mondays,  10 a.m.

Toddler Time — Sharing books, singing songs and encouraging listening skills for children 18-35 months old with parent or caregiver; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Mondays, 11 a.m.

Tiny Tumblers — Simple stories, musical scarves and instruments for ages 6-23 months with parent or caregiver. The same program is offered twice a week;  30 minutes. South, Tuesday and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.

Preschool time — Encourages exploration of books and builds reading readiness skills for children 3-5 years old with parent or caregiver; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Noodle Head storytime — For children 4 years and up to enjoy listening to silly books and tales together; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Mondays, 4 p.m.

Art programs — Based on various themes and media. Activities vary by branch.  Children 8 and under must be accompanied by an adult.; 30-45 minutes. Headquarters, Art in the Afternoon, Thursdays, 4:30 p.m.; East, Emma’s Easel, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Art with Char, Wednesdays, 4 p.m.


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