Or should the title of this post be How Audiobooks Got Me to Start “Reading” Non-Fiction? Do you consider listening to an audiobook to be the equivalent of reading? Both result in you knowing the content of the book, even if the path to get there is different in each case. There’s research out there to indicate they’re equal in terms of brain stimulation.
But here’s the thing … before I got into audiobooks I hardly ever read non-fiction. A few exceptions were books like Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods & Cheryl Strayed’s Wild which were true stories that read more like a novel than a non-fiction book. But mostly whenever I tried to read non-fiction, I’d find myself getting through a page or two before my eyes fell shut at bedtime. Without a story in which I want to know what comes next, there was nothing to hold me awake long enough to read more than a page or two!
For many years I’ve been a fan of podcasts. In fact I should probably write a blog post on that topic too as it’s happened many times that a podcast episode sparks an idea for a lesson or class activity for myself or that I’ve passed on to a colleague. So I looked into getting an audible subscription so that I could also listen to books, specifically non-fiction books I was interested in. But an audible subscription runs over 100$ per year. The advantage to Audible is you have instant access to the titles you want. But the price is costly & goes up from there if you want more than one title per month.
Then I thought about the library. But I live in a rural area in Québec where my local library is small and the primary language of materials is French. So I looked into the Ottawa Public Library as there’s a branch a block away from my school. For 80$ per year I can, as a non-resident, purchase a library card. This gets me access to all of their materials including physical books, audiobooks & even movies etc I think but have yet to explore. Perfect! I signed up.
And so I started listening to audiobooks (and taking out physical books too – trying to declutter at home, so buying fewer books these days). They are great to listen to in the car (I have a 50 minute commute each way), while cooking or doing other chores. Many people like to listen while out walking or running but I prefer to have my ears open to the sounds of nature & approaching cars on our rural roads myself.
An interesting thing I’ve discovered is that if the audiobook is available in CD format, there’s often less of a wait list for it as vehicles and homes shift away from having CD players. But my older car (2009) still has one so I often place a hold on both the mp3 version as well as CD version and take whichever arrives first. This worked great to get Michelle Obama’s book Becoming via CD much faster than the mp3 version would have been available.
Half of the books I’ve read so far this year have been in audiobook format which means I’m reading WAY more non-fiction than I was a year ago. I have some catching up to do I guess – think of all the non-fiction books I’ve missed over the years. So … what are your must-read non-fiction books? Leave me a message in the comments below so I can add them to my list!
I still read physical books. Nothing beats reading a chapter of a novel in bed before falling asleep exhausted. Or curling up on the couch and reading through a rainy morning. But I’m glad to have found a way that gets me listening to these non-fiction titles that I would have otherwise missed out on.
Next step … is how do we get audiobooks to our students? Our school library does not have a collection of audiobooks students can borrow. Does yours? If so, what system does your school use or pay into? Or should I just work to help students access audiobooks via their public library card like I do? Share your thoughts in the comment section please!
– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)