Tag Archives: audiobooks

Why school this way?



Any material being read, or listened to, will connect with individuals differently, depending on their prior knowledge and interests. An idea might spark curiosity in one, that another would dismiss as inconsequential. Sometimes a reader will pick at a thread that hadn’t been intentionally placed for further investigation. Oftentimes, authors don’t get to benefit from readers’ feedback, and may not be inspired to conduct further research for themselves.

But bloggers do!

Or bloggers with wonderful readers who participate in discussions and share their ideas! I am always grateful to you my readers for your encouragement to keep on learning. You are constantly challenging my assumptions, offering alternate views, and inspiring me to seek more information. I love it.


While I emphasize the importance of maintaining a sense of wonder, and of encouraging children to ask questions, I’m not always good at asking those questions myself. I learned that lesson well;  so am appreciative when others stimulate questions.

During this past week there have been a couple of robust conversations here: one about audiobooks and cheating; and another about common curricula. The conversations branched into fields as different as science fiction and history. Thank you to those who joined in.

In This too will pass I mentioned that each state in Australia had its own set of curricula. This places an extra burden on children changing schools, particularly interstate. The mention of our new National Curriculum made Charli Mills curious about how US education evolved. She assumed it was fairly uniform across the states, with the school year developed around farming so that children could help out in the fields.

old school room

I thought that our Western systems of schooling had originated with industrialisation. However, Charli responded saying that industrialisation had had little influence on education in the West (of the States). So of course I was compelled to check my assumptions!

A Google search brought me to this document Industrialization and Public Education: Social Cohesion and Social Stratification which does seem to verify a relationship between industrialisation and schooling. (But one of the most interesting things to me is the cost of a chapter, and of the entire book this first page comes from. Have a look!)

money bag

I also found an abstract of Chapter 2 Long-Term Trends in Schooling: The Rise and Decline (?) of Public Education in the United States, from another book, that seems to support Charli’s understanding of the homogeneity of education in the United States. I haven’t read it yet, but it could be informative.

I couldn’t let the topic of schooling and industrialisation go without sharing a talk by one of my favourite educators Sir Ken Robinson. This is a shorter animated version of a longer talk, which I’ve also included if you are interested in listening to the original.

This is the animated abridged version:

This is the original:

Now, I have to wonder, in light of the discussion about cheating mentioned earlier, would watching the shortened version qualify as having watched the talk, or would it be considered cheating?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Cheating? It never entered my head


ausines headphones

I have previously mentioned the enjoyment I get from commuting. It’s not the sitting in traffic I enjoy, it’s the extra time for reading I have while I’m driving: reading with my ears rather than my eyes. I have a new-found love of audiobooks.

Over the past few years my library of audiobooks has grown alongside my library of ebooks and printed books. The range of genres represented in each category is pretty much the same when considering recent acquisitions, though measured alongside the collection of a lifetime the comparative numbers may differ. My collections include fiction and nonfiction, memoir and biography, children’s stories and picture books. Sadly, books of poetry are almost absent from recent purchases, though I do have one on order. Maybe I should improve on that sometime soon.

Although I have rarely been disappointed by any narrator, I especially enjoy it when authors read their own work. I recall disappointment and the need to correct, in my head, the narration of only one book. (It wasn’t read by the author.)

Three things I like about audiobooks:

  • They increase reading time. I can listen while I do other things like driving, walking, ironing.
  • I can take them anywhere and, with a pair of headphones, listen anywhere.
  • There are many genres and titles to choose from. I can catch up on classics I’ve missed, or read new releases.

Five things that disappoint me about audiobooks:

  • Not all titles I would like to read are available.
  • They are not cheap, with prices equivalent or higher than a hardback edition. The last audiobook I bought was A$38; the next on my list is A$52!
  • It is difficult to skip forward or back, find a particular place, make notes, or highlight quotes (if I find I want to do this with a book I have listened to, I invariably purchase it as an ebook or printed book, and sometimes both).
  • Sometimes, but not always, my place has been lost when I have closed one book and opened another.
  • They cannot be lent or transferred to another device (or maybe that’s because I buy them on iTunes for my iPad and I do not own any other Apple devices. Maybe someone can let me know.) This is probably better for the authors and their royalty payments.

I find that I very much enjoy being read to, listening to the words spoken by another, thinking about the richness of the voice and its accent, allowing me to be transported into the writer’s world through the voice’s musicality. It is like the author is speaking directly to me.

I was interested then, to recently read the opinions of two other writers about audiobooks:

Virginia Franken wrote My Sweet Love Affair With The Audio Book  for Women Writers, Women(‘s) Books, and

Daniel Willingham posted Is listening to an Audiobook “Cheating” on his own blog.

Virginia explains her recent delight in finding audiobooks as a way of making more time for reading after her first child was born. She wonders how much boredom may have been prevented in previous years had audiobooks been available. She says,

‘even the most frantic among us probably has a few minutes in the day when we can listen to a book, even if there’s no time to physically sit down and read one. Working out, cleaning, commuting, watching your kid’s baseball practice, procrastinating at the office and yes, even grading bananas – now all have the potential to be a lot less dull.”

As I do, she finds listening to books as she commutes to work a real bonus. In addition to the excitement of listening, Virginia is excited that her novel Life After Coffee is to be produced as an audiobook. How exciting.

Virginia refers to the Association of American Publishers and its findings that sales of audiobooks are increasing and may be overtaking those of ebooks. Obviously Virginia and I are not the only ones enjoying audiobooks. But are we cheating by listening rather than decoding? Is listening not real reading?

Daniel Willingham, a cognitive scientist, also has books available in audio format.  I listened to and enjoyed Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom a few months ago. The focus of Willingham’s post about audiobooks is a little different from that of Virginia’s. I guess we should expect that from a cognitive scientist.

Willingham says that he’s been asked numerous times if listening to an audiobook is cheating. As I indicated in the title, I wouldn’t have thought of it in that way, other than perhaps cheating time. Is making more efficient use of time cheating?

Willingham says he doesn’t like the question. He chooses to rephrase it this way:

“does your mind do more or less the same thing when you listen to an audio book and when you read print?”

He says mostly it does, that “listening to an audio book is exactly like reading print, except that the latter requires decoding and the former doesn’t.” The same language processes are involved, and this is especially true when the purposes for reading are similar to the purposes for listening.

He cites research showing that differences in reading ability in lower grades are due to differences in decoding ability rather than language processes, and that in higher grades the differences are more to do with language processes that support comprehension. He says that there is a high correlation between listening and reading comprehension in adults.

However, he says that the processes may differ according to purpose; for example, when studying for a test or a quiz, or scanning for information, perhaps a printed text may be of more benefit. I agree but suggest print is definitely a better choice in these circumstances (see things I listed as disappointments earlier). He implies that listening, however, might provide additional meaning and aid comprehension through intonation. I think this is possibly true too.

Willingham - reading and listening

In conclusion, Willingham explains that

Listening to audiobooks is not cheating because:

  • “Cheating” implies an unfair advantage, as though you are receiving a benefit while skirting some work. Why talk about reading as though it were work?
  • Listening to an audio book might be considered cheating if the act of decoding were the point; audio books allow you to seem to have decoded without doing so. But if appreciating the language and the story is the point, it’s not.
  • Comparing audio books to cheating is like meeting a friend at Disneyland and saying “you took a bus here? I drove myself, you big cheater.” The point is getting to and enjoying the destination. The point is not how you travelled.

What do you think? Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you consider it cheating? Why would you, or would you not, choose to listen to audiobooks?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.


Why do you read?


I read every day.

I read:

  • Blog posts
  • Emails
  • Tweets
  • Articles
  • News reports
  • Notifications
  • Comments on blogs
  • Road signs
  • Menus
  • Labels on products
  • Receipts
  • Bills
  • Bank statements
  • Letters
  • Instructions

The list could go on …

At the moment my reading of full-length books is limited, though recently I read a novel (Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard) and a memoir (On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years after it Happened by Lori Schafer), both of which I read as ebooks. I also read a non-fiction paper book (Retiring with Attitude by Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell) and am part-way through a number of other non-fiction titles.

Most of the full-length book reading I currently do is in audiobook format. My in-car time on the way to work is usually from about 45-60 minutes and I use this time to listen to audiobooks. During the past year I have listened to quite a variety including both fiction and non-fiction. I particularly enjoy it when the author reads the book, as with my current “read” Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story by Michael Rosen.

Blog posts are probably my number one source of reading material at the moment. I read a variety of blogs; some about writing for writers, some about teaching for teachers, some with a variety of information about a range of subjects, lots about books! Picture books, young adult novels, fiction and non-fiction. I am always on the lookout for something new to read or to give as a gift for someone else to read.

I always enjoy Anne Goodwin’s reviews on her blog Annecdotal. Not all of the books that Anne reviews appeal to me, and few of them will I read. Last year I did read one of her suggestions (The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz) and we had quite a discussion about his chapter on praise. I also read Stephen Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, that was recommended to me by Geoff Le Pard, and Stephen King’s On Writing that was recommended by Lisa Reiter.

Sometimes when I read reviews or think of all the wonderful books I could be reading, I chastise myself for the little “reading” I do. But then I remind myself that the reading I choose/need to do at the moment is different. One day soon I’ll be back to more fiction rather than informational texts.

I was reminded of this when I re-read an article written by Charlotte Zolotow and published in The Horn Book: Writing for the Very Young: An Emotional Déjà Vu.

In the article Zolotow says,

“I have so much left to read and reread and so little time left in which to do it that I want to select what fills my emotional needs — needs which are often different from, or unknown to, even my closest friends.”

Zolotow goes on to explain that

“It was not this way when I was an adolescent or in my middle years, when I had a wide, all encompassing, devouring, greedy desire to read everything. But if I think back, I do remember as a child wanting certain books over and over again and others not at all. Very young children, like older people, want to read or hear read books that help them sort out their own most acute needs, their own inquiries about life.”

I thought how true it is. Throughout life our reading habits and choices change. I have always been a reader. As a child and teenager I read fiction, and lots of it. Even as a young adult I continued to read fiction and poetry, but my reading of non-fiction, mainly but not exclusively to do with education, began to exceed those choices. At that time there were only paper books, and I loved them, thinking that nothing could come between me and my books.

How wrong I was and how times change. Now I read online, ebooks and audiobooks. There is a much greater variety of material available for readers and, I think, the demands are greater. In days gone by if you weren’t reading books you weren’t reading. Now the distinction is not so clear. Because I am not reading full-length paper books as frequently as before, I think of myself as a non-reader. But that is unfair and untrue. I spend most of my day reading, and when I am not reading, I am writing. But these days reading is a huge part of my writing. I am constantly researching and reading online to give extra credence or support to what I am writing.

What about you? How do you view yourself as a reader? Does one need to read books to be considered a reader?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

“If you want intelligent children, give them a book …”

If-you-want-intelligent children

These words piqued* my interest as they wafted to my ears from the TV set in the other room.

Who is that?” I called out.

Jackie French,” he replied.

I jumped up, eager to see and hear more.

Jackie French is a well-known Australian author and advocate for literacy and the environment. She is currently the Australian Children’s Laureate with the task of promoting “the importance and transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians”.

I was delighted to find that Jackie’s speech was in acceptance of an Australian of the Year Award.

The media announcement released by the Minister for Social Services explains that Jackie was recognised for her “long and distinguished career as a beloved children’s writer, earning more than 60 literary prizes for her books.”

 “Jackie embodies this commitment (to changing lives in our community) and I’d like thank her for the work she continues to do sharing the power of reading and story-telling for young Australians, and her work in conservation.” 

Here is Jackie, Senior Australian of the Year 2015, accepting her award.



In this next video Jackie talks about her book “Hitler’s Daughter”. You don’t have to have read the book to glean much of interest from the interview. In the discussion Jackie shares her thoughts about reading and writing. She questions how the ‘world’ in which one is, influences thoughts about good and evil and decisions that are made. She discusses how the need for evil to be resolved in a work of fiction differs between children and adults. She talks about whether it is necessary for a child to apologise for the sins of the previous generation, and how still controversial issues can be dealt with in an historical situation. It is worth listening to if you simply want something to ponder over.

Being an early childhood teacher I am more familiar with Jackie’s picture books such as

Diary of a Wombat, Baby Wombat’s Week, and Josephine Wants to Dance, which are delightful.


Here is a video of Jackie reading Diary of a Wombat.

I have just discovered that Hitler’s Daughter is available as an audiobook, so it is going onto my list!


I congratulate Jackie on her award and thank her for the contribution she is making to the lives of so many and the future of our planet.





In this sentence, I am using the word “piqued” to mean “stimulated or aroused my interest”.

How can one word be used to express opposite meanings? I don’t know how anyone is expected to learn or understand the nuances of this language we call English!

When I checked with my thesaurus to ensure I had chosen the correct word, this is what I found:

piqued 1         piqued 2

How many other words do you know that could almost be listed as its antonym?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.