I’ve heard rumors that there are people out there who don’t have TVs, or don’t let their children watch them for hours on end. I’m not one of them, but I definitely enforce lots of screen-free time around my house, especially with endless hours of summer free time that can be spend in much better way.
Listening to books on CD is a great way to spend some time together as a family. I always picture families gathered around the radio in the living room, like they did in pre-television days. Even if you don’t use them that way, they are a great way to while away long hours in the car, or even to encourage your child to have some quiet solitary time in his or her own room. My daughter Amanda is such a bookworm that if she has a book on CD to listen to, she is much more likely to tackle the project of cleaning or organizing her room.
Brown Bear & Friends is read by Gwyneth Paltrow and contains the full text of that story, Polar Bear, Panda Bear, and Baby Bear in English and Spanish. The first two books have been board book staples in my home–beloved by my daughter many years ago and equally appreciated more recently by my son. Eric Carle’s bright creative pictures and Bill Martin’s simple and mellifluous text hold up to many repeat readings. Kyle just turned four, so we don’t read these books much anymore, but I thought that he’d like to follow along with the CD. I put the copies of the book in the car and invited Kyle to follow along with the story. Paltrow uses her professional dramatic skills to read slowly and expressively. You can hear the mom in her as well, as she makes the animal sounds come alive. The music in the background adds a nice touch, resulting in a calming, attention-grabbing few minutes.
There are also a few bonus interviews with Eric Carle, which provide interesting information about his background. For some reason, Kyle found these funny, and asked to listen to the “lobster story” more than once (It’s part of Carle’s story about how he and Bill Martin teamed up to create these books).
This audiobook would be perfect for ages one to three (and their Eric Carle-loving parents).
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden is a book that Amanda read as part of a school-wide reading project when she was in the first grade. I remembered that book from my childhood, so each night I loved introducing her to Chester Cricket who finds himself in Grand Central Station after accidentally getting taken away from his home in Connecticut in a New Yorker’s picnic basket, Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse who live in the subway station and befriend and protect Chester Cricket, and the young boy Mario who keeps Chester as a pet and discovers his unique musical talent. This new audiobook version is read by actor Tony Shalhoub. He does a fantastic job voice-acting and distinguishing each character.
I highly recommend this story, and specifically this audiobook version, suitable for ages four and up. You could listen to this on a trip or on TV-free evenings at home and I think that the whole family from preschooler to tween to Mom and Dad would be rapt with attention.
In Travel Time Stories you’ll find classic fairy tales told in a calming voice (Have you noticed that I’m big on “calm”? If you had met my children, you’d understand why) introduced by a snippet of classical music. The narrator also provides a bit of background about the particular story or author and then launches into a retelling of such stories as Rumpelstiltskin or The Emperor’s New Clothes. Each CD includes several stories and is over 60 minutes long.
I recommend these collections for children from about five to ten years old, because these aren’t quick cutesy tales–but rather full detailed original stories, with the characteristic strong moral lessons that the Grimm brothers are known for. The telling of the story grabbed Kyle’s attention, and he listened for a bit, but because the content was above his four-year-old comprehension, he soon got lost in the detail.
A unique feature of these CDs is that it comes custom-printed with the child’s name you specify, which adds to the “wow” factor in presentation. You can order one of several Travel Time Stories CDs on their website.
Three readers will win a set of all three CDs. They each target a different age group, but even if you don’t have a child in that age range, these make great gifts–My son has already given a copy of the Cricket in Times Square CD to his best buddy for his fourth birthday. His mom was thrilled, since they have a long car trip coming up this summer. Those Eric Carle books are one of my standard baby gifts, so I’m thinking that the CD would be a wonderful addition.
Leave a comment here if you’d like to win and come back on June 24 to see if you won this or any of the other giveaways designed to help encourage some Creative Summer Days.