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Audio books

Listening to an audio book while flipping through a library book
North Carolina September 2012

Preschool has started. My four-year old comes home every day happy, exhausted, and over-stimulated. I've been letting him watch one movie for a little quiet time, but that leaves the entire rest of the afternoon for us to figure out what to do next. This past week was a little rough. Not only did our family just have a stressful week in general (I think everything that could break, did break), I also have realized that our afternoon schedule was not working well for a tired preschooler that does not nap. What to do?

Well, I started by figuring out what his body needs. For some reason, he doesn't finish his lunch at school. His brothers have been eating lunch after we pick D up from school, so I have D come home and finish his lunch while his brothers eat. Following the preschool lingo, D likes to call this "snack time." After snack time and toddler lunchtime, we have Family Quiet Time. The toddlers go down to nap and D relaxes on the couch and watches a movie. This gives me time to do the things that I want to do, such as checking my emails, blogging, devotionals, or writing. An added bonus is that many days D falls asleep on the couch while watching the movie.

But then the movie is over and D meanders over to stand at my shoulder, "Momma, what are you doing?" This is when the schedule gets tricky and I wasn't sure what I needed to do. We went in the backyard to play and it was too rigorous. He was tired and whiny by dinnertime. One day he even fell asleep while I was cooking dinner! We practiced writing, but he had already practiced writing at preschool in the morning and it was very late in the afternoon to apply himself to focused writing with me. We played a board game, but his antsy four-year old mind only wanted to focus on Chutes and Ladders three or four times before suggesting, "Hey, let's play Eels and Elevators!" (A very confusing made-up game of his based off a Sponge Bob episode.) Basically, we have bumbled our way through the afternoons making spur of the moment decisions based off of how we felt that day. Some days it worked fine; other days he was bored or overtired. This scheduling Momma does not like operating that way.

So I started thinking. What is he interested in that I could use to my advantage? What would keep him interested, but still give him a little down time? At the same time, what can we find that will broaden his mind and not just offer pointless entertainment? Several days were spent thinking about the afternoon schedule when it hit me on the way to preschool Thursday morning. D jumped in the van and hollered from the back, "Hey, Momma! Can we listen to the Cars story on the way to preschool?" To quote Despicable Me, "Light bulb."

Audio books.

Believe it or not, we don't have a CD player in our house. We have my laptop, where I play CDs or burn them into iTunes; I also have my iHome. We have our surround system, but a four-year old is not going to be given the go ahead to play with the surround sound system. We needed a Target trip (oh, darn... wink, wink). At Target, D was very interested in the "race car aisle" and very bored on the electronics aisle. He wanted to push every button on all the displays of the fancy audio systems. Watching him work, I asked where the cheapest, most basic CD players were. We found a basic CD player for $20. He liked throwing the box in the cart; he had no interest in the CD player. We stopped by the race car aisle and he bummed a shark monster truck. (Who thinks of this stuff? "I know," exclaimed the Matchbox exec, "let's combine sharks with monster trucks: a shark monster truck!" Everyone at the board meeting cheers with glee. "Why didn't I think of that?" an intern grumbles.) I said no to the monster truck and started explaining the merits of his CD player. His eyes glazed over. In the Jeep, he allowed me to hand him the CD player after he buckled up, but he just set it on the seat next to him, instead of his normal scrutiny of a new toy. It wasn't until we got home, plugged the CD player in and put his Cars Song and Story CD in that his eyes lit up. "Hey, Dadda! We can listen to Cars in the house! We can listen to Jake and the Neverland pirates in the house, not just in the van!"

This afternoon, he went to his room and turned on an audio book. While the audio book was playing, he pulled out his Playmobile pirates and started an elaborate sea battle. This is huge for my child who does not entertain himself. He even was molding his comforter in the shape of waves to make the battle even more epic. Momma thought, "This calls for a library trip."

Off we went to the library. In front of the wall of children's audio books, I saw his eyes glaze over once again. "Um, I'm going to the children's play area," said my wiggle worm.

"Okay, but it's not a play area. It's a reading corner," I caution.

"It looks like a play area to me..." he mumbled as he wandered off.

I quickly scanned the audio book selection. D had pointed to the Little House series before he left, declaring, "I want the horse one." I was uncertain about the series because he has such a small attention span and I wanted the first library audio book experience to be captivating. I found How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long (we love David Shannon) and a promising title called Freddy and the Dragon by Walter R Brook. Hearing a ruckus from the children's corner, I quickly grabbed something familiar, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Along with the audio books, we left with our usual mountain high stack of "library fines," as my husband and mother call my library trips. (Let me just say, in my defense, that it is very difficult to know in advance the time frame of when you will feel like reading a specific title, especially when you have the suffocating pressure of an impending deadline, or return by date, in front of you. In my defense.)

Once home, D ran to his room to grab his CD player. We put the shortest title in first, the Melinda Long book. After the quick book was read, he asked for another. We went with the Walter Brook's children's novel. He sat engrossed for the first chapter and a half before hitting "pause" like a gentleman and announcing, "Well, that's enough for one day." My wiggle worm preschooler sat "criss-cross applesauce" listening to these stories by himself! Doing nothing but listening! Yes, the concept is still new and novel, but with the endless supply of materials from the library, we can keep his audio book collection fresh and interesting. Both my husband and I are thrilled over his enthusiasm to hear stories.

The library has never been D's favorite place to go. As soon as we walk inside, the volume of his voice kicks up two notches, "MOMMA, WHY IS EVERYONE SO QUIET IN HERE?" His hands wander aimlessly, knocking over stacks of books or none-to-carefully returning a book to the shelf. Myself being a book lover, I cannot help but cringe when I hear him disturbing the sanctity of this wonderful commonwealth of knowledge. After hitting pause, he walked over to our stack of library books and ran his finger down their spines. "Momma," he said, "I can't wait to go back to the library!"

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