During one of our lunchbreaks when I was a teacher, one of my friends asked a group of us whether we thought listening to a book on tape could be considered reading. Someone made the observation that listening to a book on tape is listening, so it isn't necessarily reading. This seems to be a fair statement, but after we nodded our heads in agreeement, we started to discuss all the books we listened to, and how much we enjoyed them. I listened to books on tape during my trip to and from school, a 45 minute ride that gave me plenty of time to step into Garrison Keiller's Lake Wobegon, or listen to another chapter of Judy Blume's Summer Sisters . There were times when I didn't want to get out of the car because I was wrapped up in what was going on in the story.
It might not be reading, but I think that we can still take away lessons from stories we listen to, as well as enjoy and relate to them. So when I was asked to review Sesame Street ebooks, I immediately thought of my lunchtime conversation with my other teacher friends. I would have my oldest daughter, Hadley, take a look at these books on our computer, but it wouldn't be the same as when she and I are reading a book together. But that is OK. These books provide valuable lessons for Hadley, and by letting her use them, I believe I'm giving her another kind of reading experience.
Here are some of my observations about the books Hadley looked at:
Hadley started with the book Get Your Grouchies Out: Feeling Happy. As the words are read, they light up on the screen. I noticed Hadley following along, whereas, when we read to her, she is looking at the pictures. After all the words were spoken, Hadley took a minute to look at the picture, and then she'd click an arrow to turn to the next page. When we read to her, unless she asks a question or makes a comment, we turn to the next page. The Sesame Street ebooks give her the independence to look at the words and the pictures, then turn the page at her own pace.
Get Your Grouchies Out: Feeling Happy is a vocabulary book read by Bob, a Sesame Street character on the show. Hadley learned about words like "overjoyed," "elated," and "ecstatic." Bob read a sentence that helped Hadley understand what the meaning was. I think Hadley's favorite was the page with Cookie Monster on it. He's saying he's ecstatic when he has a full plate of cookies. She also liked learning "feliz" because it is a Spanish word. Hadley loves learning Spanish words.
Hadley also took a look at My First Instrument and Big Block Party. These are both longer stories, but Hadley paid attention the entire time. I like that these ebooks focus on telling the story by focusing how to read a book. The words are highlighted, Hadley can turn the pages, the story is read outloud. None of the characters jump around on the page, or disappear with the click of a mouse. There are no pop up bubbles or blinking lights. I like this. I like that nothing takes away from the reading of the story.
The other thing I found impressive about these ebooks is that there are different kinds of them. There are vocabulary books, stories (like My First Instrument), and there are interactive books too. Hadley liked Eat Your Colors which helped her pick out meals for Grover, Cookie Monster, and Elmo. This book helps Hadley learn about eating a variety of foods. It also helps her understand what a "sometimes" food is: like cookies or donuts. I'm not sure she appreciated this lesson so much.
In Eat Your Colors, several Sesame Street characters are on a page with plates that need to be filled, and Hadley needed to figure out what was missing on their plate, and bring it to that character.
She would click on the correct fruit or vegetable etc., and drag it to the empty circles. Hadley liked figuring out what each character should be eating throughout the book.
Watching Hadley read these ebooks reminded me of when I was a little girl, and my parents gave me a Cinderella read along for a birthday or Christmas present. While listening to a record, I would follow Cinderella through her scary, fabulous adventure listenting for the "ding" to tell me to turn the pages. Was it the same as reading with my parents? No. Nobody can replace my dad reading Uncle Remus stories to me and my brother. However, sitting in my room and listening to a story gave me the opportunity to enter into it by myself; something that I believe is an important part of understanding and enjoying a story. I'm glad these ebooks give Hadley a chance to do the same.
When I grow up I want to be a writer. I practice a lot on my two blogs, Notes from Naptime and Sit A While. Sometimes what I write gets into magazines. My work has been in Christian School Teacher, Christian Home and School, the online magazine Mommy Times, and The Banner.
Sit a while. What do you hear? A bird? A bus? A baby's cry? The shouting of a boy? For joy?
Leaves rustling? Trains rattling? Skateboards rolling? A boombox blaring? A mother calling? The droning of a car? Or ten- traveling far, then home again, like your thoughts as you sit with nothing much to do but contemplating it?