Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kids, Classics, Kindle

In an effort to expand their vocabularies and instill intellectual discipline, I've begun having my boys listen to rigorous classics on our Kindle Fire HD, using audiobooks with immersion reading. Immersion reading, as most of you probably know (we're always the last to know) is listening to a professional narrator read the text while you follow along with the printed text in front of you on your Kindle. The words the narrator reads are highlighted in chunks, thereby allowing children to read higher level texts with pronunciation help on difficult words, along with the touch dictionary feature, allowing them access to definitions quickly and conveniently, with no heavy dictionary in tow. Let's face it: Most of us don't have the discipline to use a big bulky dictionary when we're trying to enjoy a book. 

This morning they were listening to The Three Musketeers. While technically a middle school book, the vocabulary is quite advanced; at least three words from the first chapter were entirely new to me, for example.

We've lost touch with these old classics as educators and readers partly because they require intellectual discipline and a mature attention span--both of which we're losing in this fast-paced era. As a reader and especially as a wannabe writer, I love the genius of his sentence structures, his vocabulary, and his plots, but if I'm tired, Charles Dickens is likely to put me to sleep during long descriptive segments. He's not always adept at moving his story lines along--he and a lot of other giants in literature. Three pages spent on scenery or describing a character can try the patience, depending on our mood.

Children have even less patience and stamina, so immersion reading is brilliant.

There's something to be said for intellectual discipline, and it's my job to push my learners in the right direction. I eat broccoli because I should, and I read great literature for the same reason. Over time, passion grows for the finer things (and a little melted cheese helps!). I've always felt that the richer our reading material, the richer our own prose and vocabulary become over time. The best writers are voracious readers. A writing teacher simply can't impart talent, but great books do it, brilliantly.

Thirty minutes a day to start, I told my boys as we set up the Kindle with The Three Musketeers. They were very good at clicking on the dictionary feature to look up unknown words, but at least for me, the highlighting of the text became distracting after a time. One could easily put too much mental focus on the words, at the expense of the plot. So, I suggested they listen to half a chapter with highlighting of the words, and another half with just voice.

Taking advantage of Whispersync for Voice on a Kindle Fire Tablet and also now on iOS and Android, you need to have purchased both the text version of a book and also the audio version, which you can get as an upgrade once you have the text version. Most older classics are free, and the audio upgrade is usually only $.99.

Immersion reading is not to be confused with the text-to-speech option in which a computerized voice reads the text for you. Oh, man. We hate that voice!

Many of you probably already use the nifty immersion reading technology, but for those who are slow to catch on, like us, you might find this post extremely helpful, from Homeschooling With Dyslexia. An excerpt is included below.

The exciting thing for me is the development of Immersion Reading for Kindle Fire (the latest generation) and Kindle Fire HD owners. With Immersion Reading, Kindle edition books are synched to the corresponding Audible audio edition AND as the books are read the text is highlighted while it is narrated via the Audible audio book.
We have long used audiobooks and had our dyslexic kids listen to the book as they followed along in the paper version. The trouble is that they can often lose their place and end up just listening, thus losing the multisensory input. The benefits of this immersion-type of listening is similar to those of the Neurological Impress Method (NIM). In this instructional method, the parent (or tutor) reads a text that is slightly above the student’s reading ability while running their finger under the text.
This multisensory instruction allows the child to see and hear the words at the same time and is very effective for building word recognition and fluency.
There are nearly 15,000 Kindle books and Audible audiobooks available for Immersion Reading and Whispersynch for Voice as well as a nice selection of free sets including, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Tale of Two Cities, The Three Muskateers, Gulliver’s Travels and other classics.

So, tell me. Do your children enjoy immersion reading? Do you have some classics ready to go? Please share your experiences.


Tesha Papik said...

We use You Tube! Jadon is listening to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe right now. He has also listened to Black Beauty, Gulliver's Travels, Tom Sawyer and other classics This is a link of the free reading

Christine said...

Thank you, Tesha. I will check it out.