Culture Crash 19-09: Audiobooks

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

How do you pass the time on your commutes? Do you tune into the radio? Put on a podcast? Or maybe you listen to an audiobook?

Audiobooks are undergoing a bit of a renaissance right now, and their newfound portability is a main reason why. For a long time, listening to an audiobook meant shelling out big bucks or sitting on a library wait list to obtain a huge, unruly set of tapes or disks. You’d put them in, one after the other, and listen to books on tape for long car rides or an arduous flight.

But now, audiobooks can be the most convenient way to read- or at least, consume- a book. Gone are those days of cassette after cassette, now audiobooks can be purchased from Amazon’s Audible service or, most likely, borrowed for free through your library subscription via a web app like OverDrive. Once you’ve gotten your audiobook, you can save it right to your phone and click play whenever it’s convenient.

Personally, I love driving to the sounds of a good book and experiencing an old favorite through new eyes or being able to easily tear through a good thriller.

One big question in the mind’s of many an audiobook listener is which works best for them: are they listeners who want to get the biggest bang for their buck on a mammoth of a book, or to zip through some shorter books on your commute. For example, you can really invest weeks worth of commutes on nearly 48 hours of listening to Stephen King’s The Stand or 21 hours of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Or, you could pick up some shorter like Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, which clocks in under 9 hours and can easily be finished in just one week’s commuting time.

Much like reading a real book, I find that different seasons and moods predispose me to different audiobooks. Do I want a funny, light memoir like Amy Poehler’s or a dark, scary horror novel? It always just depends.

Regardless of your inclination, it might be worth it to try listening to an audiobook when riding the train or driving in heavy traffic. It might just make your commutes feel more productive. And if you’re looking for a recommendation to get you started, Bryan Cranston’s narration of Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War classic The Things They Carried is one of my favorites.

Get help with finding audiobooks from OverDrive.com.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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18-27 Segment 1: American Illiteracy

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A third of all the children in the United States graduate the 8th grade with below-basic reading skills.  At this level of illiteracy, many of them are unprepared for the workplace or other factors of adult life. Dr. Mark Seidenberg, research professor in the department of psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Language At The Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It, explains that this problem arises  from an improper understanding of how to teach reading, which itself comes from a disconnect between teachers and researchers.

While many teachers believe that  every child must be uniquely tailored to, the research shows that there is still a level at which children converge when learning to read, specifically how and what they need to learn. Dr. Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy development at New York University, says that when a child starts to understand that the letters they see in the written word correspond to the sounds they know from spoken word, they begin to learn how to read. This practice of teaching how to decode language is called phonics and has often been ignored in traditional teaching methods. On the other hand, too much reliance on phonics can also be harmful. Dr. Marie Ann Donovan, associate professor of teaching education at DePaul University, encourages a balanced literacy approach, which includes a phonics component but also focuses on reading comprehension- learning to identify words, know what they mean, and put them together into sentences.

Parents often think that simply reading to their children will teach them to read. Although reading with your child prepares the way and motivates them, it isn’t enough by itself. Dr. Seidenburg says that no matter how hard it is, we need to focus on getting kids prepared for the real world with adequate reading levels. What we can do right now is to ask questions about what our teachers are taught and believe about the process of learning to read. Bridging the gap between education and research may be the first step to solving American illiteracy.

To learn more about literacy or about our guests, visit the links below.

Guests:

  • Dr. Mark Seidenberg, research professor in the department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Language At The Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t and What Can Be Done About It 
  • Dr. Susan B. Neuman, professor at New York University
  • Dr. Marie Ann Donovan, associate professor at DePaul University

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Culture Crash 18-27: What to do when you don’t really like the book you’re reading

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture.  What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

It’s a moment that eventually befalls all book-readers: You finally picked up a book you’ve been meaning to read and…you don’t really like it.

Do you finish reading it, or abandon it halfway?

For most of my life, I’ve believed in the former. I thought it was a cardinal sin to abandon a book before completion. Then I met my match: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. By all accounts, I should love that book. I love mysteries and detective stories. My friends and family have read it to rave reviews. And yet for years, I have stopped-and-started, trying to get through a book that just doesn’t grab my attention.

Last month, I gave it one final try. I got 200 pages into its 804 page length and decided it just wasn’t going to happen. For some reason, this renowned book that everyone says I’ll love and me just don’t click. So I set it back down, maybe forever.

For a little bit, that felt like quitting… and then I remembered all the other books I want to read. Since abandoning Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I’ve torn through Cujo and The Outsider by Stephen King and started reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. None of them have given me the feeling of having to eat my vegetables before dessert that I had every time I picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

So my advice is this: If a book or movie or TV show is starting to feel like self-assigned homework instead of an enjoyable experience, just remember you don’t have to finish it. There are plenty of other stories on the shelves. And maybe down the line, you’ll go back to that abandoned novel and it will grab you in a way it didn’t before. Maybe there’s another attempt at Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in me. But not right now, I’m having too much fun with these other books.

I’m Evan Rook.

Coming Up On Viewpoints Show 18-27

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American Illiteracy

America is facing a literacy problem: according to surveys, fewer than 50% of American schoolchildren are highly proficient readers. We talk to several experts who suggest that we may simply be teaching the skill incorrectly.

Catholicism and the LGBT Community: One priest’s mission to ‘build a bridge’

For centuries, the Catholic Church and the LGBT community have been at odds. Now, the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, is trying to usher in a new era and welcome LGBT individuals to the church.

Culture Crash: What to do when you don’t really like the book you’re reading

It’s a dilemma many of us face from time to time: Should you keep reading a book even if you don’t like it very much, or should you set it down?

17-14 Segment 2: The Trouble with Teaching Reading: Why so many children struggle with literacy

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America is facing a literacy problem: according to surveys, fewer than 50% of American schoolchildren are highly proficient readers. But solving the dilemma isn’t easy: why are so many students struggling and how can we fix it? We talk to several experts who suggest that we may simply be teaching the skill incorrectly. They address the fallacies many of us believe to be true and the balance our education system needs to strike in order to best cure the societal illness of illiteracy.

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Click here for guest information and the transcript

17-06 Segment 2: The Craft and Responsibility of Writing Books for Young Readers

Girls reading books in library

 

We encourage our children to read but what are they reading? We talk to two authors, one for children and one for young adults, who discuss juggling their desire to entertain with the necessity of teaching young people about ethics, history, and tougher topics like drugs and addiction.

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Click here for guest information and the transcript

16-42 Segment 2: Teaching Kids to Read by Expanding Their World

children reading books at park against trees and meadow in the park

 

We hear it all the time – why can’t our kids read better? Our guest has some thoughts on the issue and offers some suggestions to parents, educators and policymakers about how expanding our children’s knowledge base in school will help make them better readers overall.

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Click here for guest information and the transcript