Hidden Gems at the library

rise to greatness playawaySummer Reading has wound down at the library, and hopefully everyone in the community will have a chance to take a break this month. And while you’re either sitting in a slightly far-off place, or at home in the air conditioning, the library has plenty of materials to help you pass the time.

Our DVD collection gets a good workout, and so do our new books and bestsellers. But we have some hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Our Playaway collection has recently grown, and is waiting for anyone who enjoys audio books to pick up a book or two. What in the world are these precious gems? They are MP3 players that contain only the book you wish to listen to. You don’t need to download anything from the state library, you don’t need to change audio CDs in your car or home CD player, you just plug in earphones, hit the power button, then play. The end.

I like to listen to books on Playaway when I am doing things with my hands that also require moving around, like cleaning, yard work, or crafting. I can pause and hold my place for several days, then press play and continue on with the story, or I can speed up the playback. This is a nice feature that does not alter the voice of the narrator, it just increases the speed at which I can listen to the story.

Right now, I am working on Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year by David Von Drehle. I’m a military history buff, and it’s great to get in some reading while I am doing important summer chores like watching my dog sniff every plant in the yard before doing her business.

Next, I may move on to some of the young adult or children’s Playaway audios, so I can sneak in a few more books while driving or walking, in addition to what I read on my Kindle or in paper book form before bed.

Audiobooks and Playaways aren’t just great for getting an extra story or two in  while doing other things. Listening to books engages our language centers differently than reading books. Both are valuable and keep our minds fresh. Audiobooks are great for reluctant readers and children in general. They don’t just give us wonderful stories, being read aloud to teaches us the pronunciation of words, their context, the rhythm of language, and the shape of dramatic prose. A good narrator can give dramatic rise and fall to even something as distant and strange as union general McClellan’s consistent over-estimation of the size of Confederate forces. You can hear Lincoln’s frustration and the politics that made potentially firing McClellan an incendiary issue.

Being read-to is a long tradition in the history of literacy that has been replaced by the television and cat videos. Granted, if they made a television show about a vampire kitten detective, I would never miss an episode. But I still like to squeeze in a little reading between mainlining Daredevil and Once Upon a Time.

So give it a try! Sneak one into a teen’s pocket, keep a child engaged and out of trouble on a long car ride, or give it a go on a long walk on a summer evening.

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