Read-Alongs for Kids Are Wonderful
by Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager
Some of us can remember playing records that went along with storybooks, with that satisfying “bing” that meant, “Turn the page.” Then came books on cassette tape, and books on CD, and now downloadable audiobooks. Through all the changes, kids have always loved the option to have a book read aloud to them when all the grown-ups are too busy to read with them.
Recently, the company that produces Playaways – books that come preloaded on a small MP3 device – started a new line called Wonderbooks. The brilliance of Wonderbooks is that, like Playaways, the player device is included as part of the audiobook so there is no need for a CD player or a smartphone to get it going. The audio part is embedded in a physical copy of the book, so it is an all-in-one read-along that only requires recharging after 15 or more hours of use. The library started a collection of read-alongs this year with 84 titles added so far. Here are a few:
“Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon is a classic favorite among animal lovers. The Wonderbook reader begins by explaining when to turn the page, and starts with Cannon’s rich language. “In a warm and sultry forest far, far away, there once lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby.” Stellaluna’s mother carries her as she flies to get fruit, but an encounter with an owl jostles the baby, and she falls into a bird’s nest. There, the mother bird and baby birds adopt Stellaluna and care for her, although the bat is not too happy with their diet of bugs and their habit of sleeping right-side-up. Stellaluna’s tale is enticing and enchanting for young listeners. It has stood the test of time since 1993. You will find other beloved classics in the read-alongs like “Corduroy,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See?,” “The Snowy Day,” and Magic School Bus books.
Wonderbooks offer many diverse titles. “Mixed Me!” by Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans is about Mike, a biracial child who gets questioned by others about who he is. Mike is just himself, a perfect “blend of dark and light,” and he refuses to be seen as just one or the other or as being “mixed up.” Diggs’s book opens the conversation about being biracial and shows how Mike enthusiastically embraces this part of himself. More diverse titles in the library’s read-alongs include “I Am Golden” by Eva Chen, “Amira’s Picture Day” by Reem Faruqi, “The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family” by Ibtihaj Muhammad, and “We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know” by Traci Sorell.
A favorite picture book of mine is “A Book for Escargot” by Dashka Slater, and it is especially delightful as a Wonderbook. I overheard someone listening to it and loved the snail’s French accent. Escargot is a fancy French snail on his way to the library to check out a French cookbook. He is a daring snail with a sense of humor and a flair for drama. The silly plot builds when he finds out the cookbook he seeks “is not about cooking food for Escargot! The cookbook is about cooking Escargot for food!” Will the drama ever end? Check out this and more funny Wonderbooks like “Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein, “Ice Cream and Dinosaurs” by Eric Litwin, and “Llama Llama Mad at Mama” by Anna Dewdney for fun reading.
In addition to listening to the story, each Wonderbook also has a “learning mode” that can be switched on for a more interactive experience. Learning mode asks the reader questions, like “Who was your favorite character, and why?” or “Would you like to write a book? What would it be about?”
Kids are having fun with the read-alongs, and even though check outs are limited to 1 per card due to the size of the collection, they are going out like hotcakes. Collection Development Librarian Alex Urbanek is adding more titles every quarter, including several in Spanish, and eventually will add beginning readers and chapter books. Try out a wonderful Wonderbook today.