My love of listening to stories began with my mother’s whispered, made-up- in-a-nano-second bedtime rituals. Time-poor, with four small people to attend – she was the master of the small but perfectly formed three act story. And when I say short, I mean short. A few minutes, maybe five. But she was clever and if the telling fell short of the mark, it didn’t matter because I could feel her mind working, hear her night-voice, inhale her – I had her to myself for just a tiny pocket of time in wonderland. Marvellous.
Later, it was the children’s stories on the Sunday Morning Radio Show. Faraway lands. Fairy-tales, folk tales. Death, darkness and danger. And magic of course. Walter de la Mare’s dark and delightful Molly Whuppie “Woe betide you Molly Whuppie, if ye e’er return again!” The Little Red Engine, Jack and the Beanstalk – oh and a favourite The Noisy Eater by Jim Copp (read by Jerry Lewis). “Pass the salt! No matter. I get it myself.”
You get the idea. Scratchy old recordings, the metal-vinyl scent of the transistor warmed by straining batteries and morning sun. Carpet burn. I feel old just talking about it. It was always a grand couple of hours of losing ourselves in story while the olds tried to achieve some kind of sleep-in. All those seeds push up at me now, a parent. There’s definitely a time and a place for audio books. I reach for them when my kids are tired and can’t extend themselves to much more than flopping about on the sofa. And of course, they are unparalleled for the ole car-journey. Holiday time too – when the kids are far away from the luxuries and diversions of everyday life. When a jangle of ages come together on a hot afternoon to pass the time until the sun mellows and they can move again. For years I’ve had hassles trying to get my hands on anything more than audio recordings of the classics. It’s always been, you know, Enid, Beatrix or Roald. Or other random recordings held by my tireless local library – scratched CD’s with disintegrating covers, inter-loaned from exotic sounding places like Beachlands and Manurewa. But now – BEHOLD the e-library! Yep this luddite has been slow on the uptake but I’m a convert. New Zealand libraries now have vast high quality audio books for you to enjoy at a click or tap. Brilliant. There’s no cost and no late fees (the titles auto-return), you can download them 24/7 from any mobile device anywhere you can glean a connection and they are usually available (or with a very short wait time). As for eReaders – you can zoom in, change text size and style, line spacing and margins. For children – most NZ public libraries recommend and are partnered with; OverDrive (the largest collection for kids and teens), BorrowBox (classics and popular fiction), EBSCOhost (kids’ joke books and R.L Stine teen fiction) and Tumblebooks, Tumblebookcloud, Tumblebookcloud Junior and BookFlix (animated, talking picture books; read-along titles and interactive non-fiction titles). The list of titles is exciting and gets better all the time. Download an App, feel your way around and thousands of titles in audio (and e-reader) format are yours for the picking. Instant, intimate, portable listening pleasure. If you’re device-averse, head in to your local library where they generally support borrowers with tech-savvy Library Assistants who can help you with the most basic questions. The Auckland Library webpage has a great page on Getting Started. We found ourselves unexpectedly down the line last week with children in a tiny motel room so I whacked a couple of titles on my phone and presto! Fiction not crap TV. The raggedy hour before dinner suddenly wholesome. The long drive home definitely more palatable. Revelation.