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July 19, 2005 > Footnotes: Read to me, please!

Footnotes: Read to me, please!

When there is a gap between a child's vocabulary and reading fluency, reading aloud can bridge it. Reading aloud is a golden opportunity to establish a love for books, as well as being fun.

Once your child starts school, especially with today's heavy emphasis on test performance, the love of reading often gets lost. If he or she is lucky enough to have a teacher who reads out loud, appreciation of how good writing just flows off the tongue, and the magic of a great story will naturally follow.

No time to read aloud to your kids or a dread of the long hours spent trapped in the car this vacation? Hire someone to read to you or try audiobooks. I'm totally hooked on audiobooks. It even makes commuting pleasant. Earlier books on tape were very boring because the narrator would read so slowly. Tapes were designed to follow along with your finger under the text. Today's books are read by professionals, often actors, and are true performances. A great narrator doesn't have to dramatically change his or her voice to change characters, just changing the tone slightly is better than a falsetto or fake baritone. I usually prefer unabridged recordings. When self-help books are repetitive, an abridgement can be a blessing.

Occasionally you might find that the reader's voice just doesn't fit the text. As an ex-New Yorker, heavy fake New York accents drive me crazy. It's best to listen first before you are stuck with an annoying narrator; get someone's recommendations, or find a reader that you like and search for other books narrated by the same person.

Tip: You might want to have a hard copy of the book on hand just in case there is a glitch in the recording or you need to backtrack a bit.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the 6th installment of J.K. Rowlings magical world of Hogwarts. I'm betting that this one is as wonderful as the previous recordings. Even if you have already read all of the Harry Potter books, try the audiobooks read by Audie and Grammy Award winning Jim Dale. His voice is a true instrument - he modulates and changes pitch to play each of the characters. Even the English accents differ slightly. From book to book, the voices seem to age as the characters get older. Listening Library cassettes and CDs. For all ages.

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, read by Brendan Fraser. This book will appeal to younger fans of Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl. Actor Brendan Fraser brings the characters to life.

Firedrake, a young dragon, receives a frightening warning one night: Humans are planning to destroy the valley in which he lives! All the dragons must flee. Their only refuge is a place above the clouds called the Rim of Heaven, which may not even exist.
Firedrake boldly volunteers to go ahead first. As he embarks on his journey, he meets Ben, a runaway boy. Together, the boy and dragon make their way toward the Rim of Heaven, all the while running a step ahead of Nettlebrand, a monster who will stop at nothing to hunt down Firedrake. Listening Library cassettes and CDs. Unabridged.

Jim Weiss - These award-winning recordings of stories performed by Jim Weiss are great for lengthy car rides. There are no accompanying books for these classic stories that all children should hear. Each CD is approximately one hour in length. Selections include American Tall Tales, Tales from Cultures Far and Near, King Arthur and His Knights, Rip Van Winkle / Gulliver's Travels, and Greek Myths. For more information, see or Greathall Productions cassettes and CDs. Check listings for age appropriateness.

Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald, read by Stephen Lang. You wouldn't believe that this account of Enron's rise and collapse could be this gripping. Can these people really be that greedy, that dumb, and that full of hubris? Can you ever be rich enough?
The cast includes but is not limited to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul O'Neill, Harvey Pitt, Colin Powell, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alan Greenspan, Ken Lay, Andy Fastow, Jeff Skilling, Bill Clinton, Rupert Murdoch and Michael Eisner. Providing a you-are-there glimpse behind closed doors in the executive suites of the Enron Corporation, the Texas governor's mansion, the Justice Department, and even the Oval Office, Conspiracy of Fools is an all-true financial and political thriller of cinematic proportions.
Once I started listening, I could not stop - not a dry report about a failed business but a reminder of how much business is shaped by personality. Unabridged or abridged cassettes and CDs, Random House Audio. For adults and entrepreneurial teenagers.
For more book reviews, see If you would like to suggest some good reads for our book group or wish to join, please let me know at
Sources for audiobooks:

Public Library - CD selection is limited but there are lots of audiocassettes. - Download books on to your computer, MP3 player or burn on to CDs. You can listen to snippets of books to get a feel for the reader. - Great selection but takes forever to get your order through the mail via media mail from the East Coast.

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