Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Exploring Audio Books Inside and Out with Mike Paine (guest post)

I want to shed some light on what it takes to create an audio book production from a narrator’s first hand perspective and also examine what makes an audio book character come to life. When I audition for a prospective audio book production, I choose a project that has a story that needs to not only be told..but heard as well. I then read an audition script and try a few different takes on my own before submitting one that I believe fits the storyline. If I’m selected to narrate an audio book, I really try to grab the attention of the listener immediately and add a dimension to a story that can only be achieved in an audio book. What does that mean? 
For works of fiction I carefully examine the entire script to see what each character is doing, saying and feeling. That’s key to making a story come to life through sound and for the listener wanting to know more about the characters involved. I never try to make a work of fiction too “perfect” with a flawless narration. I want the listener to believe the character is realistic by stammering when nervous or raising their voice when angered. It’s much harder to do, but the end result is a vibrant story waiting to be heard! 
As for works of poetry, I like to use a soothing approach to stir emotions in each listener. Beautiful thoughts meshed together make an enjoyable experience for the narrator as well as the listener.
Autobiographical pieces require being in tune with what the author wants to convey in their message to you by having the narration serve as a compliment to their story. It’s almost as if I’m saying “listen to this; you really need to know what I’m going to tell you!”.  
A humorous or satirical audio book approach calls for emphasizing those times when thelistener should laugh out loud as well as leave enough pause to let them absorb what they heard before moving on.
Each book is entirely different in the way I approach a narration. Once I get on a “roll” I want to narrate the whole book that moment and I have to stop myself from beingover-anxious! I prefer narrating shorter stories because it allows the listener to really embrace the story and/or characters in a way that captures the imagination. It leaves you wanting more!  In this ever-changing fast paced society, it’s refreshing to know that people from all walks of life love to listen to an audio book to learn, to be inspired or simply as an escape. 
Exploring an audio adventure can open up a whole new world to those who don’t like to read a book in the traditional way or even with a device. It almost channels that inner desire to hear a story told from someone else’s point of view! Since June is Audio Book month, look into an audio book as a new way of hearing a story told or even as a compliment to hear your favorite book come to life! 
A little about me: I first got into voice over work back in 1987 because I thought it would be a fun thing to do. My first job was for a cable television provider in Dallas, Texas when a producer took a chance on a kid. I did cable television voice overs for a restaurant and a printing shop. I have been doing voice overs, audio book narrations and radio broadcasting work ever since! My credits include narrating 21 audio books which you can find on audible.com.  (You can follow Mike on Twitter @MikePaineShow)
My voice over work has been heard worldwide and ranges from the voice of Santa for a children’s app, the voice of Socrates for an animated training course and even a movie trailer as an Italian mob don (in English AND Italian!). I do all of my narrating and voice work from my home studio which allows me to create without the confines of a 9 to 5 environment. 
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the audiobook world!

Karen’s note: I have never used Audible.  I check audio books out from my library – it’s pretty convenient because I go there several times a week. Plus, I don’t have to spend money on I book I may not like.  But I know someone who does use Audible, and she has been very happy with the service.  If I like a book, I don’t usually go out and buy the audio but buy the actual book to keep in my collection.  Listening to an audio book is how we ended up buying the complete Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter at my house.

Do you listen to audio books?  Where do you get yours?  Tell us in the comments.

June is Audio Book Month

Since moving from Ohio to Texas, we have driven back and forth several times.  It is 19 hours.  19 hours trapped in a car with a teen and a 4 year old.  They fight.  They ask if we are there yet – a lot.  But behold the magic of Audio Books! They really do make travelling better.

June is Audio Book Month.  In part because school is ending and everyone is thinking about taking those long vacation drives somewhere.  It is, in fact, a great time to listen to an audio book.  Of course, you can also listen while you work out, clean your house, do yard work and more.

During Reluctant Readers week, we talked a lot about how audio books are a great tool for reluctant readers:

Confessions of a Librarian Raising a Reluctant Reader
What is a Reluctant Reader  
Take 5: Resources for Working with Reluctant Readers  
Top 10 Tips for Parents (and teachers and librarians) for Helping Your Reluctant Reader  
What if We
What If It’s More than Reluctant Reading? A story of Dyslexia  
Challenge Accepted! A school librarian talks about Reluctant Readers

But audio books are more than just for reluctant readers.  They are for anyone who wants to listen to a great story.  This month, in celebration of Audio Book Month, we will be posting periodically about audio books.  We will have an audio book narrator share with us how an audio book comes into being, an Odyssey member share with us her experience on the committee, and Christie is going to talk about how – and why – her branch recently added Playaways to the library.

And we’re going to have a Giveaway.  We all have some audiobooks that we have reviewed laying around and we’re putting a little prize package together for you.  You have until the end of the month to enter if you are a U.S. resident.  Included in the prize package will be my full review copies of Scowler and Rotters by Daniel Kraus, which I talked about listening to here: True Confessions of an Audio Book Virgin

So let’s get this giveaway and our discussion of audio books started.  Leave us a comment telling us your favorite audio book and what makes it stand out above the rest.  Or, if you don’t really like listening to audio books, leave us a comment telling us why.

True Confessions of an Audio Book Virgin (an audio review of Rotters and Scowler by Daniel Kraus and tips for highlighting audio books in your collection)

I am fairly new to audio books.  Not as a supporter, I have always understood their value and been a huge supporter of audio books.  I have just never personally been a listener.  In part, it was probably because I could take my kids to school and walk to work in my previous location – all within about 15 minutes.  There simply wasn’t time or a need.

Fast forward to now.  I have a 45 minute commute 3 times a week to my library. Sometimes I listen to NPR or music, but I have recently started listening to audio books on occasion.

It began with Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  It was one of the few YA titles my small branch library had, and as you know I became a huge fan of the series.  There were times when the Tween and I would want to just keep driving because we didn’t want to turn it off.

Next came book one in the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter, which my tween loved as well.  She has continued reading the books in the series on her own after having been introduced to it via audio.

And more recently, I listened to both Rotters and Scowler by Daniel Kraus on audio.  This was an interesting experiment for me as it was the first time that I listened to books that I had already read and was a huge fan of.  I embraced this experiment with gusto because it gave me some real genuine grounds for comparison.  Listening to the books . . . it was such a different experience.

It helps that Rotters and Scowler both have a really great reader, Kirby Heyborne.  A good reader makes all the difference and Kirby Heyborne is truly awesome (and deservedly award winning).  Both Rotters and Scowler are about some very down on their luck teens; life has not been kind to either of them and Kirby (we’re on a first name basis now apparently) really brings that pathos to life.  When you read the words on the page, you tend to hear it in your voice, but hearing it in another voice – a voice more experienced at bringing nuance and performance to a story – there is new breath and life in these characters; there is heartache and terror in all the right moments in ways I couldn’t have even imagined in my head.

Scowler is the story of 19-year-old Ryan Burke and his father, who is a monster hiding behind the mask of a man.  Throughout the book his dad has a vocal tic, a tell if you will, that appears on the page as “Hmmmmm hm hm hmmmmm. Hmmmm hm hm hmmmm.”  When you read it on the page, it’s hard to imagine in your mind’s eye what is happenng.  But Heyborne hums this line over and over again with such a powerful, subtle menace that it suddenly clicks into place for you.  Marvin’s tell speaks of his arrogance and his power over others, and it is the subtle horror movie music that happens and lets you know that something sinister is on its way.  Hearing this element of the story put it in context and gave it a clarity that I did not fully comprehend reading it because I was unsure of how it should sound simply staring at the words.

Rotters and Scowler are both disturbing stories, and I mean that in a good way.  They also resonate because in the midst of being entertainingly horrific, they also remind of the human experience.  Rotters is unique in that Kraus sets up to like a character and then drags him to the depths hell and makes him almost completely despicable.  I have said it before, but it is such a bold storytelling device.  Plus there is the grave robbing angle, which I had never read before (although there is some grave robbing in The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey).  I felt sucked in so much more listening to the audio because Heyborne really gives Joey Crouch pathos and gravity.  And then the menace . . . so well done.

During Reluctant Reader week, we mentioned that listening to audio books is a good tool to use with reluctant readers.  I noticed that I listened more closely than I read and that I was tempted to skip some of the more descriptive elements, I was definitely more absorbed in the story and felt a heightened emotional connection with the main characters.  These two audio books would be great reads for struggling teens who like a little bit of terror in their books, think Stephen King.  I will say, they are definitely for more mature teens because of language and violence.  As I mentioned, the Rotters audio is the 2012 Odyessy Award Winner presented by the American Library Association.

5 Tips for Using Audio Books in Your Collection:

1. Create ways to do face out shelving with your audio books in the same way that you do with your print books.

2.  Do displays where you put the book and audio book on display together.

3.  Put together hand outs and electronic resources that educate parents and teens on the benefits of listening to audio books.  Here are some good starting places: Reading Rockets, Research and Articles on the Benefits of Audio Books for Young People

4.  When you are doing a craft program, have an audio book playing in the background.  Participants can listen as they craft.

5.  When doing general theme displays, don’t forget to include appropriate audio books.

A recent edition of Library Journal had a great article on highlighting audio books in your library. Check it out.

Rotters and Scowler, produced by Listening Library, an imprint of Random House Audio Publishing Group, Random House, Inc., written by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne. 
Rotters audio ISBN: 9780449014950
Scowler audio ISBN: 9780385368353

The tween and I are now listening to The Paradise Trap by Catherine Jinks on audio. 

Take 5: Resources for Working with Reluctant Readers

Who are reluctant readers?  
Reluctant readers are people who. . .

Can Read, But Don’t (Aliteracy)
A reluctant reader may have good reading skills, but chooses not to read.  They will often say that they just don’t like to read.  This is also called aliteracy; being able to read but uninterested in doing so.  When we talk about Reluctant Readers, these are primarily the types of readers we are talking about.  As Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man that can not read.” 

The Pew Report on Young American Reading Habits tells us that at least 83% of young people in America read at least one book in the past year.  This tells us that 17% didn’t.  And one book in a year, that’s not exactly our goal.

Wants to Read but Hides It
There are also some tweens and teen who actually do like to read, but because of the perceived coolness factor of it, they choose to hide it.  They are closeted readers if you will.

It’s a common adage that boys don’t like to read.  Truthfully, I know plenty of boys who like to read, and the things they like to read often surprise me.  But here is a really good look at boys and reading, some statistics to be concerned about (test scored have been falling for 30 years), and a different look at the question.  The truth is, there IS a gender gap in reading.  Test scores show that boys are less proficient at reading than girls and this gap has been widening for the past 30 years.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLHzIxXXHp0]

Can’t Read (Illiteracy)
Illiteracy is not necessarily the same as reluctant reading, because many people who struggle with the inability to read would like very much to be able to read.  It is amazing to me how many people are able to effectively hide the fact that they can’t read.  Others do so less effectively, of course.  Here is a look at the World’s Illteracy rate as compiled by Info Please:

The United Nations, which defines illiteracy as the inability to read and write a simple message in any language, has conducted a number of surveys on world illiteracy. In the first survey (1950, pub. 1957) at least 44% of the world’s population were found to be illiterate. A 1978 study showed the rate to have dropped to 32.5%, by 1990 illiteracy worldwide had dropped to about 27%, and by 1998 to 16%. However, a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published in 1998 predicted that the world illiteracy rate would increase in the 21st cent. because only a quarter of the world’s children were in school by the end of the 20th cent. The highest illiteracy rates were found in the less developed nations of Africa, Asia, and South America; the lowest in Australia, Japan, North Korea, and the more technologically advanced nations of Europe and North America. Using the UN definition of illiteracy, the United States and Canada have an overall illiteracy rate of about 1%. In certain disadvantaged areas, however, such as the rural South in the United States, the illiteracy rate is much higher.

Here are 5 Spectacular Resources to Help Connect Readers with Books
People will read, when they find something they connect with. Our job as librarians (and teachers and parents) is to help them make those connections.  Here are some resources that can help you do that.

1) YALSA Quick Picks List
The YALSA Quick Pics list is a list of books specifically chosen for their appeal to reluctant readers.  These are short, quick reads that are engaging, thoughtful, and bound to turn reluctant readers into raving readers.

2) Graphic Novels
Many libraries now have Graphic Novel (GN) and Manga collections, because they are hugely popular.  But they are also a good draw for reluctant readers.  One of my favorite resources is the No Flying, No Tights website for reviews and core collection lists.

Research: Teenage Reluctant Readers and Graphic Novels

3) Audio Books
For many, audio books can help you engage in the story more readily than a book.  When reading a book, you can be overwhelmed if you are a struggling reader or easily distracted.  Research shows that listening to audio books can help engage readers and improve skills.

Research: Young Adult Audio Books, the audio answer for reluctant readers

4) Guys Read.com

Are Guys Reluctant Readers? That question is debatable; the truth is some guys are and some guys aren’t, just as some girls are and some girls aren’t.  But, Guys Read is a great resource for those looking to connect guys with books.

5) Orca Books 

Orca Books has set out with the singular purpose of producing hi interest/low level titles for struggling and reluctant readers.  They’ve done their research, established some great product lines, and produce a variety of titles.

What are some of the ways you help connect your reluctant readers with books?

Tell us in the comments.

Here are some additional research and information on Reluctant Readers: