Why don’t we follow the evidence-based parenting advice we receive?

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A week late due to the CNY Holidays, but here it is…

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/1912370/how-cut-through-chatter-and-cultivate-your-childs-most-important

Have you ever heard a parenting expert say push your kids to the breaking point, sign them up for multiple extracurricular activities, make them take all honors classes, allow technology in their bedrooms so they can keep in touch with their friends all night long, sleep is overrated, eating on the run is fine and free time is a waste? Neither have I.

And yet this is precisely what our generation of parents is doing, and it’s not serving anyone well. Why don’t we follow the evidence-based advice we receive?

Unlike most fields of study where expert opinions vary, parenting experts are remarkably similar on just about every topic except sleep training for babies.   In getting kids to sleep through the night some advise letting infants cry it out while others recommend co-sleeping, for example. While there is some variation in advice for infant care, when it comes to older children and especially adolescents, the advice becomes strikingly consistent.

Over the years I have attended dozens of lectures, taken copious notes and read many books to try to pick up some tips to be a more effective parent to my three children. Most parenting advice falls into broad topics like how to help cultivate resilience, perseverance, self-motivation, purpose and mindset. While each expert frames the advice a little bit differently, they all end up with similar recommendations and even more compelling, similar statistics.

To raise healthy, balanced, kind, optimistic and accomplished children with good prospects to become successful and happy adults, parenting experts consistently offer really simple, intuitive advice. First, make sure they get enough sleep, have regular medical check ups, eat good healthy food, and regularly share family dinner. Second, praise real effort and acts of kindness, not the child. Third, limit technology and never allow it to live in their bedrooms, but have healthy, open communication about it. Finally, protect their unstructured free time fiercely.

Unstructured, technology-free free time, positive reinforcement, healthy eating and sleep? So far I have been unable to identify a dissenting voice in this advice.   Yet we persist in running all over town after school to take children to lessons, fighting to get them on “the right” sports teams, hiring a tutor when they’re faltering in a class instead of going to seek out the teacher and so on.   We reason that the kids are happier when they’re busy, that they take pride in accomplishment and that they will thank us later when they get into a good college and set their lives on a successful path.   This may be true for some children, but not for all. And, on a practical level, one afternoon with a group of kids in a Hong Kong apartment with “unstructured time” is enough to prove this advice harder to follow than it seems.

Nonetheless, we do it because we want the best for our children and we are scared of the competition and the unknowable future. We do it because everyone else does too. We do it because some of our parents did the same and it’s all we know. We believe we are being helpful, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

A wise friend advised me to tell my children, “Your health, your education and your safety are up to your father and me. The rest is up to you.” The more I tried to find fault with this advice, the more I realized how brilliant it is. If I stick to this advice, I can more efficiently tease out the truly important issues from the merely irritating ones. So far, so good, although I admit that if my child asks about a tattoo, I may have to reconsider.

Even after all these years and so much advice, the one that continues to ring loudest in my head comes from British parenting expert Penelope Leach. She advises speaking to children as you would have them speak to you when you’re old. As you yell at your children to get their shoes on, chastising them for their lack of attention to your command or lack of ability to tie them despite your having shown them how, picture the opposite.

“Mom! Put your shoes on! I can’t believe you don’t have them on yet. This is ridiculous, I told you ten times to get your shoes on! Hurry UP!”

With that in mind, perhaps you’ll consider giving them the same courtesy you would like from them down the road a bit. Life around the house may become generally more respectful and calm. After all, don’t we all feel a little better when we’re treated with courtesy, kindness and respect?

Common Sense Parenting; Lessons from Dr. Wendy Mogel

I didn’t write the SCMP headline, but I did write the article and dedicate it to Lucy, Erica, Kathy & Cindy!  In fact, this blog is named after that barely paved road we were allowed to cross.  

scmp.com/…/benign-neglect-giving-kids-scope-learn-make-mistakes-and-grow

“Benign neglect” is the phrase that would most aptly describe my parents’ approach to parenting in the 1970s. What today might be called “free range parenting” or actual neglect, back then was just childhood.

Our home in rural Pennsylvania bordered a cornfield at the top of the hill and a nature preserve with a creek running through it just beyond. My sister and I had two neighbor girls through the woods on one side and another across a barely paved street that we were free to cross on our own from a very early age. In fact, the five of us were free to do just about anything we liked. We could wander the woods, play in the creek, build forts in the goat shed, collect coal from the yard, watch as much television as we liked and eat anything we could scrounge for ourselves from the kitchen.

I never wore shoes and my feet were as tough as leather from walking barefoot down our gravely driveway all summer. I was dirty, disheveled and, being the oldest, blamed by the neighbor parents for corrupting the language of their children. We spent days writing elaborate plays, producing gymnastics shows, attempting to make a whirlpool in the small swimming pool, flooding the driveway to create an ice skating pond or sawing the cornstalks sticking up from the impromptu rink created by poor drainage in the field. We crossed barbed wire fences, tore our clothing, swung from vines, rolled in clover and picked wine berries from thorny bushes to eat by the bucket load with full fat milk and real sugar.

Today this kind of childhood would be almost impossible to reproduce, and parents who tried might suffer judgment from their peers for neglect or endangerment. For us, it was paradise.

I thought this kind of parenting a relic of a simpler time until I had the pleasure of attending a talk by a leading parenting expert in the U.S. who seems to be encouraging parents to think back to their own childhoods and recapture for their children some of the danger, freedom, resilience and thrill that has been largely lost in the overscheduled, anxiety-ridden, structured world of parenting today.

New York Times bestselling author and practicing psychologist, Dr. Wendy Mogel has turned her focus to counseling parents instead of young children these days. Her two best-selling books, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of A B Minus offer encouraging words of wisdom for parents to give children space to make mistakes and to learn from them.

Dr. Mogel encourages parents to relax and stop “quaking in our boots” parenting. In this age of artisanal parenting, where we pay continuous partial attention to our children, we need to put our phones down and engage when we are with our children, but also give them time when we are not there hovering over them. Humorously, she suggested parents start by reading the online satirical website called The Onion because, as she said, “you need mirth in your home.”

Dr. Mogel implores parents to let children do thrilling things, as this is how they avoid being fearful. She referenced an article about the anti-phobic effects of thrilling experiences. For parents who can’t bear the thought of this, who are worried that something might happen, she replies, “but you are in my office, so you can’t live with your kid now either.” Freedom is how they learn to keep themselves safe.

Dr. Mogel cautioned parents to stop interviewing their children for pain. Instead of trying to uncover all that went wrong in their day, find out what went right. She said that, “Good, healthy, respectful parenting will feel like neglect.”

According to Mogel, girls need to go through phases that will scare parents, and boys need the time to be good tired, not just weary. All kids need to move, not ride around in the car doing errands or going to lessons. Dr. Mogel reminded us that children must have chores for their own growth and to be of assistance to the family.

After all, Dr. Mogel reminds us, the “The whole point of parenting is to make it look appealing to your children so they’ll have children and you can be a grandparent. If you make it look like a burdensome, stressful drag, they won’t want to be parents, and then you won’t have any grandchildren.” Dr. Mogel’s highly anticipated next book is scheduled for release in 2017.

Listening to parenting experts like Dr. Mogel, Dr. Madeline Levine, Dr. Michael Thompson and so many others, their messages are consistent and surprisingly similar. Each encourages parents to lighten up on our kids and to give them a little more space to navigate the world on their own. We have made parenting so complicated and all consuming, we have to remember to stop worrying and start enjoying our kids during this brief time when we get to be the primary decision makers in their lives.

Smart Schools Teach Religion, but Leave Spirituality to the Students

I wrote and submitted this article the day before the bombings in Paris.  How silly it seemed, the next day, to be writing about red cups as an impetus to teach religion in schools.  The content of the article was made maybe even more relevant, but it was edited to remove the first and last paragraphs instead of revising them.  It turned out to be a bit of a clunky article, but the message is consistent (link to SCMP, or full original version below).  What do you think?  

scmp.com/…/religion-hong-kong-schools-teach-it-dont-preach-it 

Last week my Facebook feed was full of red coffee cups. The latest social media phenomenon centered on a Starbucks minimalist holiday cup design which one consumer strangely extrapolated to be a scourge against Christmas and, by extension, a direct threat to Christianity. The extent of attention his video garnered in the U.S. media got me thinking about religious literacy and its place as an academic subject in schools.

My sense is that the secularization of school curriculums in a well-intentioned commitment to separate church and state has had the unintended consequence of creating a general public illiteracy about religion. According to New York Times bestselling author Stephen Prothero, “Only ten percent of U.S. teenagers can name all five major world religions, and 15 percent can’t name any.” In an effort to avoid offending anyone schools have decided to skip religious education altogether, so students are left to gather what understanding they can without the analytical framework schools usually provide. This has fueled uneasiness and misunderstanding instead of cultivating tolerance from a base of knowledge.

Schools should not promote religion, but they should teach it.

Understanding history is impossible without an understanding of the religious traditions that helped shape the world. From a purely secular standpoint, atheists should know and understand what they choose not to believe in.

Schools have very different approaches to the question of religious education. In my opinion, Hong Kong International School does a relatively good job at weaving religious education into the curriculum. As part of its mission statement HKIS states that it is, “An American-style education grounded in the Christian faith and respecting the spiritual lives of all.” At HKIS, Christianity is taught at all levels and is an integral part of the ethos of the school, but it is not expected that all students will practice Christianity.

In the elementary years, HKIS students are taught a basic understanding of world religions with cultural and traditional experiences both in the classroom and through field trip visits around Hong Kong to mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship where children are encouraged to ask questions. Throughout the year parents of many faiths are invited to share traditions within the classrooms.

In the middle school years, religious education focuses on understanding one’s own values and beliefs and respecting those of others. Charitable outreach, social justice and world issues are discussed in the context of personal values.   On Back to School night I was impressed to hear a middle school religion teacher explain that, “We teach religion, but we do not teach spirituality. Spirituality has to be developed on an individual basis.” This distinction gave me confidence that the school was not proselytizing.

In high school, students cultivate a more subtle and complex understanding of the differences and commonalities among world religions. Students study, go on service trips, sometimes engage in shared practice of different religions and explore further their own sense of self.  Some students find great expansion happens in these classes, and for some, the few minutes of silence and reflection in religion classes are the only moments of calm in their day.

Marty Schmidt, a high school humanities teacher at HKIS, calls this Social Conscience Education, and has written extensively on the topic.  Schmidt describes social conscience education as, “A personal consideration of one’s role and responsibility in society in the context of an emotionally engaged understanding of the world.”

This is one example of a school that embraces religion as an essential field of study in a well-rounded education, yet inextricably linked to human development.

In the words of twentieth-century American philosopher John Dewey, “For in spite of itself any movement that thinks and acts in terms of an ‘ism becomes so involved in reaction against other ‘isms that it is unwittingly controlled by them. For it then forms its principles by reaction against them instead of by a comprehensive, constructive survey of actual needs, problems, and possibilities.”

The red cup incident should remind us all to reflect on actual needs, problems and possibilities rather than allowing fear and obliviousness to distract our own carefully cultivated convictions.

Music Literacy for Kids

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/1874953/let-children-play-musical-instruments-their-way

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If your evening routine includes arguments, incentives and timers in order to cajole your children to practice an instrument, you might want to rethink your approach. While creating music should be a joyful lifelong experience, the path toward mastery of an instrument can be tempestuous if the motivation is wrong.

Music, like competitive sports, AP classes and volunteering has become another near chimera in the desperate sprint toward collage acceptance.   For some, music is a ticket to college. But for the vast majority, music practice ranks near the top of the list of topics that induce day-to-day stress in busy households. The path to musical literacy for the majority is strewn with abandoned instruments.

Despite having grown up with music teacher parents, I never learned to play an instrument. I was determined the same would not happen to my own children, so I followed the typical path signing them up for traditional music lessons from the time they were small. In my home I have two violins, a trombone and a piano; all abandoned by my children. Perhaps it’s my own lack of resolve in disciplining them to stick with it, but I could tell that their lack of enthusiasm was honest and any amount of prodding by me would be a battle.

For my eldest I sought the advice of Dr. Frank Abrahams, a prominent college music educator in the United States. I expected he would share the latest practice technique with me, but instead he simply said, “Get him an ipod. That way he can figure out what kind of music he likes. Once he knows what he likes, I can teach him how to play it.” I was shocked (and a little disappointed at first), but then I began to understand the approach.

“What’s great about this idea” says Kathryn Bechdoldt, beloved Middle School Choir Director at HKIS, “is that it gives kids the ability to examine and grow their taste independently. Giving a child ownership of their aural environment, their time, and their taste will immediately increase their interest. From there, it’s the teacher’s job to find ways to stretch and support knowledge and skill in a variety of genres.”

My son abandoned the piano and trombone, but picked up the electric guitar when I found a teacher who taught him to play rock music. His genuine interest and a lack of pressure from me found him more open minded when a jazz musician offered to work with him, and encouraged him to play acoustic and to practice scales so he could move his fingers more smoothly over the strings. This gave him ownership of the process and the outcome. His goal was to be able to play the music he likes rather than to play scales better than he did yesterday. He felt empowered to improve himself, not simply challenged to please the teacher.

But music, like a sport or mastering anything takes practice and discipline. There’s no getting around learning to read music and practicing scales, but the student has to understand the purpose. For example, Ms. Bechdoldt explains that, “When I’m teaching guitar, I show students how much more strength their fingers have when they hold the guitar neck with correct technique, and how much more easily and quickly they can switch chords. It allows them to see that I’m not making rules at random; the “rules” of how to hold a guitar are actually making them better guitarists.

Start by asking yourself what’s your goal in music education for your child? Do you want them to have performance experience, to win awards, recognition, or do you want them to have a life long love of music and the ability to create it?   If the latter, then perhaps let the child explore music in a fun, creative way by attending all kinds of live music concerts, let them pick the music you listen to in the car and seek out instructors who are forward thinking and who love to create music themselves.

Consider music making as an art form, not a competition to be won. Encourage kids to learn to play music that they like and expose them to a wide range of music to expand their horizons.

For example, Premiere Performances of Hong Kong ‘s PLAY! Family Concert Series is a great way to introduce children to world-class, live classical music in an accessible and fun way.http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/1874953/let-children-play-musical-instruments-their-way

These are positive things parents can do to empower children to cultivate authentic, life-long musical literacy.

On The Same Page

I’m not sure why the titled it “Take a leaf out of book groups” in the paper, as that makes no sense to me, but here’s the latest musing anyway… (a link, and full submitted text below, as usual).  

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/1843994/why-we-should-be-encouraging-everyone-read-pleasure

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Over the summer every student, administrator and teacher at my son’s High School will read Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. Carefully selected I suspect for the timely themes of race and identity, this book will ignite conversations and spark debates around the campus. Curious, I decided to read the book too, and it prompted me to consider further the value of a common literature reading experience among a large group of people.

I have had the pleasure of being a member of an active book group in Hong Kong. We take turns hosting, providing a simple meal over which we earnestly discuss the book without a moderator or prescribed set of questions. Like many expatriate communities, the composition of our book group has changed over the years – currently more members of our original book group live in New York City than in Hong Kong – but we have always replenished with perceptive and literate women who love books.

Beyond the social aspect, the value of this group has been the broadening of mind and perspective that occurs as the result of reading books I never would have chosen myself, or didn’t even particularly enjoy after reading. When members share personal history, cultural references and academic expertise relevant to the book, my understanding and my appreciation for the book is always enhanced.

When children’s author Deborah Wiles visited Hong Kong the entire HKIS Upper Primary read one of her books to build enthusiasm in preparation for her visit. Children were able to discuss the book, gained confidence meeting the author and shared the experience with their peers. Unlike didactic work in which a book is assigned and taught by an instructor, this type of common literary experience is voluntary, undirected and intended for fun.

Parent/child book clubs are another way of connecting, bonding and sometimes broaching difficult or embarrassing topics through literature. Difficult circumstances faced by characters in a novel provide distance and hypothetical scenarios that are useful in initiating tricky discussions with children. These conversations offer insights from both parents and peers that can translate into real life lessons.

Sometimes common reading experiences expand beyond the personal network to larger communities. The One City One Book program started in Seattle in 1998 and has been embraced in some form or another by hundreds of cities around the world. The Library of Congress keeps a running list of these programs in the U.S., and the National Endowment for the Arts funds similar programs under the title The Big Read in some cities.

Oftentimes initiated and managed by public libraries, these programs encourage all community members and visitors to read a carefully selected title, and many host creative events to encourage discussion, bring the community together and enhance the reader’s understanding of the book and the underlying themes therein.

Selecting a single book that is both noteworthy, but does not offend or endorse any one group or ideal over any other is the most difficult element of implementing this kind of program.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated eleven cities around the world as Cities of Literature. These cities embrace a rigorous process to demonstrate a unique and fervent appreciation and support for the creation, consumption, critique and celebration of all aspects of literature. Achieving this designation from UNESCO is an arduous process and a considerable honor.

Bookstores are closing all over Hong Kong and less than half of our city’s adult population admits to reading for pleasure. The benefits of reading for pleasure have been widely reported, but like getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, daily exercise and abstaining from harmful behavior, the advice is rarely heeded. Modeling reading is important for building young readers. Hong Kong might consider striving to be the next UNESCO City of Literature to encourage reading for pleasure and to set a good example for the younger generation.

Who Benefits from Homework?

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/1822238/schools-worldwide-consider-homework-ban-partly-ease-burden-pupils

Homework is so inextricably linked to school that it’s hard to think of one without the other. But increasingly educators and child development specialists are examining the practice of assigning homework to children and considering whether it is truly beneficial or potentially harmful. A growing trend to abandon homework altogether for children is building momentum around the world.

The Guardian reported this week that one of Britain’s most prestigious schools, 162-year-old Cheltenham Ladies College, is considering banning homework to “tackle an epidemic of teenage depression and anxiety.” Public School 116 in New York City recently banned homework for students up to grade five having found no link between assigning elementary school homework and success in school. The Kino School in Arizona has a no homework policy for all grades even through high school, and contends that learning remains joyful for their students. Even some of New York City’s most prestigious private schools like Dalton and Spence have reviewed their policies to lessen the nightly burden on their students.

Myriad books on the subject are cropping up on bestseller lists. The most prominent of which include, The Case Against Homework by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, of Brooklyn, NY, The End of Homework by American Educators Etta Kralovec and John Buell, and prolific author Alfie Kohn’s, The Homework Myth described in the Atlantic Monthly, as “a stinging jeremiad against the assignment of homework which the author, a prominent educator, convincingly argues is a wasteful, unimaginative, and pedagogically bankrupt practice that initiates kids into a soul-sucking rat race long before their time.”

The primary arguments against homework are that it reinforces a sedentary lifestyle, leads to frustration, exhaustion and stress for children, gives them little time to do other constructive things, can lessen children’s genuine interest in learning, burdens teachers to design and grade homework and parents who have to monitor and often spend time doing homework instead of more engaging activities with their children and that it is pointless, since there is no evidence that it leads to improved performance later in school.

Parents like homework because they believe that it reinforcing learning at home, reveals what children are learning in school, establishes good routines and habits, and it helps shape the afternoon hours after school for the families.

While these points seem reasonable, most of the benefits are accrued by the parent rather than the student, and the actual effect is not what parents think. Good communication between teachers and parents can show parents what children are learning without requiring the child to do busywork at home. In fact, busy work can overwhelm struggling students and bore high achievers, dampening their interest in learning. Parents reason that homework should help, but no study shows that it actually does.

In our busy and frenetic society, the primary benefit of homework may be simply that it keeps children engaged in seemly constructive activities after school and reduces our own anxiety that they might not be learning enough in school. In certain subjects, like Chinese, an argument could be made that practice and wrote memorization is the only way to do it, but the optimal quantity and quality of assignments beyond the classroom even in these subjects is unclear.

Perhaps the homework debate is not so much a yes or no, but what kind? Annie Murphy Paul described in a 2001 NY Times article the concepts of spaced repetition, retrieval practice, and interleaving as three research-based strategies that demonstrate positive results when applied to homework. More research into these specific techniques and others like them could influence schools to more consciously design interesting and engaging extension activities that truly benefit students’ learning.

Reading for pleasure is the one area of “home work” that educators and researchers agree is essential for children on a daily basis. This practice has the biggest impact on future success in school. Children should be encouraged to select their own books and should not fill out reading logs or be rewarded for reading except, perhaps, with more books. Developing an intrinsic love for reading is the most essential determinant of future happiness and success in school.

In lieu of homework, creative projects can be helpful in reinforcing concepts, extending learning and engaging children and parents in the learning process. Working collaboratively, teachers, students and parents can identify after school activities that are active, creative and fun for kids, and a much better use of everyone’s time.

Heading into summer holidays, many parents look forward to more unstructured time with their children, time to stay up late and not have to rush home to do homework. What if parents could look forward to that time throughout the school year as well, knowing that in this case, less really is more.

All About Audiobooks

Karen White working in her home studio
Karen White working in her home studio

It helps to have friends with some of the coolest jobs in the world.  Karen and I have been friends for fifteen years, since our first children were born and we figured out parenting together with our beloved mommy group in Los Angeles.  Now she’s in North Carolina and I’m in Hong Kong, but we keep in touch and still compare parenting notes on everything from the allowable length of shorts to young adult fiction, teen dating and whatever else comes up.  

Full text of the article is included below, or here’s a direct link to the truncated version in todays South China Morning Post: Why audiobooks are good for multitaskers, travellers and young readers

What bibliophile among us has not at one time or another proclaimed, “I wish I could get paid to read books!” For award-winning professional audiobook narrator Karen White, this childhood dream came true. Expecting her first child sixteen years ago, White parlayed her classical acting training into a career that fits perfectly around family life, providing her flexibility, recognition, independence, a professional community and yes, she gets paid to read books.

White is part of a select group of industry-represented professional audio book narrators.  With more than 200 books recorded, she credits training in classical theatre, her foundational experience working with directors in studios, and her voice training as key components of her success. Professionally recorded audiobooks require incredible stamina, rigorous practice and years of experience to be able to understand, absorb and produce a book with consistency and believability.

“Changes in technology have made it possible for me to work entirely from home.  When I started recording audiobooks, I had to go to a studio and work with an engineer and director.  Now, I have a built-in studio in my house and the newer software allows me to edit as I go with a click of the keyboard.  High internet speeds mean that I can upload large files directly to the production companies. It’s not easy work, but I love it, and it allows me to have a career as a performer and still be there when my kids get home from school.” White said.

The audiobook business is gaining an increasingly impressive foothold in the traditional book industry as technology makes production of and access to audiobooks easy. With better recording and distribution tools, both self-publishing and self-recorded audiobooks are on the rise. And this provides a wonderful resource for busy families with continual access to technology and a proclivity to multitask.

While the feel of a paper book in the hand by the beach is unique, audiobooks offer some practical advantages in certain circumstances, especially during the summer. They are portable and can provide much needed entertainment for the inevitable delays in summer travel. Those long car rides and crowded MTR commutes with kids are made instantly painless by a great story, and provide a rich common topic to discuss at meals.

I like to listen to audiobooks while my son is at his sports lessons. Listening to a story instead of reading it myself enables me to keep an eye on the ball and appear like I’m riveted, but to occupy my mind in a more active way at the same time.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project, advises in an on-line article that readers should use audio books “if you’re trying to form a habit, it’s also a great way to use the Strategy of Pairing. If you don’t particularly enjoy going for a daily walk, but want to get that exercise, try pairing your walk with an engaging audio-book. The time will fly.”

Several resources exist to access high quality audiobooks. First, be sure you are downloading from a reputable site and that you select an unabridged version. Sometimes the author reads his or her own book, but professional audio book readers bring characters to life in an exciting and subtle way that can add a richness to a story that makes for an enhanced experience.

To find great audiobooks, many turn to industry publications like AudioFile Magazine, or to successful audio book bloggers like Audiobook Jukebox, Literate Housewife, Guilded Earlobe, AudioGals to name a few.  The website Goodreads is a treasure trove of information about books and also has an “audiobooks” section that offers everything from book recommendations to technical advice.

A paid subscription to Amazon’s audible.com is the gold standard of audiobooks, but at a subscription rate of $14.00 USD per month, it is expensive. They do offer a subscription-free service, but do not advertise it. Audible also offers Whispersync technology, which enables one to bundle the audiobook with the purchase of a kindle book relatively cheaply.  Whispersync then allows you to go back and forth from e-book to audiobook effortlessly. Downpour.com is a reliable alternative if you don’t want to pay a large subscription fee.

A few terrific audiobook programs are geared specifically to young readers. Subscription-based Tales2Go has over 1,700 titles available for children, and allows up to five devices, so the whole family can use one subscription. Audio File currently has an incentive program called SYNC designed specifically for young adult audio book listeners. It gives away two complete audiobook downloads weekly, including a current Young Adult title paired thematically with a Classic or required summer reading title, to listeners ages 13+ during the summer session. Not all of the titles are available for download outside of the US, but many are.

Several websites offer free downloads of varying quality, but one resource stands out above all, and that is OverDrive.com, which gives access to library collections around the world via a downloadable app. Check with your school librarian to learn how to access the service. And for those who use a CD player, most libraries have large collections of CD copies of audiobooks to borrow.

June is audiobook month, so be sure to check the websites listed for promotions and events near you.