I’m usually in the car for at least three hours a day and that’s only if I don’t have any appointments for myself or the kids or a playdate to attend. I try to keep things simple but sometimes we’re just in the car for a long time and there’s nothing I can do about it. In Kathi Lipp’s book, “The Mom Project,” she talks about using time in the car as an opportunity to bond with your kids. Since this is something I had already been doing, I was intrigued to read about her ideas on listening to audio books together. It’s not something I’d ever done with my kids. Sounds simple enough, I thought. So I took Kathi’s list of suggestions on where to begin and I headed to the library.
Since my kids already love going to the library, I knew this part of the experiment was going to be easy. It was going to be picking out what we listened to as a family that was going to be the hard part. My children are 9, 6, and 4 so finding something they would all agree on and enjoy had me stumped.
My plan was to take all three kids to the library but well, life happened, and before I knew it, the oldest was too tired and the youngest was having a tantrum so I took my middle child, Hannah. I told her we were headed to the library which got her super excited. We had some books to return so it was perfect timing. Hannah ran inside and assumed her usual position at the audio booth where she started playing Toca Boca. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Come on honey, we’re going to take a look at some audio books.”
“Huh? What are those?” She asked.
“Well, they’re books but they’re on a CD so I can just pop them into my CD player in the car kind of like I do when I play movies for you guys. Instead of a movie coming on though, you’ll just hear words through the speaker.”
I could tell Hannah was confused. I walked us over to the librarian’s desk and told her what we were looking for. She pointed us in the right direction and I looked at my list from the “Mom Project” on some suggestions Kathi gave on what good books were out there for the entire family. Laura Ingalls Wilder was mentioned in her book as “one of the best little kids books” so that’s what I picked out. She described the “Little House” series being “simple enough for little kids to understand but rich enough in detail that it would hold the attention of older kids and adults.”
When we got back in the car, I popped in the CD and right when I was beginning to tell Hannah what we were going to listen to, she quickly went, “Shhh! Mom, I want to hear this.” Well, then. I guess that settles that. This audio book thing was going to be my new best friend. I didn’t hear a peep from her the entire 20 minute ride home. When we got back in the car the next morning to head to school, I heard Hannah say to her brother, “Dylan, mom got this cool thing from the library and it’s a story.”
I quickly turned on the car and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s CD started talking to us. The entire car was quiet. Our drive to school is less than five minutes and I almost felt guilty having to turn off the CD to tell the kids to have a good day and I’d see them after school. “Can we listen to this when you pick us up?” Dylan asked. I giggled. “Sure, honey. I’ll make sure I have it playing when I pick you up.”
What I Learned
I’ve always felt a pang of guilt for not having children who devour books like other children do. My kids would much rather make a craft than read a book. What I learned from doing this experiment with them, was that reading books isn’t the only way to get them more immersed in literature. Sometimes thinking outside the box and finding new ways to get them interested in reading is just what a kids need. I have a feeling audio books in the car might be our new thing.
If you’re not familiar with the content in an audio book, you might get some recommendations from the librarian about what’s age appropriate for your kids. For example, in the Laura Ingalls Wilder CD I rented, there was a part in the story about a dog passing away. I wished I had thought to ask someone about this before playing it for my kids. Since my son is extra sensitive to animals, it came as a surprise to all of us when we were listening. Luckily, I was able to see my son’s face in the rearview mirror and I was able to debrief with him for a minute about what he’d just heard.
Kathi talks about turning the CD off to have a discussion with your kids if there’s something they don’t understand. This was a great moment for me to do just that. My recommendation would be to make sure what your kids are hearing is something you are prepared to talk about with them. Had I known about this piece in the book, I may have fast forwarded through that part.
This post was written by parenting journalist Meagan Ruffing, mom to three children, one with special needs. Meagan’s passion is to reach other moms who are overwhelmed and to help them find more control in their lives. For a free set of “Overwhelmed to In Control” worksheets, visit www.meaganruffing.com.
She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.
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