Before I tell the main story I figured I should make a general statement. The reason why children hearing books read aloud to them by a parent or listening to an audio book format is good rather than forcing them to only read or be exposed to books that they read to themselves is mainly because children, if allowed to move or do what they want while listening, are willing to listen and can understand content far above their independent reading level. A child's vocabulary and ability to understand and enjoy stories and non-fiction information is superior to their reading skills for a number of years. It starts nearly at birth or at least at about age one, when the language they can understand is above what they can speak. I don't know when it ends, perhaps only when a child or teenager's reading ability progresses beyond a certain 'grade level in reading ability' such as grade 12, I don't know.
An easy example is that a child of age six who is just learning to read will listen to long passages about insects with rich vocabulary and understand it. If you were to give that child a book on spiders written at their independent reading level it would read something like this:
"Spiders make webs. Spiders eat insects. The web is to catch the insects. Spiders live outside. Some spiders live indoors."
You probably would not speak to a child of six in that way as it would be considered (at least in our family) as being patronizing and condescending. A child of six years old is not an idiot and should not be talked to like they are one.
Giving a child of six over-simplified information like that which is below their mental capacities is one way that I feel that adults actually, unintentionally, 'make a child stupid'. All children should be exposed to content which they want to learn about that is interesting and understandable to them. Depriving children of information or to better stories dumbs a child down and hinders their intellectual development.
Now on to my story...
My older son is listening to the last Harry Potter book on audio CD right now which we finally have in our possession, having borrowed it from the library. We were number 24 on the waiting list, and I had put us on the hold list just a day or two after the book was published!
Back when the book came out he read half of the book, then stopped.
Today I asked why he prefers to listen to stories, even very long audio books. Harry Potter #6 which he has listened to three times, was 27 hours long and Harry Potter #7 is over 21 hours long. He said that when he reads he has to concentrate on the visual reading part, and to do that he has to tune out the sounds around him, which is not always easy for him, and he has to sit or lay still to read and can't move around much.
He says he prefers to listen because he can move around if he wants. What he does typically is sit and then change to laying down. Sometimes he looks out a window or looks at things in the room. He moves his head around. He does not jump around or run or do anything spastic like that, just in case you were picturing that scene! He said he likes to play with LEGOs, to use and move his hands to make new things. He said sometimes he moves his LEGO Bionicles to pretend they are characters in the story, to act out the story. Sometimes he tosses a ball or plays with a squishy Koosh-type toy, keeping his hands busy. He said he likes the freedom to move, to change position, to use his hands and to touch things and to move things in his hands, none of which he can do if he is holding a book, sitting still and keeping his eyes focused on the page.
Today I had planned to do our regular homeschooling lessons with him but he is 'on a roll' with the story. He is over half way done with the audiobook and we've had it in our possession for less than three days. He is at that point where you want to know what will happen next and you don't want to stop reading (or listening) so you cram it into every possible minute that you can.
I remember when I read the book in July, I stopped the regular stuff that I'd do and used each spare moment to read the book to see what was going to happen. So I decided that to force other types of learning things onto him at this point in time would actually be cruel punishment.
So, I'm letting him finish the story.
Anyhow I'm counting it as a literature lesson so it actually gets 'counted' as homeschooling, so what does it matter if these few days are all about Harry Potter? The spelling, grammar lessons, vocabulary and math can wait a few days...
By the way this discussion on listening vs. reading is interesting to me. I myself find it easier to read a book than to listen to an audiobook. I find with audiobooks that the ability for me to move or look around and see other things that have nothing to do with the content of the book distract me. I often will start thinking of other things, my mind will wander, then I realized I missed some parts of the audiobook and will have to rewind it to find the place where I started drifting off. I have tried to 'fake it' and not do that but sometimes a book will make no sense after that so I have no choice but to rewind and re-listen.
I do fine with audiobooks or recorded lectures if I am busy doing repetitive tasks that are boring and that don't stimulate my brain such as washing dishes, putting away clean dishes, sweeping and mopping a floor or folding laundry.
One more thing, I don't do well with listening to audiobooks in the car. My mind wanders away from paying close attention to my driving, I am more on autopilot. When I was working full time in "life before kids" part of my life I was driving to work at 6:30am so I'd beat the commuter traffic and got a speeding ticket for going 75 mph in a 55 mph zone on I-95. The roads were clear, the sun was out, and I had inadvertently put the pedal to the metal while listening to 1984 by George Orwell. The next thing that happened on another day was that while in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic in the rain I was in a car accident, at the back of a four car pile-up, a minor fender bender type of thing (no injuries). I figured at the time that my reaction time was slower due to not paying attention as much as I should have been. After that I ditched the audiobooks in the car and went back to talk radio or music.
Right now when we listen to children's books in the car while I'm driving I have a hard time catching all of the story. I end up missing parts due to mind-drifting or forcing myself to pay more attention to the driving. For some odd reason listening to a lecture isn't the same, I can listen to a person talking and pay attention just fine. I don't have an explanation for this!