Children’s Audio Books #3

Content Quality :
My research made me question what passes as satisfactory, adequate and appropriate material for children’s reading. I scanned comments on Amazon about the books recommended by one American website and concluded that story content must be a minefield for responsible parents. It also made me aware that recommendations cannot be taken blindly!

In-car journey entertainment or not, it is still imperative for stories to have standards. I accept that when researching American sites there will be some degree of cultural difference. But I could not help but be extremely underwhelmed at the samples I was able to hear. Not one book recommended for 4 up to 8 years seemed very good to me.

I looked at loyalbooks.com for a comparison website. The freebies annoyed me – I believe the narrators should be paid something even if the story is out of copyright. Non payment devalues their work and others like me. But after the gripe I came across stories produced by the BBC like the Railway Children – obviously using the BBC sound library which was delivered to an excellent standard and reasonably priced. A good option.

It seems to me that parents need to be shrewd when choosing material for their children and not blindly follow recommendations. The little people are totally at the mercy of the adults who choose what literature they are exposed to. We are all aware how things from childhood either enrich or haunt us for the rest of our lives – including the words and music we are exposed to.

Criticism of Authors:
Disturbingly, there are other problems with the material widely available which is deemed acceptable for children. It is just as well that some parents are not afraid to say so. Scanning Amazon feedback pages of what are supposed to be our best loved authors, I found criticism which was no less than scathing. Dahl, Rowlings and others all get a good dressing down for sloppy work.
There are so many other children’s authors out there and the classics from back in the day. Admittedly, the old classics feel dated but I am wondering whether new authors are locked out of the industry. Literary agents don’t seem to want unknown material and miss the point about audio books as far as I can see. I am certain that they reject some excellent authors.

What do people want from an children’s audio book?
Firstly quality – it is a terrible oversight not to give information about the length of the story on the cd – its the first thing I looked for.
Sound effects improves the narration – it takes more work, but I can hear the difference.
Too much, too expensive – I am referring to the ‘play, listen and read’ concept. This expensive option includes the audio story, a book to follow the words and what looks like fuzzyfelt for the ‘play’ aspect. It looks like a good quality product – but again no indication of the duration of the audio book. At over thirty quid I would want to know. However, the feedback for products such as this is positive – or that is the way it seems. I think it is another facet to the market which is interesting, but whether it is value for money is questionable.

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