Read-Along Books & CDs

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Phee loves to tell stories.  Phee loves me to tell stories.  In the car.  Every time we get into the car.  I'm happy to oblige, but when the request is for me to yet again tell the story of a particular episode of Arthur or Curious George I get tired of it.  Sometimes I'm allowed to make up stories, but the catch there is that I have to remember exactly how I told the story so that I can tell it again later.  She will absolutely correct me if I forget or change a detail.

I was thrilled when I walked into the library one day and discovered a cart of books with read-along CDs.  Curious George, Arthur, and some other old friends were all included and I saw the light at the end of the repetitive storytelling tunnel. 

Phee was excited to discover these books.  She loves being able to follow along by herself and turn the pages.  The novelty has worn off a bit, but she still enjoys listening to the stories and we make sure to pick up at least two or three new ones every time we go to the library. I'm still telling, stories, too, but I'm happy to have a backup plan.

I have found, though, that all read-alongs are not created equally.  Some have great narrators.  Some have a consistent format and "turn the page" sound.  Others... not so much.  Arthur and Curious George are done very well and have the same format for nearly every book.  An Olivia book that I grabbed was narrated by Dame Edna, which was absolutely fitting and perfect, but it didn't have page turn sounds so Phee couldn't really follow along.  Cat in the Hat was narrated far too quickly by Kelsey Grammar.  He did a great job as the Cat, but the page turn sounds blended right into the story and happened so fast, Phee never even noticed them.

These books are perfect for vacation travel, or even just an afternoon of running errands.  For us, it's a great way to entertain Phee for a few minutes so Doug and I can catch up.  So, to help you plan for summer vacation, here are a few of our favorites, with a note about each.

Curious George Makes Pancakes

This is a cute, typical George story.  The narration is at a very smooth, steady pace and the narrator uses some different voices to vary the story.  The page turns are clear and easy to follow.  There is also a second track without the page turn signals.

Arthur Goes to Camp
There is an odd, but catchy (by catchy I mean watch out for this earworm) little song before all of the Arthur stories we've checked out.  Phee loves it, though, and sings along.  This is a classic Arthur story with all of the usual characters.  Again, it has two tracks, which is great for when Phee wants a story, but doesn't want to mess with the book.

Ella the Elegant Elephant

We loved this story!  Ella is a cute mix of Curious George, Babar and Olivia.  The narration is wonderful.

Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck

Peter Rabbit is one of Phee's favorite characters and stories.  She can recite it nearly word for word and never tires of hearing or watching it.  This was a very lucky find and we've thoroughly enjoyed it.  The narration is by Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor who were in a movie about Beatrix Potter.

Magic School Bus in the Time of Dinosaurs

This was Phee's first introduction to Magic School Bus.  It's a fun read, but if you've ever looked at one of these books, you'll instantly spot the challenge in making it a read-along.  There are lots of speech bubbles and extra facts spread throughout the pages, in addition to the text.  Also, I didn't look at it before Phee started to listen to it (it's Magic School Bus, what could possibly be wrong) and a few pages in I'm hearing about the dinosaur that has "red in his mouth" because he's eating another dino for dinner.  So, we had to explain carnivores, or "meat-eaters" in Land Before Time language.

One more tip on storage.  The seat pocket in front of Phee is empty so we keep all of the read-alongs we check out in that pocket.  And after she listens to one, I try to remember to hand the CD back to her so it goes right back into its book.  It doesn't always happen, but we haven't lost any yet, either, so it's working!

What are some good read-alongs you've discovered?  Have you tried them for long car trips?

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