As a homeschool mom, I enjoy finding ways to make learning exciting, fun, and interesting. For many years, one of the mainstays in our home and homeschool has been both audio books and audio theater. Ben has always loved being read to (and I cannot possibly read aloud to him enough), and he loves drama of any kind — even the audio kind.
Over the years though, I have discovered that not only does using audio books and audio drama save my voice and add a fun aspect to learning, it also has many benefits, not only for children, but for families in general.
Benefits of Audio Theater include:
- Audio theater brings families together. Audio theater is fun and engaging for both children and adults. It’s an activity for all ages and is a superb choice of activities for the entire family.
- Audio theater is great for those times when you need your children to calm down, settle in, or play quietly. It’s better than any movie or other screen activity. And they can quietly draw, create with playdough, or play with Lego while listening. It’s not unusual for Ben to fall asleep at night to an audio book or drama.
- Audio theater encourages imagination and creativity. It demonstrates the power of the spoken word and unleashes the ability to see the scenes unfold in the mind’s eye. This will come out in a child’s creative play, art, and conversation.
- Audio theater engages those children who are struggling readers or think they hate reading. Many audio theater CDs are based on books. This is an invaluable tool to help those who struggle see that books open the door to amazing adventures.
- Audio theater inspires reading in children who don’t struggle, too. Ben does not struggle with reading, but he is often excited to read the book after listening to an audio drama on which it was based.
- Audio theater teaches critical listening skills. When you don’t have the benefit of visual cues in a story, listening intently becomes more important than ever.
- Audio theater encourages meaningful conversation. Listening together is fun, and will likely provide opportunity for great discussion you might otherwise have missed. Most of the audio theater we listen to is filled with opportunities to observe growth in character, biblical and moral values, and eternal truth. Audio theater has sparked some amazing conversations in our house.
- Audio theater can be educational. Our favorite audio theater CDs are based on the historical fiction books by G.A. Henty. We use all kinds of audio theater in our homeschool to teach history, character, bible, apologetics, and more.
Because Ben is such a huge fan of audio books and audio theater, we have used this method of entertainment in our homeschool, for car travel, and in his bedtime routine for much of his life. Hands down, our favorite audio theater productions are those from Heirloom Audio Productions. We were introduced to this company a few years ago when they released their first audio theater CD, Under Drake’s Flag. Most recently, Ben has been listening to The Dragon and the Raven. Heirloom offers intriguing stories based on the historical fiction novels of G.A. Henty.
Every audio theater CD we have from Heirloom is of the highest production quality, with an incredibly talented cast of characters, beautifully composed musical score, and special effects that bring the story to life. Heirloom spares no expense to bring the best of the best to their productions. In The Dragon and the Raven, you’ll recognize notable actors such as John Ryhs-Davies from The Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones, Helen George from Call the Midwife, Brian Blessed from Star Wars, Tarzan, and King Lear, and John Bell from The Hobbit. The musical score was written by Emmy-award winning composer, John Campbell.
Set in the 9th century, The Dragon and the Raven tells the story of King Alfred the Great of England as he battles the invading Danes. It is based on the historical fiction book of the same name, written by G. A. Henty. The tale unfurls through the eyes of fictional character, Edmond, who becomes Alfred’s mightiest warrior. When Danes overrun the land and the Saxons surrender, this young knight trains and leads the fight to recapture the kingdom.
Part entertainment and part history lesson, The Dragon and the Raven can be enjoyed by the entire family, but specifically targets children age 6-16 in its 2.5 hours of adventure (and both boys and girls will love it). Just like all of their CDs, it includes a downloadable study guide (this one is 48-pages) that helps parents engage their children further.
In addition to the wonderful titles from Heirloom Audio Productions, we have enjoyed audio theater from a few other sources. Some of Ben’s all-time favorites include:
The Chronicles of Narnia – Recorded in London with an all-star cast of England’s brightest talent from the stage and screen, an original orchestral score, and cinema-quality digital sound design, this innovative recording includes all seven original stories and nearly 22 hours of entertainment.
The Hedge of Thorns – John is determined to discover the secret that has been kept from him for so long. He must find out what is on the other side of the hedge! Desperate to break through, John devises a scheme, but it places his little sister in perilous danger. In a moment of passion he disregards his parents’ warnings and pushes her through the hedge! John learns that there are grave consequences to crossing the boundaries that God has set for him—an unforgettable lesson that has left an indelible mark on his life.
C.S. Lewis at War: The Dramatic Story Behind Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis at War is a powerful and entertaining radio theatre–style audio drama on CD that brings to life this amazing period in Lewis’s life. It provides a rare insight into Lewis’s life, friends, and family, illuminating a time of personal difficulty that also brought forth some of his most influential works: The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, and Mere Christianity. Recorded in London and written by Paul McCusker, the script comes alive with a full cast of award-winning British voice actors, cinematic sound effects, and an original score.
A Christmas Carol – Experience Charles Dickens’s beloved story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future in a 90-minute full-cast drama production. Since 1996, Focus on the Family Radio Theatre has produced innovative audio entertaiment for families and individuals. These dramas feature cinema-quality sound design and original music scores.
Oliver Twist – Escape to another place & time with this full-cast audio dramatization of the Charles Dickens’ timeless tale set in 1830’s London. This powerful story will not only entertain you, but draw you into the timeless drama of compassion, corruption and redemption as a single orphan changes the lives of everyone around him.
The Hiding Place – Enter into “The Hiding Place” to relive Corrie ten Boom’s heart-pounding account as a leader in the Dutch Underground during World War II.
Charlie’s Choice – Dissatisfied with his lot in life, Charlie dreams of a better
future, where money can cure all ills. He dreams of living in luxury and ease, and is determined to make his dreams come true! Share in Charlie’s thrilling adventures as he faces obstacles that threaten his very life. As a prisoner on a slave ship, he attempts a daring escape and an unforgettable . . . well, you’ll just have to hear it to find out!
For younger kids, be sure to check out:
Everything from the Jonathan Park collection
Everything from the Adventures in Odyssey collection
Everything from the Children’s Bible Hour collection
I hope you’ll try audio theatre with your kids and discover for yourself the awesome benefits. If you do, please let us know what some of your kids’ favorites are!