This year marks the first for ALA to hand out the Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production. And the prize goes to Jazz (by father-son team, Walter Dean and Christopher Myers), the audio part of which is produced by Arnie Cardillo; the audio product is described on Live Oak Media's website: "original music was composed for each poem and performed by a live jazz ensemble, while two outstanding jazz vocalists alternate with narration and song." Booklist Magazine is sponsoring the award.
This is a very exciting award because it is helping to redefine "literacy." It used to be easy, right? Words in books and the ability to decode them, to make meaning out of them. But with this award, this other kind of "reading" is validated. Several months ago, I was instant messaging with my brother, Eddy, and we were discussing what all we were reading. In my mind, before I knew how my brother was reading, I knew we were having one of the best talks on literature ever. I forget the details of the talk (what books, what topics, etc. and I know I can always check the history of an IM, but man, I'm so lazy), but it was deeper than he and I had ever gone before in terms of this kind of discussion. I mean, for a numbers guy, the kid was really impressing me. Me, a PhD in Literature, right? Come to find out, every time he said, "I'm reading this title or that," or "When I finished reading this or that title," or any number of other phrases in which he used the word "read" and its variations, he meant he was listening to the book in downloadable MP3 format. My baby brother is constantly training for 10Ks and so when he's out at night running, he's listening (read "reading") to books, and our talks about these books didn't suffer as a result. Had I not known he was listening to them and had he been a student in one of my lit classes, I would've given him all As, and not just because he's my brother and I love him, but because he knew what he was talking about.
Sure, some folks might argue that it's shortcut reading, much like watching the film version, but rare is the time that in film that you reproduce the book entire, without one blemish, without once straying, or having to make allowances for creative freedoms on the part of the screenwriter and or director and or editor and or actor(s). When you've got the audio version of the book, you've got, usually, some 7 hours worth of book, unabridged. And the only allowance you have to make for creative freedom is who's going to read it and how. Actors interpreting a writer's words, but they're the same exact words. And if a kid's having a hard time reading through a book on his own but he wants to do it, why not supplement the event with the voiced version? Why not, if a kid's a voracious reader, let her listen to yet another book (read "read") while in the car going back and forth to school or to the mall or on a long trip? It can't be the only thing a student "reads" (read "listens to") for class. He actually has to read read and show not just proficiency but improvement. But this format just might be what he needs to get on the ball.