As a child in Taiwan, being read to was a rarity. I sincerely cannot recall either of my parents reading to me. Maybe one or two of my elementary teachers read aloud to my classes once in a while. But of course, I wanted stories, just like any child from any culture — so palm puppet shows in the public spaces, Taiwanese opera series on TV, Peking Operas in the theater, and mini series on TV were all part of my story-diet. I wonder if my insatiable appetite for stories contributed to my early reading abilities and habits. But I never really listened to radio plays or audio books. (Don’t even know if they existed in the 60s Taiwan!)
Fast forward almost 40 years from when I started reading… just recently audio books have become my favorite way to “get stories” when I am not reading or simply can’t read — doing dishes, walking down the busy streets of New York City, playing a mindless video game on the computer, and once in a long while, on the treadmill (since I don’t work out at all!) What brought this big change to my story-absorbing life is really my iPod and iTunes. I am a clumsy person who doesn’t have the ability to juggle multiple objects. Walkman and Discman would have never worked for me. But give me a laptop, some sophisticated software, and one little rectangular device, and voila, I can hold the universe of audio-visual stories in one sweep! I don’t just listen to new publications. This summer, I wanted to revisit some favorites.
For the last month, I have been listening to two of my favorite science fiction stories — Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card. Even though I don’t quite like overly dramatized audio books and a few voices in each rendition do not quite work for me, I have been mesmerized afresh by these two tales. Listening to them has become my 2008 summer obsession and almost a nightly ritual! It’s probably a terrible thing to do to fall asleep with in-ear-buds feeding the words directly into my brain and sending me to dreamland. But I don’t care. I get a soothing kind of oddity and I have formed an unusually close bond with these two tales.
I am finally getting all the missing bedtime reading-aloud ritual as a young child and absolutely loving it.
-Roxanne Hsu Feldman