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Before starting Listenwise, I had a career as an NPR reporter, most recently at the NPR station in Boston, WBUR. I was an audio storyteller. Capturing audio and sharing stories had captivated me from an early age. As I’ve built Listenwise, I’ve learned about the neuroscience of listening, the interconnectedness of listening and reading, the power of storytelling, and the importance of listening when learning a new language. Now, I’m excited to share with you that I’ve written a book that brings together my love of audio storytelling with my expertise in listening.
Listen Wise: Teach Students to be Better Listeners will be published by Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint, in April 2021. You can pre-order the print version now. The ebook and audiobook (of course!) will be forthcoming.
The book delivers a concise and thoughtful treatment of how to build powerful listening skills in K-12 students. You’ll discover real-world examples and modern, research-based advice about helping young people improve their listening abilities and their overall academic performance. The book is a valuable resource that explains why listening is the missing piece of the literacy puzzle.
The book will also provide:
- Classroom stories and teacher viewpoints that highlight effective strategies to teach critical listening
- Why building listening skills in students is crucial to improving reading, especially for English learners.
- Why the Lexile® Framework for Listening is contributing to a surging recognition of the importance of listening in the academic curriculum
My Love of Audio Storytelling
I also include many personal anecdotes from my work as a journalist in Kenya, Brazil, and the U.S., and a few stories about the early influences on my listening and speaking abilities. I’ll share one here.
When I was 8, I got my first tape recorder for Christmas – a bright red Panasonic cassette tape recorder. I’m the one holding the tape reporter in the photo. This was the 1970s, so it was shiny and rounded on the edges. It had an easy carry handle that slid up, which told me audio was meant to be portable. I instantly fell in love with recording sound.
My love of sound and journalism started to come together a few years after I got that tape recorder. Our family would take long drives in the summer to visit relatives in Massachusetts. It took 14 hours to drive from Kentucky to Massachusetts. Being in a car with 5 kids was tedious for everyone, especially my dad, who was always the driver.
My father loved news and would always play CBS news at the top of the hour on the radio. But there were very few all-news stations at that time. And there was bad reception when you were driving through the mountains of West Virginia. That meant there were long stretches in between the top of the hour news bulletins, and he wanted to hear more news. So he brought along his newspapers. As a daily subscriber to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, he had plenty of news to read. But how to hear it?
My father saw a creative solution. He told his kids that anyone who wanted to read the newspaper to him while he drove got to sit in the front seat between him and my mother. I saw my opportunity to escape the chaos in the backseat with my three sisters and one brother. I was the second oldest, and the only volunteer.
I sat unbelted in between my mom and dad in the front of our station wagon and read the newspaper out loud. My dad would glance over from the road and poke his finger at the next story he wanted me to read to him. I learned how to follow a jump in a newspaper story and read with some interest and emotion. Looking back on this experience with the knowledge I now have of how hearing words and content strengthen reading and learning, I am sure these experiences had a huge impact on my learning. I know they influenced my career choices, first as a journalist, and later as the founder of an edtech company focused on building listening skills to improve literacy.
I hope you’ll consider reading and sharing my book Listen Wise: Teach Students to be Better Listeners to learn more about the history of the company, the research that underlies what we do, and most importantly – how you can teach your students to be better listeners!