In a social-distancing world, students from kindergarten to college are trying their hand at homeschooling and self-learning to finish out the school year. Thus for today’s Take 5 roundup, I recommend nonfiction audiobooks that can be used as a basis for home study, particularly for listeners from young teens on up.
All of the following audiobooks can be used as a foundation for building a study unit or for starting a conversation with your students about the topic at hand.
Forget those weighty biology textbooks and learn about the human body the fun way. First up is Bill Bryon’s THE BODY: A GUIDE FOR OCCUPANTS. This author-read audiobook takes us on a grand tour of ourselves, from the inside out. Anatomy and physiology have never been more enjoyable. If you’re looking for a more focused look at human biology, then Mary Roach’s GULP is the audiobook for you. Narrator Emily Woo Zeller leads us through this fascinating and often astounding journey through our body from mouth to, um, well, the other end. You’ll learn about digestion, nutrition, and even bizarre food customs.
For a unit in anthropology and/or art history, I recommend STEPPING-STONES: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE ICE AGE CAVES OF THE DORDOGNE by Christine Desdemaines-Hugon, a well-respected expert on prehistoric cave art. The audiobook, read by Anne Flosnik, focuses on five caves in France, providing detailed descriptions of the art; putting it in context of human history, technology, and spirituality; and comparing the style to 20th-century artists and art movements. Though the audiobook does not come with a downloadable PDF of the cave paintings, images can be found on the internet and at Desdemaines-Hugon’s website.
A good narrator can help bring history alive, elevating it from a series of dry facts into a fascinating and engaging story. Here are two recommended audiobooks for an American history course. Martin Sandler’s 1919: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED AMERICA recounts the groundbreaking events that occurred in the year after World War I and in the aftermath of the great flu pandemic. Narrator Jeff Harding ably guides us through this National Book Award-winning story of a year marked by women’s suffrage, racial violence, labor protests, nationalist movements, and the start of Prohibition. Some of these same issues are still relevant 100 years later. BIG WONDERFUL THING by Stephen Harrigan is all about the state of Texas: its landscape, personalities, wars, politics, and indigenous populations. This sweeping history is made all the better in the hands of narrator George Guidall, who keeps us glued to our earbuds as we learn about what makes the Lone Star State unique and important to America.
Although none of these audiobooks comes with accompanying teaching materials, a quick internet search will readily pull up maps, illustrations, photos, and other supplementary information to use for homeschooling. Parents and self-directed students of all ages may be surprised at how easy it is to learn when they start with a good audiobook.
Photo by Retha Ferguson