Monday, January 2, 2012

On LibriVox, A Connecticut Yankee and A Struggling Reader

Hugh McGuire, a former mechanical engineer from Montreal, founded the website librivox a few years ago. He likely didn't imagine his brainchild would save the day before school starts for a 12-year-old boy from New Jersey, eager to finish up a nearly-impossible winter break reading assignment.

Our son recently chose to read a book for English class that is way over his reading level: Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. He needs to finish the book by tomorrow morning.

A few days ago, I began by asking him to switch reading sections with me; then it became clear I would need to read the whole text to him. The book is long and I tired easily. With 200 plus pages to go, I stumbled onto McGuire's amazing online resource: a community in which volunteers read books out loud and turn them into podcasts for the rest of us. All the books, more than  5,000, are in the public domain, which means they were published before 1923.

The readers are people like me, people who love literature and want to share it with others, amateurs who sometimes stumble on a word or two. This site is a gift to parents who are homeschooling, to children like mine who are dyslexic, to older people without the eyesight to read, to anyone who wants to hear instead of read a book. Did I mention this is a free resource?

Right now our son is on the sofa, eating frozen coffee beans and reading the words of Twain's book as he listens to the LibriVox podcast on my MacBook. He's happy. I'm incredibly less stressed. He can pause the podcast, ask me what a word means, and continue.

LibriVox is part of what is known as the free culture movement, a "social movement  that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works in the form of free content by using the Internet and other forms of media." I got that definition from Wikipedia, one example of free culture. You can read more about that here.


  1. hi allison... thanks for the kind note! one thing, we've grown: there are more than 5,000 books now in the LibriVox catalog... !

    Hope the reading goes well for your son.

  2. Wow! I will edit that. Thank you for all you do and thanks for stopping by today.