Before audio fiction was available first from cassette tapes, and now from our e-devices, old-time radio shows were highly anticipated family or neighborhood night activities. Evenings were set aside for dramas like Little Orphan Annie or The Shadow.
A small group of us decided to turn our love of listening to modern audio fiction (including fantasy fiction, of course!) into an activity similar to the past experiences of radio shows, and listen to ongoing stories at specific times, in specific increments, together. We tried this both as adult listeners only, and also including kids.
Here's what we discovered:
- There was a unique pleasure in experiencing the same story together at the same time. Different than other forms of bonding experiences.
- By agreeing to wait for a specific time each week, we enjoyed the build up of anticipation between listening sessions lacking in binge listening, and could anchor our week with the rhythm of a returning enjoyable activity. It freed us from making any decisions on when or whether to listen, and gave a sense of groundedness to the passage of time. Recurring weekly or monthly traditions are very comforting.
- We also noticed for all ages involved, the
ability to delay gratification seemed to be nurtured. And, delaying
gratification is a hallmark of people who seem to go through life more
smoothly than those with less abililty in that area.
- It's also a great activity for feeding the introvert side of our souls when we want to bond with others in a non-extroverted way, as it allows friends to be together for artistic exposure and introspection, while they don't have to maintain exhausting small talk!
Most people aren't fully introverted but have a part of themselves that leans that way and goes unfed too often. And usually, the way to feed that part is with solo activities (and those are great!). But honoring and nurturing introversion at the same time with others -- though sounds like an oxymoron -- rarely gets a chance to happen. Listening to audio fiction in a group allows the expectation that no one will distract the activity by trying to draw attention to themselves or onto someone else.
It allows being with others without any competition to be the life of the party, the funniest, the cleverest, the wisest. Even those of us who lean more towards extroversion really enjoy small portions of these types of gatherings. (Yes, we know of the attention-craving extroverts who suffocate without hogging the entire limelight and could never survive this, yet alone find delight in it... but luckily those types are far and few... and they don't have to be invited.)
Here's how to turn audio fiction listening into an old-fashioned recurring radio show gathering:
These suggestions assume kids (even hyper kids) are included, but they can be adapted for adults only. (Besides, many adults also feel quite hyper at times.)
1. Choose a specific evening and short time frame you know you can stick with. If it's for a family where no driving to the gathering is necessary, you may want to start out with just 20 minutes to 30 minutes in our visually oriented and time crunched era, and grow from there if it feels natural. Don’t force longer listening times yet when choosing sources of audio storytelling. The family’s audio intelligence will no doubt grow, so you can make it longer after you conquer the shorter time span. Weekly or bi-weekly works best for many.
For groups of adults who will be driving to the gathering and want to make the trip worth their while, and who have longer attention spans, the chosen listening time would be longer.
2. Choose stories that finish in their entirety within the time frame for very young kids. (We'll show below how to handle mixed ages where everyone's taste in audio stories is included). For older kids and adults, choose chapter stories where one to three chapters completes in the time frame. (Extra listening isn't allowed at the end of the time frame in general, but full completion of chapters are always allowed when they occasionally go a bit over the time frame.)
3. Allow silent hand activities that don’t overly engage the mind, such as
knitting on automatic pilot or quiet fidgeting. It’s painful for
some kids today to stay still. Even some adults listen better with hands busy in an activity that allows their mind to stay free. Provide
specific "quiet listening" fidgeting choices such as stuffed animals or
other cloth toys that can be twisted and squeezed, a quiet rocking
chair, a cuddly blanket, and big cushions for rolling around on. Studies
have shown some people hear better when they doodle on paper while
others would actually be ignoring the story and engaging their minds on
something else. You be the judge.Just know it can't distract the others.
4. You might want to make special healthy snacks especially for radio show times. These work best if they’re soft finger snacks like seedless cleaned grapes and almonds which can be eaten quietly and don’t get the hands sticky or greasy. By making them healthy, kids and even adults learn to associate comfort and happiness with healthy foods instead of the usual opposite. They’ll remember it later in life when they want to comfort themselves.
Have both older and younger kids? Here’s something that may work.
Politely listen as a family to the younger one’s 10 minute audio story right before his bedtime. No eye-rolling or obvious signs of boredom from the older kids allowed. Then put the youngest to bed and continue
with the rest of the family returning to their longer drama. It can be
soothing for a young child to drift off to the distant sound of a radio
show the rest are listening to in a nearby room. Make the rules firm that she stays in bed
and stays quiet. Rules make kids feel safe. Yes, of course they will protest at first. Stick with the game plan.
7. As a fun option, include lighting incense or a candle that’s set aside only for your story listening evenings. It creates ambiance and a calm festive feeling for listening to audio dramas. You might even want to use candles with essential oils known for calm and relaxation.
8. Drop a pin onto a plate with everyone else’s eyes closed right before the show begins. See if they can hear it. This revs up listening ability and quiets active, fidgeting minds.
Whether listening to audio stories solo or in groups, among its many pleasures are an unconscious learning of what great writing is made of. Writers of fantasy fiction, or other types of fiction, can gain prowess without even trying!