The Listening Walk by Paul Showers and Aliki

Much has been said about the importance of good communication skills. But in a noisy world where everyone is fighting to be heard, literally or metaphorically, it’s easy to forget that it’s just as important to listen — whether it’s to the people around us or simply quietly soaking in our environments.

In The Listening Walk, we see a little girl taking a walk with her dog and her father, but what’s unusual about this ubiquitous scene is that the three of them are striding along in companionable silence — it’s a listening walk, after all. As the girl wisely explains, “I hear many different sounds when I do not talk.”

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And she does. As they take a leisurely stroll from their neighbourhood to a verdant park, an ostensibly simple excursion turns into a veritable aural adventure as the girl takes studious note of every sound she hears along the way, ranging from people walking around in different types of footwear, to the usual traffic noises, and nature in general. And we, too, get to vicariously take in the different sights and soundscape, thanks to the charming illustrations and the girl’s inventive use of onomatopoeia to accurately mimic the various sounds.

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This is a terrific book that not only promotes the value of being more aware of our environment, but also the power of quiet observation. Kids (and their parents!) will also be inspired to take their own listening walks, thanks to the way that this simple yet timeless idea has been brilliantly articulated through the little girl’s obvious delight in exploring and immersing herself completely in the moment.

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Incidentally, her father looks pretty relaxed and happy too! Clearly a little quiet can also do wonders for the soul, and provide room for us to take a moment to contemplate and reflect in the midst of our hectic lives. For a book that was first published in 1961 — presumably simpler times — its message is more relevant than ever.

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