Audiobooks are an excellent way to engage readers of all ages. Listening to a book allows readers to do other things at the same time – whether that's going for a walk, doing crafts, playing video games or using a story to help them fall asleep.
A common myth is that listening to a story does not have the same effects as reading it directly. Recent studies have shown that listening to a story, in fact, helps develop the same literacy skills as reading. Audiobooks have additional benefits too, such as encouraging greater emotional engagement and developing readers' pronunciation, tone and inflection. They can be a great tool to engage reluctant readers , as they offer stories and narratives without the barrier of reading off the page.
Instead of being a more 'passive' form of reading, audiobooks actually allow children to spend more time reading. This is because they offer a form of reading that children can engage in even when they're tired or during times they may not usually be able to read, for example, whilst travelling, walking or doing other tasks.
How to find audiobooks
There are lots of different ways to access audiobooks. For younger readers, screen free players such as Voxblockor Yoto are a great way to minimize screen time, whilst keeping books portable.
Your local librarymay also lend audiobooks, whether as CDs, or through apps such as Libby or OneDrive. Libby allows you to sample titles before borrowing them, giving children more choice over what they'd like to listen to.
Some TV shows or movies will have tie-in audiobooks. Doctor Who, for example, has partnered with production company The Big Finish to create unique stories starring different Doctors and monsters! BBC Sounds also hosts Doctor Who Reacted, a brand new narrative podcast written by Juno Dawson. Some Marvel comics are available as audiobooks , bringing new life to the familiar characters.
Explore different types of storytelling
Audiobooks come in lots of different formats including dramatizations with full casts, almost like radio plays, or multiple narrators for books which switch between different characters perspectives. The audio adaptation of New Kid by Jerry Craft, for example, is a full cast dramatization, including the sounds of a busy school to create an immersive experience.
You can explore different genres too – books that are written in verse particularly lend themselves to being read aloud. Manjeet Mann's The Crossing uses two narrators to distinguish between protagonists Natalie and Sammy's voices. The audio for her other book, Run, Rebel is read by Manjeet Mann herself, and she brings an element of spoken word performance to the story. Similarly, the audiobook version of The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta highlights his use of rhyme and rhythm throughout the book.
That said, there's nothing wrong with a traditional audiobook read by one narrator. Emma Tracey's narration of A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll is incredibly engaging because the narrator's accent and way of speaking perfectly captures the protagonist's voice – making it feel like she is speaking directly to the listener. David Tennant is a master storyteller when reading How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, with a whole host of voices up his sleeve!
Ideas for listening
There's no correct way to listen to an audiobook, but here's some ideas to try:
- Listening with headphones for a truly immersive experience
- Listening together to a chapter at a time, as either a class or a family
- Following along with a printed transcript or a copy of the book
- Using audiobooks as a way to wind down before sleep (avoid noisier dramatizations for this!)
- Downloading a new audiobook before a longer car trip or journey as a way to build some excitement
However you read – all reading is good reading. Happy listening!