October/November 2015

Discover the World of Audiobooks

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 69 of 75

Audiobooks and Literacy Supporting Young Listeners' Developmental Stages Audiobooks offer many pos- sibilities for supporting child and teen literacy development, we know. We also know that youth of all ages—and one can argue adults as well—have specific developmental needs that literacy acquisition and practice support. In a season when AudioFile Magazine's publisher part- ners are looking at the attainments of and questions arising from the 2015 SYNC program, while the American Library Association and other orga- nizations draw public attention to safeguarding intellectual freedom in reading choices, let's consider how we share which audiobooks with kids of different ages and stages of intellec- tual and emotional development. With excellent audiobook expe- riences available to the very young, parents and care providers uncom- fortable with their own oral reading skills have access to professional book-based performances to entertain and encourage pre-reading children in exploring the wonder of stories and poems. Children who are beginning to emerge as independent readers typically enjoy literary works they can't yet broach on the page. There are plenty of audiobooks for them to meet, of course, to feed this love of the literary arts in a broader, deeper way than the limits of their text literacy skills. Tweens and teens, too, enjoy a huge variety of literary listening pos- sibilities, giving them access not just to engaging performances of narrative stories but also to drama and other word-based forms of expression that they might not be able to meet in their local environment. Where does the adult proponent of audiobooks in general, and specific audiobooks for the specific child or group of children, fit into the listen- ing literacy development ecosystem? SYNC annually provides access to the audiobook files along with support- ing materials for librarians, teachers, club leaders, and parents to make the bridge between audiobooks and youth listeners. However, it remains for many youth to have access to adults who understand what and how to share listening options with them. Before kindergarten age, young children—whether benefiting from generous amounts of time and talent from read-aloud families or being provided with access to audiobooks appropriate to their interests—have specific developmental needs well beyond content concerns. Reading to, or listening with, the smallest audi- ence members provides them time for emotional and often physical contact as well. Ideally, the adult with a three- year-old and a book in any format has selected a time when the child is capa- ble of being still and engaging with the story rather than needing to exer- cise his large muscle groups. Ideally, whether reading aloud himself or shar- ing an audiobook performance with that three-year-old, the occasion is one in which care provider and child are in very close proximity: the adult's lap, at the child's nighttime bedside, even on a Skype screen that brings their faces into focus as the centerpiece. The youngest school-age children may not need or want the very close proximity of a good snuggle while care provider and child share the book, although certainly there are occasions when sharing a book does provide a window for just such reassuring con- tact. They are ready to enjoy listening to some books with no adult interven- tion beyond providing physical access to the text or audio file. However, many parents and teachers exercise a right to oversee which books reach their hands and which audiobooks reach their ears. And the best way to By Francisca Goldsmith Where does the adult proponent of audiobooks fit into the literacy development ecosystem? 68 n AudioFile/ achieve that, of course, is for the adult to read and/or listen to them herself. Tweens and teens are reaching and have reached stages of development that intrinsically require assertion of their own independence from adult care providers. While adults in their lives cer- tainly can and do suggest—and in the case of school assignments, require— specific literary choices, the emerging adults that teens are have not only the right but the need to make their own intellectual and artistic choices as their personal tastes become established and refined. This doesn't mean that there should or can be no family listening times. It means that there will and should be sufficient time and space for teens to listen in privacy or share their choices among peers rather than responding to adult prescriptions of which audiobooks and which books. The following list offers some sug- gestions for different developmental stages in terms of how adults can best support the listening literacy emer- gence in youth of different ages and stages. You'll find a Pinterest board maintained by AudioFile Magazine with further recommendations of where and how young listeners of different ages can be supported through shared and independent listening experiences. Additional Resources To find more developmentally wise audio- book suggestions, see the Association for Library Service to Children's annual Children's Notable Recordings (ala. org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncr/ ncr_2014) lists and the Young Adult Library Services Association's annual Amazing Audiobooks ( amazing-audiobooks) lists. Also remem- ber to keep checking new additions to AudiobookREX (, Sound Learning (, and AudioFile Magazine's Pinterest boards (

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of AudioFile - October/November 2015