How Audiobooks Can Help Improve Children’s Literacy

Listen up parents – audiobooks aren’t just a great way to entertain the kids on long journeys; research also shows they’re brilliant in improving your child’s reading skills and a great way to get reluctant readers more immersed in stories.

In her article ‘Listen and learn: why audiobooks are great for your child’, Lucy Dimbylow talks to Irene Picton of the National Literacy Trust about the benefits of children’s audiobooks. ‘Listening to a story can be valuable for all sorts of reasons,’ says Irene ‘one benefit of audiobooks is that children have the opportunity to hear speech patterns and rhythms that they might miss in print. They teach them about voice and expression, which can help with their own speaking and articulation.’  Dr. Frank Serafini also notes in his study that ‘reading aloud is the single most important activity for developing proficient reading skills.’ He recommends that teachers and parents should be encouraged to use audiobooks because they not only expose young readers to new vocabulary and support struggling readers but they encourage all children to try and enjoy stories that may otherwise be too advanced or inaccessible.


Developing Young Readers


Audiobooks can help boost the literary skills of all children but they can be a real aid to children who otherwise struggle with reading. As Irene says, ‘If a child finds decoding or comprehension difficult, audiobooks can make literature more accessible.’ It gives them the opportunity to become absorbed in the story without the barrier of difficult text. They can also help kids who have trouble focusing on reading as they can listen whilst doing something else at the same time.

Read-along books and CD/ print book mixes can also help children link pronunciation and comprehension with text. Also, in a world of shortening attention spans with different forms of media constantly vying for our attention, audiobooks could help your child become a more focused and better listener.

Audiobooks also help your child discover stories that are beyond their current reading age. ‘Children develop literacy at different rates, but audiobooks can help them access stories that would be too advanced for them to read,’ says Laurence Howell of Audible. ‘It’s a wonderful way to open up great literature to children.’


Listening Together


One of the great things about audiobooks is that you can listen to them at anytime whether in the car on a long journey, at the kitchen table or in winding the kids down for bedtime. Audiobooks also can keep your kids entertained whilst you get on with other things, as Irene says listening as family can also be ‘a good bonding experience, and improve your own storytelling skills.’ Children’s audiobooks can also now be enjoyed by the whole family as many have music and special effects as well as celebrity narrators such as Stephen Fry, David Walliams and Kate Winslet.

During the holidays – whilst kids are out of school and parents and kids are spending more time together – is the perfect time to invest in some audiobooks. Why not try some of our suggestions below or have a listen to HarperCollins’s new classic audiobook collections ‘Stories for Summer Holidays for 2 or 5+, to not only help maintain literacy but to entertain the whole family!


Getting Started


There are a lot of different ways you and your children can get started with audiobooks: whether you prefer physical CDs or downloading to your device. Audiobooks can even be enjoyed on a budget!

  • Audiobooks are no longer just found on big cassette bundles – you can now download audiobooks onto your phone, tablet or computer either through subscription based apps such as Audible and Kobo or via an à la carte service such as Google Play or iTunes. More about free audiobook apps.
  • Libraries are a fantastic resource with audiobooks on CD or cassette as well as free audiobooks to download through the Overdrive app. All you need is a library card!
  • If you have a smart speaker or voice assistant such as Alexa or Google Home, you can just try asking for a bedtime story! HarperCollins Children’s Books recently launched a voice-activated app on Google Assistant for children’s audiobooks called StoryCastle. Everyday there are two new stories in Storycastle for both younger and older kids to enjoy and best of all, it’s completely free!
  • Puffin have also introduced a Roald Dahl audio app for iOS devices, which is a library of new recordings of 19 of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s titles.



Lucy Dimbylow, ‘Listen and learn: why audiobooks are great for your child’

Dr. Frank Serafini, ‘AUDIOBOOKS & LITERACY: An Educator’s Guide to Utilizing Audiobooks in the Classroom’

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