Why our children should listen to audiobooks

I love audiobooks. I listen every day whilst dog walking or cooking. And I firmly believe that listening is “reading” and will argue this on Clubhouse until I’m blue in the face (not that anyone can see on Clubhouse). When I do school visits, I talk a lot about the author creating “mind movies”, and I would include audiobooks in this discussion.

So you may know I’m lucky enough to have the utterly amazing Chris Devon narrate my Relic Hunters series (and he’s being very patient whilst I struggle with plot holes in book 3). Anyway, for a different perspective, I recently met the talented and super lovely Charlotte Chiew (scroll down for some very funny shots of here at work) at a networking event and invited her to share some thoughts on the benefits of audiobooks for children so over to her ….

The muscles you(r children) work listening to audiobooks

I’ll admit – I only really started listening to audiobooks after I began narrating them. 

Of course, like many a good parent, I’d bought (and listened together with) my kids those read-along books with CDs that ring a little lovely chime every time the narrator had come to the end of the page and it was time to turn the page. My boys loved them. I think they felt pretty good about themselves, pretending they were able to read before they actually could decipher the words themselves. 

Then, as they got older and silently devour all sorts of books by themselves, they also started on audiobooks. I honestly can’t remember how or when, but they were the pioneer audiobook listeners in my household. I remember the first times I found the house silent, the child(ren) immobilized, headphones on, eyes glazed. And I thought, who cast this spell and how?

Obviously, I wanted this magical super power too.  

While I won’t be sharing the secrets of how I spin a spellbinding tale, I will share 2 interesting facts about audiobooks that may shed some light on how and why some audiobook narrators have listeners eating out of their hands.

1. Our brain works as hard whether we’re reading a story ourselves or listening intently to someone telling it to us.

From an evolutionary point of view, reading came after storytelling and listening, and so it uses processes in the brain that were already there from learning by listening. If you think about reading as the process of decoding the written letters, then it means that if you’ve learnt to read, the decoding is pretty much automatic which means it no longer requires much effort. The effort then, is in what you do with the information you get from the decoding (reading) or the listening (storytelling). 

(There’s been lots of scientific research on this topic, but here is where I gleamed my understanding of memory & learning http://www.danielwillingham.com/articles.html)

2. Listening to audiobooks is more engaging than watching films – even if you don’t realise it!

A study from UCL found that listening to audiobooks creates a more intense psychological and emotional reaction that watching television or film. A quick google search will bring up all the statistics and research data if that’s your cup of tea. But think about it – the results aren’t that surprising. When listening to an audiobook, you have to work your imagination so much more than when watching a film. (Remember how the latest release of that book you loved was never as satisfying as when you read it?) In addition to your imagination working hard, often times, you experience an intimate storytelling with audiobooks. A beautiful voice in your ears (thank you Noise-cancelling-headphones), drawing you into the world of the story. The narrator heightens the experience for the listener and has the ability to make an audiobook unforgettable.

The imobilised, glazed-eyed state I find my kids in when they listen to audiobooks must just be their imagination hard at work. With some help from an expert narrator…

3. Insider tips

If you’re new to audiobooks and I’ve tempted you to try, here are some options and tips for looking for great narrators:

  1. Most audiobook online retail platforms will let you trial a subscription for a month. Try Kobo, Audiobook.com and Audible – you get free book/s during your trial, which you get to keep even if you cancel your subscription. Afterwhich you’ll get credits which usually equates to 1 book every month. With a Kobo subscription, you’ll also get books on promotional prices in addition to your 1 “free” book a month. And if you accumulate more credits that you can use them, Kobo lets you”pause” your subscription if you don’t want to cancel but just haven’t finished using those credits.
  2. Check if you local library has a partnership with Libby App (by Overdrive). We are members of Lewisham Library (London) and have enjoyed many audiobooks for free on our library cards.
  3. You can get free audiobooks from Librivox, Googleplay Audiobooks, and even Apple iTunes. 
  4. Before you buy/rent/download-a-free audiobook, always check out the retail sample. That’s the equivalent of a traditional book’s “blurb”. Most audiobook producers will choose a section that will let you have a good idea of how the narrator tells the story. However, some retailers will cut their own retail sample and sometimes, that means you just hear the copyrights and opening credits…
  5. Look out for the Earphones award for the audiobook, or the Golden Voice award for the Narrator. These are awards given by AudioFile Magazine, for truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.

About Charlotte Chiew

Charlotte Chiew is an audiobook narrator-producer, voiceover artist, and actor. She specializes in narrating content for young audiences and has performed for children and young audiences all over the world in theatres, community halls, festivals, shopping malls, bookshops, and on recorded medium. Charlotte is currently narrating and producing the Paramedic Chris Series– a children’s book series about the Ambulance service – by Tim Parsons.

Find out more about Charlotte’s work on https://Charlottechiew.com

Listen to Charlotte spin a yarn on the Tauk Kids’ Youtube Channel https://bit.ly/TAUKKidsYT

About Lexi Reeshttp://lexirees.co.ukAuthor of adventurous books for children, horse-mad sailor and crafter, caffeine fuelled.

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