Audiobooks for children are growing in popularity in Australia, rescuing some reluctant readers and even creating a few budding young authors along the way.
Parents desperate to dislodge children from devices are using an ancient art made modern: storytelling through audiobooks. Better yet, literacy experts say audiobooks help reluctant young readers tune in to written words, potentially prompting them to pick up a pen themselves.
Demand for audiobooks has increased dramatically thanks to Covid, according to Audible’s Asia-Pacific operations manager Leanne Cartwright-Bradford.
“Many families are facing the challenge of balancing education and entertainment for their children while working from home during the pandemic,” she says. “Audible children’s content has become more popular than ever. ”
So how do you inspire children to write?
LISTENING TO STRENGTHEN CREATIVITY
Stories abound, with over 50,000 children’s titles on Audible alone, including Harry Potter, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Enchanted Wood.
“Audiobooks for children have an immersive quality that brings stories to life,” says Cartwright-Bradford. “When children listen to books, they use their imaginations and creativity to visualize characters and distant lands… encouraging reluctant readers to enter fictional worlds. As a parent, I love that audiobooks can help reduce screen time for my boys. “
WRITTEN WORLDS AWAIT YOU
Literacy expert Dr Misty Adoniou says audiobooks allow children to hear the rhythm of more sophisticated language and grammar than they hear when we speak.
“They learn new words they would never hear,” says Dr Adoniou. “No matter how educated their parents are, we don’t all talk like books.
“(Audiobooks) develop their reading ability, so when they read these linguistic structures in a book, they don’t feel so foreign to them. ”
Listening can even get kids to write – and young Australian scribes have until September 17 to enter the annual Kids News contest.
“A real advantage of filling these language reservoirs with audio books is that they can then use them for their own writing,” says Dr Adoniou. “They can take their writing from ‘This is what I did on the weekend’ to really exciting ways of expressing big ideas. Because they learned: ‘Wait, writing is not the same as speaking’.
SAVE A REPUTENT READER
Best-selling children’s author Matt Stanton recounts his Funny Kids series and agrees that audiobooks help a child remember why they love stories.
“If a child has trouble learning to read, it can become a real obstacle to their passion for creativity and storytelling,” says Stanton. “In an audio book, a child still learns how a story is constructed. They listen to descriptions, understand dialogue and interpret metaphors. These are all tools they can use to tell their own stories.
A father of two, Jeremy Cole introduced children Naava, 10, and Oliver, 8, to audiobooks as preschoolers.
“They were so engrossed, it was amazing,” he says. “The advantage of an audiobook is that they can listen to it at night… (with) all the atmosphere that a narrator can bring.
“If I let Ollie read on his own he wouldn’t and you would find him playing in his room, whereas if you let an audiobook play he would just lay there and listen to it at night.” Naava tends to read her Kindle at night and then, when the lights are out, switches to an audiobook.
Listening to authors read their own books, her father said, helped spark Naava’s creative endeavors and development.
“The atmosphere she paints in the first three or four sentences is unmatched when you think about how you open up a story,” he said. “She’s writing a story right now – it’s just for fun,” she said.
The main character in Naava’s story is Jake, a schoolboy who must defeat a bully and save his parents from kidnappers. Naava credits audiobooks to help develop additional skills.
“I like them because they give me ideas for a story, like when I listen I have two or three ideas and I like putting them together and making a story out of them,” she said.
“We have to do presentations for the year, so that helps. When David Walliams reads his stories he can read them smoothly, and if I practice trying to read like him, it helps me read without stuttering or anything.
“If you have audiobooks in mind, it can calm you down. It does exactly the same as reading, except you don’t have to strain your eyes.
Channel your child’s love for audiobooks into their own creativity. The 2021 Kids News Short Story contest is now open to four age groups:
Kindergarten to grade 2; 3-4 years; years 5-6 and years 7-9.
The first prize winners in each age category will win an iPad, a set of books and 10 copies of their new winner, published in a book printed by HarperCollins.
There are also prizes for a finalist and three highly recommended entries in each age group.
Registration closes on Friday September 17, 2021. Find more information and the registration form here.
Start with audiobooks with these popular children’s titles:
- Funny Kid: Prank Aliens, Matt Stanton
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
- Mathilde, Roald Dahl
- Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
- Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
- Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
- Megamonster, David Walliams
- Distant Magic Tree, Enid Blyton