Get set to listen to some great books this summer!

As the weather gets warmer and the summer holidays approach, now is a great time to start thinking about strategies you can use to help your students continue reading for pleasure over summer and prevent the summer slide.

The convenience of eAudiobooks makes them a great addition to kids' and teachers' print and eBook summer reading selections. But if you haven't used eAudiobooks before, you might be a bit confused. How do these audiobooks work? Where do you get them from? What kind of device do you need?

In this blog, Services to Schools guides you through all you ever wanted to know about eAudio.

Girl lying on the grass with eyes closed, listening with headphones

Photo by David De la Rosa. Pixabay. CC0 1.0

Summertime is a great time to get into eAudio

We know how important reading over summer is in preventing the summer slide. Services to Schools has extensive support and guidance for summer reading on our website, and we also offer an online professional development course that focuses on summer reading.

While traditional research on summer reading and the summer slide has looked at print reading, in particular, the availability of eAudiobooks has grown massively in recent years making them a great addition to print reading.

In most cases, eAudio can be downloaded onto any smartphone for use offline and played while your students are out 'on the go' with their families over summer. Think of the long hours spent in cars over summer holidays, and how children could be engaging with books or eAudiobooks during this time that would otherwise be spent asking 'Are we there yet?' over and over again.

Your brain on audiobooks

Audiobooks are nothing new. Also called 'talking books', audiobooks have been available in various physical formats since the 1930s, including vinyl records, audio cassettes, and CDs.

Initially, audiobooks were widely promoted for those with print disabilities, and organisations such as the Blind Foundation drove demand for production of audiobooks. However, the emergence of eAudio and the ubiquity of smartphones has driven a huge surge in the use of audiobooks more generally.

What research says

Despite their long history, many people have yet to experience the delights of audiobooks and there is evidence to support their use in addition to print reading to further develop the benefits of reading for pleasure among young people.

In 'You got more of these?' Re-engaging adolescent readers and writers with meaningful texts (page 7 of 11MB pdf), Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher suggest audiobooks are an effective tool for young people to strengthen the link between oral and written literacies.

The 2016 publication Audiobooks: Legitimate 'reading' material for adolescents? gives a number of research-based recommendations for school librarians around using audiobooks for second-language learners, young people with print disabilities including dyslexia, and normally developing adolescents. This article also includes an extensive list of peer-reviewed references for further reading in this area.

Benefits of audiobooks

This infographic on audiobooks and literacy (pdf, 193KB) from the Audio Publishers Association summarises the key benefits of audiobooks.

Where can I get eAudiobooks?

Many smartphones and devices have audiobook apps with titles available for purchase. But many of these titles are also available free from your public or school library.

Public libraries

Many public libraries provide eBook and eAudio collections for anyone with a membership. This information is usually available on your library's website if you aren't sure. Many public libraries also offer Tumblebooks — a collection of picture books with music and narration that can be read or read to you.

Example offerings at large municipal libraries include:

Not sure if your local public library has eAudio? A quick search of their website or a phone call to them will help you get started.

If you or your students aren't already members of the local public library, this is a perfect time to think about how you can collaborate and engage more with your local library.

Check out our new page Collaborating with public libraries for more tips and suggestions for how to encourage students and their families/whānau to use their local library and its resources. This supports students to read for pleasure outside of school, at home, and during the holidays.

School library collections

Your school library may already provide access to an eBooks and/or eAudio service. If not, we have information on our website about adding eBooks to your library collection, including a list of suppliers that provide eBook titles suitable for school libraries.

Most eBook suppliers also offer an eAudio service. Contact the individual suppliers to find out more or talk to a Services to Schools facilitator.

How to use audiobooks

How you access eAudio depends primarily on 2 factors:

  • your device
  • the collection you want to access.

All the main audiobook suppliers provide specific apps for most types of devices. Once you've identified the collection you want to browse and borrow from, you need to download the app onto your device. As described above, check with your local public library to see what collections are available. Each app has its own requirements but generally, all smartphones and tablets should be able to download and access eAudio.

Instructions for downloading apps

Here are instructions for downloading the most common library-membership-based eAudio apps.

You can still get CDs

Don’t forget audiobooks are still available in CD format from most public libraries and also from the National Library Print Disability Service.

Now set sail into summer audio reading!

Hopefully, this blog has given you some ideas and tools to get started using eAudio.

By Nicole Gaston

Nicole is an Online Content Services Developer for Services to Schools.

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