Audio books

Listen to This!

I first became interested in audiobooks when as a relatively new librarian I was invited to serve on the Notable Children’s Recordings committee in 1983. I had started listening to audiobooks a year or two earlier as a way to keep up with children’s literature by “reading” during my hour-long commute twice a day. Over the almost thirty years since then, I have served on several Audio Publishers Association‘s Audie Awards committees, taught classes on including audiobooks in library collections, and I write a column for Library Media Connections on audiobooks. Even with all of that experience, I’m still learning about the value of audiobooks, and some of the best continuing education can come from reading a book.

ALA Editions recently published Listening to Learn: Audiobooks Supporting Literacy by Sharon Grover & Lizette D. Hannegan. Both are longtime fans of audiobooks but these librarians are also advocates for the role audiobooks play in supporting national learning standards and in increasing literacy skills. The book begins with a brief history of audiobooks and the roots of the format in services for people with reading disabilities. They then address questions related to why someone might listen to a book instead of reading it in printed format. Research supports the premise that listening to an audiobook is not akin to cheating and this research is explored in the book. Of major importance, and value, is the chapter on audiobooks and learning standards and the authors demonstrate how audiobooks can serve as effective tools for all curriculum subjects. The most relevant information for connecting audiobooks to local, state, and national standards are examined. Most of the remainder of the book is dedicated to exploring ways to use audiobooks in classrooms, school libraries, and public libraries. Specific audiobooks are recommended to exemplify the relevant Common Core standards supported each title. Grover and Hannegan also look at the ways that innovations in technology support audiobook use, with downloads and self-contained devices now replacing most other ways of accessing audiobooks. Appendices provide an audiobook lexicon, an evaluation guide, and websites for audiobook publishers.

After so many years working with audiobooks, it’s easy to think there is nothing new I could learn. But clearly that is not the case and Listening to Learn is recommended as a great learning resource and collection development tool. Check it out!


  1. Luna

    Hi! You sound like quite a gal and I liked what I have written of your so far. I am a children’s/ YA librarian in Massachussetts and an AVID (total maniac) listener of books on CD. I tried to find your favs, but… Do you have a list? Can you send me a list or link? My 2 seven-year olds are also great readers and spellbound listeners of books on CD. We are always looking for good books with great readers! (important!!!)
    Thanks for any tips! – Luna

  2. Jeanette Larson Post author

    As another maniac, I recommend that you look at the Notable Recordings Lists. Each year an ALSC committee picks the best of the best. The current and past lists can be accessed through

    I don’t keep a list of my favorites as that is always changing. I also listen to a lot of adult titles so it’s hard to keep all the lists straight. Thinking about it, my favorites tend to be those that bring something more to the audio experience; titles that truly work better when heard aloud. And a good reader can make a so-so book good and a good book even better. Here are a couple…

    This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt (Live Oak Media)
    Jazz by Walter Dean Myers (Live Oak Media)
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Recorded Books)
    Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (Recorded Books; although I also really like Judy’s readings included with the books)
    Stone Soup retold by Jon Muth (Weston Woods; beautifully read by B.D. Wong)
    Cracker by Cynthia Kadohata (Listening Library)
    Almost anything that Jack Gantos reads.

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