A #Slice on Audiobooks

I heard the saddest thing today.

I was talking to my students about the audiobooks that were so graciously donated to my classroom by Teri Lesesne and encouraging them for what felt like the zillionth time to give them a chance.

That’s when I heard it:

“We hate audiobooks because we had to listen to some really bad ones before.”

Oh boy.


I have had to overcome negativity towards all sorts of stuff before:  Shakespeare is boring. Reading is dumb. Writing is impossible.

But this?


We’re hard-wired to enjoy the act of story-telling. So what am I missing?

Oh wait. Much as I love audiobooks, they are right. There are some pretty hard-to-listen-to audiobooks out there. The slowly read textbook edition of Romeo and Juliet where they actually read the stage directions. The monotonous verbal stylings of some lesser productions of one book or another.

Imagine having to listen to one of these. Or two or three or ten of these. And not necessarily being exposed to any good ones. This probably isn’t any better for readers than giving them uninspiring reading material. Except it’s worse: it colors everything they remember about the literature as well.

(Sorry, audiobook narrators; no pressure or anything…)

So I pulled up Overdrive and Audible pages and played samples from audiobooks that I knew I loved. 13 Reasons Why. I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President. The Fault in Our Stars. ANYTHING narrated by Jim Dale (I played a bit from The Night Circus.).

They are coming around. But so far the only two to leave the box for anything more than a couple of minutes are a Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip and The Sorceress. None of them are going home because – believe it or not – they don’t have easily accessible cd players and/or they don’t know how to rip them to put the books on their players or phones. (I gave a mini-tutorial to one class about ripping cds. Then I followed up with a quick review of how to download audio titles from the local library’s Overdrive site.)

I’m patient and persistent so I’m sure they will come around – just as they come around to reading.


11 thoughts on “A #Slice on Audiobooks

  1. I tried listening to The World is Flat on CD in my car. By the time I got to the second one, I gave up. Sad, but true. (And I love Tom Friedman’s op-eds, so abandoning the CDs was really hard for me.) And you know what, since then I haven’t tried again with another audio book. (Also, the two year-old who now occupies the back seat probably won’t go for them.) All that being said, I’m thinking I should give them another shake sometime soon. Maybe I can find a better fit for car listening/reading.

    • Jr Librarian started listening to audiobooks when he was in preschool – so not too much older than your little one is now. I think we listened to Shrek about 10,000 times. He started listening to longer stories when he was ready for them. He still puts those picture book audiobooks in his cd player at night to listen to as he falls asleep. (There were a lot of nights when I’d wake up hearing him restart his Skippy Jon Jones cds because he woke up…)

  2. My 1/2 hour commute was perfect for audiobooks. I made it through The World Was Flat ONLY because it was an audiobook! When I tried to read it I kept falling asleep. For some of my favorites I switched from audio to print and back to audio to finish it faster.
    I always encouraged parents to try audiobooks for the family, especially for reluctant readers. I love to read and listen, otherwise I can become distracted. Maybe that’s what’s happening in your classroom. Kids need to multitask… read AND listen!

    • I am not blessed with the print books for everything that I have in audio and vice versa. I have offered to track down the audio or the print edition for whatever kids want to do this with, but I have only had a few take me up on the offer. Some are good at multitasking in other ways. My son plays while listening. I am usually doing something else when I listen to an audiobook – cleaning, cooking, driving… We have to be open to the possibility that they will be doing something else while they are listening even if it looks like they aren’t paying attention.

  3. All it will take is for one or two of them to find something they like, and then they’ll talk. And then the word will spread. Keep fanning the sparks, Cindy. It’ll catch, probably sooner than later.

    • My students love music, but they are very text based. Far more likely to text than call, happier to read than listen. I still think they will love audiobooks if they give it a try.

  4. When Donalyn Miller posted her book gap challenge, I started being more intentional about reading more audiobooks. I am definitely picky about which narrators I will listen to, but I feel like they have revolutionized my reading life. I can read so much more often–while I iron, while I sew, while I get ready in the morning. What a gift your students are getting through your gentle nudges, modeling, access, and explicit lessons!

  5. I just moved & have a very short commute, & I miss listening. I’m going to have to commit to a few audio books once in a while now. I listened to Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy & love all the actors, etc. I’ve also checked out some old Newberys (easily available) because I wanted to see if they would still be okay to recommend. It really did add to my reading. You’re so right; I bet the students don’t readily have the cd players anymore. Smart to teach them ‘how-tos’ once in a while. Thanks for the topic & reflection!

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