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Teens and Reading: The Benefits Of Audiobooks For Teens

It is back to school season, and many teens—and their parents—are spending a lot of time in the car going back and forth to various practices, lessons, meetings, etc. Add on a few hours of homework, and getting your child to read can be challenging.

getting teens to read

While the verdict is still out on regarding how listening to books impacts retention rates, there is no doubt that audiobooks are better than not reading at all. Here are a few benefits:

  • It can lift teens to books above their reading level. Audiobooks enable listeners to experience the richness of sophisticated language and themes in more advanced texts. This is especially important for reluctant readers or those with learning differences. Reading with their ears can give teens access to stories they might not otherwise attempt in print.
  • Audiobooks can introduce your teen to rich vocabulary, and names of people and places correctly pronounced.How many kids read the Harry Potter series but didn’t know how to pronounce “Hermione” until they saw the movie? While listening, teens will hear new words in context, and can add them to their mental word banks for future reference.
  • My favorite benefit of listening to audiobooks with teens is the priceless connection that can come from experiencing a good story together. It’s a wonderful way to pull your teen away from the screen, and into a shared book experience with you.

SUGGESTED BOOKS

Here are a few suggested audiobooks for teens that are extra-special on audio. Maybe they can spark conversation with your teen long after the ride is over.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Narrated by Jason Reynolds.This is a profoundly moving look at teenage gun violence. It is written in verse by National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds. The story takes place over 60 seconds as Will rides an elevator down to avenge his brother’s murder. The staccato verse reflects the tight space Will is in, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Reynolds’s narration has a powerful impact, literally giving voice to urban teens. The ending will leave your family with lots to talk about.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Narrated by Bahni Turpin. Starr is the sole witness of the murder of her childhood friend by a white policeman in this transformative and gripping audiobook which won the 2018 Odyssey Award for best audiobook. Bahni Turpin’s poignant narration embodies Starr as she struggles to make sense of her world—which thankfully includes a warm, humorous, and loving family.

Good AUDIOBOOKS FOR TEENS

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Undefeated Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin. Narrated by Mark Bramhall. This audiobook is both a history of football from the first Rutgers-Princeton game in 1888, and the story of coach Pop Warner and the Native American high schoolers, including Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe, who changed the game forever. It’s perfect for sports fans, but it doesn’t gloss over the prejudice against Native Americans, and also sparks conversation about the Washington Redskins name controversy.

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. Narrated by Ray Panthaki.Christopher Rowe is an apprentice (and a bit of a troublemaker) to a master apothecary in 17th century London, but his life gets very serious when his master is murdered. This book’s nonstop action had me on the edge of my seat as Christopher tries to solve the mystery; but it is his sense of humor that makes this audiobook so much fun. Share this with kids who like books with explosions, secret codes, and homemade potions “that smell like Satan eating beans.”

GOOD STORIES

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Narrated by Allan Corduner. Set in Nazi Germany and narrated by Death, this is the story of a young orphan. She finds solace in books and the love of her adoptive father as the world is going mad around her. Corduner’s German accents give the audiobook an authentic sense of place. And his compassionate narration packs an emotional, tear-jerking punch.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and Gabrielle deCuir. Ender is a boy-genius destined to save the world from alien attack in this story filled with sci-fi adventure, war games, and adolescent bullies. No one will want to stop listening once this fast-paced thriller gets started.

Sonja Cole
As a former middle school librarian and author of Booktalking Around the World: Great Global Reads for Ages 9-14, Sonja’s mission is to get kids excited about books. For her, the best thing about audiobooks is that she can listen and knit at the same time.