Thinking Outside the Book: How Listening Inspires Learning in Children of all Ages

A pair of headphones each ear of which bookends four hardcover books
09/08/2020

Listen Up — Audio Entertainment Is Also Educational

Audio entertainment opens new and exciting doors to learning

From the tiniest tots to the most independent teens, kids are curious. Always hungry for new information and experiences, they thrive on constant stimulation. And there are few better ways to keep curious minds active than through listening.

Listening is the first language skill we acquire and children of all ages learn by listening every day. They listen to their parents, their teachers and to the world around them. This allows them to learn valuable lessons wherever they are.

Listening can have immensely positive effects on literacy by increasing reading accuracy, reading speed, vocabulary expansion, pronunciation and overall comprehension. Audiobooks are also a powerful tool for children with learning disabilities, as they can be a powerful support tool, boosting confidence, skill building, motivation and engagement. Audiobooks also foster a sense of independence by allowing kids to follow their own interests and listen above their literacy level. And, perhaps most importantly, enriching titles for kids make the experience of learning fun.

In this article, we’ll offer parents a few tips on how to turn listening moments into learning moments, and discuss a few reasons for exploring the thrilling world of audiobooks. We’ll also offer title recommendations for your littlest listeners, your young teens and your older high schoolers.

Listening Makes History More Fun and Accessible

If you were lucky enough to have an exuberant, animated history teacher in school, you can attest to the big difference it made. The fact is that history can be dry – especially for young kids. Learning about dukes and duchesses in stiff petticoats or sitting through bullet-point rundowns of wartime history isn’t all that engaging.

There’s nothing better than to learn about history through listening, and for an accessible, fun way to get kids into the subject, try these audiobooks.

Terry Deary Makes History Hilarious

Audible brings history to life with the Horrible Histories series, which looks at key eras in our past through a comedic, kid-friendly lens. Narrated by series author Terry Deary, titles like Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors bring history to life using concepts and language perfectly suited to the younger listeners in your household.

Your kids will absolutely love learning about why Henry VIII thought he'd married a horse and discover all the “shocking” swear words of the time. Zounds!

Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

Author:
Terry Deary, Martin Brown
Narrator:
Terry Deary
Length:
0:56
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Elena Favilli and Francesco Cavallo Offer Up Empowering Stories for Young Women

The young adult in your household is a little more sophisticated, so they’ll want their slice of history with a little sass and this is the perfect title for girls who want to grow up to change the world. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls will inspire your teen while also teaching them about the women who played key roles in history.

Each short bedtime story profiles a strong, driven, go-getter woman drawn from a list of artists, politicians and scientists from the 17th century to today.

If “You go, girl” isn’t in your vocabulary yet, it soon will be.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Author:
Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo
Narrator:
Alicia Keys, Ashley Judd, Danai Gurira, Janeane Garofalo, Phillipa Soo, Esperanza Spalding, Samira Wiley, Mozhan Marnò, Rowan Blanchard
Length:
3:20
Series:
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Alan Gratz Gives Us the Second World War from a Teen’s Perspective

For older teens with curious minds, historical fiction can be a fantastic way to inspire them to explore more titles related to their favourite time periods.

We’ve seen war depicted in so many ways through various forms of media, but rarely are we shown the realities of war as seen through the eyes of a teenager. Alan Gratz’s Projekt 1065 is a thought-provoking, ambitious and well-researched title that uses historical fiction to relate elements of war that resonate with today’s youth — such as the moral dilemma of violence and the ties between fascism and bullying.

Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II

Author:
Alan Gratz
Narrator:
Dan Bittner
Length:
7:00
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Fiction Lets Children Safely Confront Current Issues

Sometimes it can be a challenge to communicate issues like environmentalism, class inequality and race with our kids. The titles below are so effective because they convey their positive messages within the framework of a fictional story. Rather than talking at kids, the best audiobooks for kids take them on a journey that allows them to make discoveries for themselves.

Let these classic fiction titles inspire and educate your kids.

Dr. Seuss Teaches Kids the Importance of Environmentalism

Everyone loves the playful language and iconic imagery of Dr. Seuss and The Lorax uses both to convey an important message about environmental sustainability.

Children love animals — even the fanciful ones found in the world of Dr. Seuss — and this title lets young listeners see the consequences of environmental destruction from their perspective.

The Lorax

Author:
Dr. Seuss
Narrator:
Ted Danson
Length:
0:15
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Suzanne Collins Stirs Up Important Questions for Young Adults

Hidden beneath the excitement of The Hunger Games is a lesson on the dangers of class inequality and how collective heroism is often more powerful than any one individual.

Prepare for your kids to come to you with questions, as this YA thriller will likely inspire some interesting discussions about war, authoritarianism and the dangers of materialism.

At first blush, this might seem like a simple thriller, but if you take the time to listen along with your kids, there are ample opportunities to discuss how humanity, courage and compassion can lead to a brighter tomorrow.

Devouring every title in the Hunger Games series will give your kids more than 40 hours of engaging listening.

The Hunger Games: Special Edition

Author:
Suzanne Collins
Narrator:
Tatiana Maslany
Length:
10:35
Series:
Hunger Games
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

Angie Thomas Reminds Us that Black Voices Matter

Inspired in part by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give introduces us to sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who simultaneously lives in two worlds — the Black neighbourhood where she lives and the upper-class prep school she attends. But what Starr chooses to reveal or not reveal when tragedy strikes could not only disrupt her community, but endanger her and her family as well.

With this red-hot title, Angie Thomas reminds listeners how vital it is for teens to use their voices and speak up against injustice. Listening to this title yourself and then discussing the themes with your older teens opens a door to the difficult topic of race relations in North America.

The Hate U Give

Author:
Angie Thomas
Narrator:
Bahni Turpin
Length:
11:40
Series:
Garden Heights
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

An Asian mother and her daughter engage in excitement with audio content on a laptop

Language Courses Let Children Learn at their own Pace

From young listeners to teens and even university students — everyone can benefit from learning a second language. Paul Noble’s series of language courses available on Audible gives listeners looking to master a foreign language the opportunity to jump in at whatever level they’re comfortable with. C’est magnifique!

Get a Head Start with French for Kids with Paul Noble

It can be a challenge to keep younger kids engaged and interested in learning a new language. If your littlest listener is just starting out, these lessons are perfect because they use the most basic vocabulary with slower pronunciation.

Getting your kids started down the path of language has never been easier.

Reach the Next Level and Learn French with Paul Noble

Younger teens love a sense of accomplishment and taking their skills to the next level is easy with this title. You can guide your children through the next series of lessons and watch as they begin to settle in to the language, preparing for mastery.

Get Ready for French Mastery with the Next Steps in French with Paul Noble

This intermediate-to-expert course is perfect for your older teen completing French Immersion in high school or preparing to study university-level French.

Advanced lessons in verb tense, grammar and syntax will help them master the finer points of the language.

Parents should never lose the love of learning either, so why not follow along and learn with them?

Audible Makes Learning Entertaining

Learning moments don’t only happen in the classroom. When you take the pressures of mandatory learning away, children and teens of all ages are freed up to engage with the act of educational listening on their own terms.

Whether it’s history, fiction or even learning a new language, learning through listening empowers young listeners and teens to reflect on what they're hearing and absorb knowledge in new ways.

Why not encourage your kids to explore these titles or even add them to your growing collection of campfire listens for the family?

Did we miss one of your favourite educational titles? Feel free to share it with us over on our Facebook page, and remember to check in with our blog every week for fascinating new articles.

Not yet an Audible member?

Your first free audiobook is waiting.