The first challenge for a primary school teacher is to make sure that the thirty children sitting in front of you are listening – most of them, anyway. If the class isn't paying attention, then you’ve already lost. Engaging them for the whole lesson is of course the aim, but inevitably as the clock ticks by, attention spans can wane, restlessness kicks in and bums start to leave their seats.
But when I was working as a teacher, I always knew I had a huge selection of secret weapons, ready to be unleashed at any moment – stories. A good story read by an engaging teacher has the power to refocus even the rowdiest of classrooms
Children, and indeed adults, love being read to – it is an ancient human instinct, innate in all of us, to listen to tales told by others. Likewise, it is an ancient human instinct to pass down stories to the next generation. This is the power of storytelling; this is the power of audio.
There is an inclination among many to assume that listening to audiobooks isn’t as beneficial as reading. However, the benefits of audiobooks are extensive, including huge improvements in children’s comprehension, pronunciation, and vocabulary. As well as improving both the accuracy and fluency of their reading skills. And if you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe the researchers at the University of California who say that 'stories stimulate the same cognitive and emotional areas, regardless of their medium'.
It doesn’t matter if you read or listen to a story, the advantages of both are clear. Audiobooks don’t have to replace books; reading is of course a vital and fundamental life skill for any child. Audiobooks and books can live happily alongside each other.
Incorporating audiobooks into your routine
The beauty of audiobooks is that you can listen to them on a multitude of devices such as your car radio, on your laptop, or through devices specifically made for children like the Yoto Player.
Another plus of audiobooks? You can listen to them whilst you’re going about your daily routine. Yoto in particular can help you establish a wake-up time with your little one with its handy sleep timer that shows a sun when it’s time to rise and shine. Listening to an audiobook is an excellent way to start the day. Over breakfast, children can get ready with a story from I’m Ready for Big School. Or giggle into their cornflakes with Funny Stories for 3, 4, or 5 year-olds. Or if there is a specific subject they’re studying at school, there is bound to be a Ladybird Audio Adventure to enhance their learning.
When it comes to sharing stories, the pièce de résistance is sharing a story at bedtime. It’s one of the great pleasures of family life, for parents and children alike, and is a great opportunity to reduce screen time. Although most often physical books are used, audio is a fantastic way to help children (and tired parents) wind down and switch off. Check out Ladybird Sleepy Tales, Ladybird Bedtime Stories for 3 and 4 years olds, or Peppa Pig: Bedtime Stories. And if you have a Yoto player, you have the added bonus of some beautiful sleep soundscapes to help children nod off.
Just like physical books, there are a whole host of audiobooks to discover for children – particularly with Yoto and their catalogue – and there are so many different ways for you and your family to incorporate them into your daily routine. The desire to listen is inside all of us. We just need to discover what it is we like listening to.