For National Storytelling Week, we’re delighted to have a guest blog from Katie Sparks, Chief Operating Officer of children’s audiobook app Cloudaloud, on the connection between audiobooks and the long history of storytelling...
Are audiobooks books?
This is a question we get asked (and ask ourselves!) all the time. The answer is simple: yes, and no.
In many ways, listening to an audiobook is similar to reading a book. The words are the same. The plot is the same. The ending is the same.
The experience of being alone with a story is the same. You’re free to imagine what characters and places look like - to create the pictures in your mind. With an audiobook, there’s just a voice to help you along.
Lots of readers love to be alone with a book - to wander off in search of a quiet spot where they can crack the spine and enter a new world on the page. It’s one of life’s small-but-great pleasures. We love it too - in fact, many producers and audio publishers we know love physical books so much that they don’t even own an e-reader! But an audiobook isn’t just a digital book.
Listening to an audiobook - alone or with your family - is actually a very primal thing. In many ways, you might as well be sitting around a campfire, listening to the leader of your tribe tell a story of wonder and magic. Or wandering through a medieval garden as a travelling troubadour spins a tale of chivalry and heroism. Audiobooks are simply the latest version of the oral tradition, the oldest form of storytelling. Humans have trained for centuries, millennia even, to listen, to learn, and to enjoy. It brings us closer to one another. It’s why so many children love being read to long after they learn to read themselves.
You can listen to an audiobook while you do other things. Draw. Cook. Walk the dog. Listening at bedtime is a wonderful way to relax and to take your mind off the day you just had, or the day to come. Listening in the car or on the bus makes the journey go faster - and you won’t get car sick.
For reluctant readers, audiobooks are key to building confidence and comprehension, but most importantly, the ability to dive headfirst into a story. Developing a love of stories - or histories, or facts - is essential for reluctant readers as reading then becomes more about the content and less about the process. The same goes for auditory learners. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you get the information, the important thing is simply that you get it. If you can remove barriers and connect with a story, you’ll be on your way to wanting more, and you’ll be more willing to overcome challenges to get it.
Of course, audiobooks also offer a different experience to books. They’re immersive and sensory: beautiful original music and sound effects that create a whole new landscape can bring you into a story in a completely new and unique way. So can brilliant readings that soothe, scare, or make you laugh so hard you’re gasping for breath.
One thing is certain: the people who make audiobooks LOVE them, and the people who listen to them love them, too. If you haven’t tried one yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.
So find an audiobook YOU want to listen to. Sit back, relax, and close your eyes. You won’t need them for this next part.