March 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Q&A from Recorded Books Be Quiet! I’m Listening! Incorporating Recorded Books into K-12 Literacy Strategies Webcast

Can audiobooks be downloaded onto laptop tablets since we are a 9th-12th grade college prep tablet school?

The copywright agreements we have for Playaways, CDs, and cassettes pertain to those delivery systems or formats specifically, so, in general, Recorded Books is not in a position to authorize downloads to computers. I think before long some of these obstacles will be overcome. – Jean Stephens, Recorded Books

Do you plan to have the most popular storytime tales in abridged version on audio books? Like the ‘Big Books’ as an example.

At Recorded Books, we have a long-standing policy of avoiding abridgements. This is because serious readers want the whole book, and, in educational settings, we advocate a listen-and-read strategy, so our audio must contain every word that’s in the print version. – Jean Stephens, Recorded Books

Are the audio items compatible with Apple’s IPODs or just other MP3 players?

We haven’t implemented these yet but I know our public library cannot download to Apple devices. You’re right, current download technology for public libraries is not compatible with IPODs. Again, a more versatile system for educators is on the way. – Jean Stephens

Jean, I was using the Recorded Books catalog this morning with a student who helps me select audiobooks. It would be helpful if Playaway was listed as a format under the summary of the book, rather than just as a list of titles. We had to “toggle” back and forth so he could read about titles.

Thanks for this broadcast! We’ll make this change effective in the winter catalog. – Jean Stephens

Do you find dramatized audiobooks better than read?

I am assuming that when you say “dramatized,” you are referring to audiobooks performed by more than one narrator. This is a personal preference that each listener must decide for themselves. As an audiobook reviewer, I recommend that listeners sample productions from a wide variety of audiobook producers, as each publisher has its own signature style. Plus, each publisher releases titles in both solo-voice and multiple-voice productions. Some titles lend themselves to a multi-voiced production such as “When My Name was Keoko,” an audiobook from Recorded Books that has alternate chapters told from the point of view of a brother & sister. There is one audiobook publisher, Full Cast Audio, which produces only multi-voiced productions. Multi-voiced audiobooks are different than recreated radio dramas, which may also be found. Radio dramas often include music and many sound effects as well as the narration. So, my best answer is – sampl
e the spectrum of audiobooks, learn what you like, and have a variety of titles in multiple styles to recommend to your students! – Mary Burkey, Liberty Middle School

Not always. There is nothing like reading aloud to a student or group of students. But reading aloud is an art. There are great resources around that explain the nuances of reading aloud (Jim Trelease’s “The Read Aloud Handbook” for instance). The benefit of an audiobook is that the reading is often done by an award winning actor (Sissy Spacek reading To Kill a Mockingbird, or Jim Dale reading Harry Potter), who has a talent for infusing emotion and energy into different characters through voice techniques. I love to read aloud, but I’m not claiming to be an expert at it. I am self-aware enough to know that while I could read a young adult chapter book, Hamlet is beyond me. – Hillary Wolfe, Camino Nuevo Academy

Do you find your students look for audiobooks aside from their required reading after they have used audio as part of their school curriculum? In other words, are students becoming listeners, or are they viewing listening as a temporary solution to a problem?

I think you will be interested in the recent data collected by the Audio Publishers Association. They found that over 53% of teens have listened to an audiobook in the last year. Most start to listen to audiobooks as a result of a teacher or class assignment (38%). But another strong indicator of why teen listen is that their parents or siblings are audiobook listeners (34%). Once teens start listening, the reasons for continuing are as follows:

Teacher or class assignment (29%)

Entertainment for long drive or trip (28%)

It is a good use of time while doing other activities (17%)

Would rather listen than read (13%)

The full report is available to members of the Audio Publishers Association:

In my experience in my middle school library, the most voracious readers are also the most voracious listeners. I also have a strong group of audiobook listeners who prefer listening over reading, for both assignments and personal interest. There are reluctant readers who listen solely to audiobooks to fulfill a classroom assignment, and these listeners are thankful that they have the spoken word version available. Students with print disabilities listen to audiobooks for assignments, and also listen for personal interest. – Mary Burkey, Liberty Middle School

I found that introducing audiobooks opened up the possibility for students who hadn’t considered that option before. Many of our peer tutors began to turn to audio books as a way to complete their independent reading, because they were enrolled in several AP classes and didn’t have time to do all the required reading in addition to their assigned independent reading. Audiobooks offered them a way to multi-task, reading by listening on their way to school or work, or while doing household chores, exercising, etc. For the at-risk student, I think it showed them that their low fluency didn’t have to be an obstacle to completing the reading, and gave them access to literature they wouldn’t be able to comprehend otherwise. – Hillary Wolfe, Camino Nuevo Academy

I work in a public library. We partner with the schools in the area by keeping several copies of summer reading books in our collection. It is very clear that the students are very reluctant to read these books. Many students do seem to look for these books in audiobook format. Can you give some suggestions on how a public library can partner with schools to use audiobooks for required reading?

I would suggest that you contact the library media specialists, language arts & literacy chairs in your local public school district in April of next year and volunteer to be part of the team that develops the summer reading list. You may find that the staff members will be grateful for your professional assistance! In my district, the elementary & middle school library media specialists approached the language arts teachers with the suggestion that we create the summer reading list, which was eagerly welcomed. We include current titles, marking those available as audiobooks and then give the list to the local public library well in advance, allowing for ordering extra copies. If the staff members include you in the process, you will be able to include audio titles in your ordering for your CD audiobooks and as part of your downloadable service, once the final list is developed. The school’s final student list can then note those titles that are avail
able as audiobooks through the public library. Plus, you may be able to suggest titles for the list that are already part of your collection. Do suggest that your library’s web site be part of the summer reading list, with a note to check the public library for both print and audiobooks. – Mary Burkey, Liberty Middle School

I wish my school could have partnered with the public library! I often approached the public library to work with us, but they were more interested in recruiting students to volunteer in their literacy center than in offering us materials. I would have loved to tell students that if we couldn’t provide a book they needed, we could “borrow” it from the public library. Setting up those kinds of partnerships is a great way to show students that community services are there for their benefit too. Setting up shared book clubs where students read a book and seniors read the same book, and then hosting a panel discussion at the public library, would really bring home the value of reading and open doors between all aspects of the community! – Hillary Wolfe, Camino Nuevo Academy

Are there restrictions about how many devices one can download a book to? Do those who use MP3 players add and remove titles as students want them?

The type of download is important in your question. If a listener purchases a downloadable audiobook from a vendor such as iTunes or, there are limitations to the number of devices that the title may be transfer to – one should check the guidelines from each vendor for details. If a listener is downloading from their public library, the two most common services that provide downloads to public libraries are OverDrive Media and NetLibrary. Both services primarily offer audiobooks in a format that requires a Windows-based MP3 player, not an iPod. OverDrive is adding MP3 format titles that may be transferred to an iPod, but this is a new addition to public library downloads, with limited titles at this time. If you are thinking of adding MP3 players to your collection, you may want to look at two posts from my blog:

As far as the practices of libraries that have MP3 players in their collection, some may wipe clean a player when a student returns the player, or due to time restraints, may leave this up to students. However, when titles are downloaded from a public library they are “checked out” for a set limit, usually 14 days, and then disappear from the player automatically. Most public libraries have a how-to tutorial as part of the downloadable digital media segment of their website, which may also help you. – Mary Burkey, Liberty Middle School

How does library as an elective work?

At my middle school, nearly every period of the day is booked with collaborative teaching in the library, with teachers co-teaching with me to include information search skills in curricular projects. However, there are two classes that I have done that are stand-alone. One year, the technology teacher and I created an eighth-grade elective titled “Search Quest” where I taught a single six-week class focused on databases and internet search skills. This was very successful, but scheduling made it impossible in later years. Currently, I teach one-third of a rotating six-week class that will include every sixth-grader in the course of the year. The class is called “Academic Lab,” with the literacy coach focusing on non-fiction reading skills, the gifted teacher on writing, and I call my segment “Literacy for Life.” I focus on how libraries are now virtual resources, teaching my library website & databases; the public library&rsq
uo;s website (requiring each student to have a public library card), online catalog & reserves, databases, and downloadable audiobooks, ebooks, & videos. I am loving this class! It does not take up too much of my schedule, allowing plenty of collaboration with other teachers. I am sure each school does things differently, but this is my experience. – Mary Burkey, Liberty Middle School

We had a unique situation in that we had a 7-period day, which offered students either a Study Hall option or a free period for high performing students. The 7th period also opened up possibilities for more electives, so peer tutoring in the library became a class students could take for elective credit or for community service. Eventually, we realized that we could be providing library training as well, so we partnered with ROP to create a curriculum that incorporated library skills under the umbrella of teacher education as a career-pathway course. – Hillary Wolfe, Camino Nuevo Academy

The advisory board is a great idea, but have you found some themes children like the most?

At the high school level, the younger students enjoyed the autobiographical works like A Child Called It, Go Ask Alice, and so on. The girls enjoyed the Nicholas Sparks romances and the new series, Twilight. The boys enjoyed graphic novels, war themes, and historical fiction. They all enjoyed being challenged by an intriguing novel and didn’t shy away from complex or disturbing themes. – Hillary Wolfe, Camino Nuevo Academy

According to the teachers at my school, listening is too passive an activity: the students become bored and disruptive if used as a full-class activity. They just tune it out. And there’s no time for 2-3 students to listen to an 8-hour unabridged audio story in a listening center. So our teachers don’t see any way to use them. Comments?

It’s just like showing a video in class. It’s no substitute for a lesson. It’s true, plugging in a book and letting it do all the work is ineffective. They should try breaking it up into short bits and give students a purpose before listening. When students have a worksheet in front of them, and are listening for specific things to respond to, they’ll be able to pay better attention. The teacher also needs to stay engaged – stop the tape periodically and model a comprehension strategy, or do a think-aloud and prompt a two-minute discussion, then return to the book. Only play one or two chapters in class, and assign more chapters to the student as homework. A listening center is an on-going option for those students who require differentiated instruction. They can listen for a half-hour a day and finish a book in two weeks, which is how long it would probably take any other student to read
a book on their own. – Hillary Wolfe, Camino Nuevo Academy