April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Audiobooks: Ideal for Transmedia Explorations of Narratives | Listen In

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Do audiobooks have a place in teaching with transmedia? Of course they do! The ability to experience a narrative across various formats enhances students’ literacy and comprehension and amplifies their reading experiences. “With the wide acceptance of accommodations mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the need for addressing diverse learning styles, and the expanding role of technology in our students’ lifestyle, alternatives to text-only learning are the norm in most classrooms,” reports Mary Burkey, librarian at Olentangy Liberty Middle School in Powell, OH and author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA Editions, 2012).

“I’m especially happy to see that research has expanded to databases with audio, video, and graphic material, allowing students easy access to authoritative multimedia,” Burkey adds.

At the Hedberg Public Library (HPL) in Janesville, WI, staff is incorporating multiple media formats—including audiobooks—in many of the educational programs for students of all ages. Young adult librarian Laurie Bartz asserts that “the use of media in programming for teens ties into literacy and learning in many ways.” She adds, “By using media, students can interpret and transfer that knowledge through use of computer programs, videography, apps, or other media resources.”

Maria Dietrich, along with her colleagues at HPL’s children’s room, uses a variety of formats to engage younger children. “Children especially seem to enjoy a variety of media when listening to a book or a story. The story may begin in a book format, but it can then be augmented through apps, sound recordings, and online experiences.” (For more about transmedia, see “Many Ways to Tell a Story.

Using audiobooks and other media can also help support reading comprehension. An exciting literacy project called “Read On, Wisconsin” promotes a wide variety of high-quality literature, often available in audio format, for children and teens around the state. By encouraging students to create booktrailers, teachers and librarians use “Read On, Wisconsin” titles with both proficient and struggling readers to report back on their reading in ways that entertain, educate, and engage students and provide new ways to tell their stories.

This month’s audiobook titles offer opportunities to expand traditional narratives and may inspire students to share reviews and reflections through their own transmedia creations.


Early Elementary

BATEMAN, Donna M. Deep in the Swamp. CD with tr book. 17:12 min. Live Oak Media. 2014. $19.95. ISBN 9781430114581.

K-Gr 3 –This rhyming ode to swamp life mimics the familiar song, “Over in the Meadow,” counting from one to ten the otters, rabbits, damselflies, and other inhabitants of the Okefenokee Swamp. Tom Chapin’s soothing narration of the text will draw listeners into the carefully detailed, dazzling acrylic paintings by Brian Lies. Available as both a read-along audiobook and an eReadalong, this title lends itself to multiple media opportunities for students, with on-target sound effects, the accompanying song, and comprehensive back matter about the flora and fauna of this environment.

Middle Grade

DICAMILLO, Kate. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. 4 CDs. 4:30 hrs. Listening Library. 2013. $30. ISBN 9780449015155.

Gr 3-5 –DiCamillo captured her second Newbery Medal for this fanciful story of a 10-year-old, comic book–obsessed self-described cynic and Ulysses the squirrel, who gains incredible powers when he survives being sucked into a powerful vacuum cleaner. Narrator Tara Sands gives a distinct tone to every character as each short chapter presents the escapades of this quirky dynamic duo. Combining the vicissitudes of life, heroic possibilities, expansive vocabulary, and the creative writing process makes for splendid family listening, pointing to several ways of telling, writing, or illustrating one’s own story.

FEDERLE, Tim. Better Nate than Ever. 5 CDs. 5:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2014. $51.75. ISBN 9781470369385.

Gr 5-8 –Armed with adolescent angst and a strong vision for the future, beleaguered eighth grader Nate travels solo to New York City to audition for a Broadway musical, leaving behind his best friend, Libby, and a generous helping of family anguish. This production, “full of heart and self-discovery” and featuring Federle’s hilarious narration, garnered a 2014 Odyssey Honor. Federle has multiple YouTube videos, including a brief clip about writing the book and interviews with current kids starring in Broadway shows.

HIRSCH, Jeff. Breakaway: Unstoppable. (The 39 Clues, Bk. 2). 4 CDs. 4:41 hrs. Scholastic Audio. 2013. $24.99. ISBN 9780545640039.

Gr 3-5 –This popular, ongoing series of the wild, mysterious adventures of the young members of the Cahill clan and their attempts to save the world is custom-made for transmedia activities, with playing cards and a link to an online video game included with the audiobook package. David Pittu performs with the perfect emotional tone, highlighting the dangers faced by the Cahill family in the latest harrowing installment of their fight against evil.

Young Adult

HINES, Jim C. Goblin Quest. 6 CDs. 6 hrs. Graphic Audio. 2013. $19.99. ISBN 9781599509587.

Gr 6 Up –Dramatic music, sound effects, and a talented ensemble cast bring a full theatrical production to this fantasy. Jig, the clumsy runt of the goblins, is often the brunt of jokes as he guards the goblin tunnels. When he is coerced by a rogue band to search for a buried icon, the foibles, humor, and perilous escapades propel listeners to a satisfying conclusion. The imaginative audio format enhances the story, allowing listeners to envision varieties of art, vocal interpretations, and drama as learning extensions. This will be especially popular with fans of fantasy role-playing games.

ROTH, Veronica. Divergent. 10 CDs. 11 hrs. Harper Audio. 2011. $22.99. ISBN 9780062286437.

Gr 9 Up –In a dystopian Chicago future, 16-year-olds must choose among five factions, each dedicated to a different character attribute that determines the course of their lives. When one faction resolves to rule them all, those having more than one attribute–known as the Divergent–become a threat that must be removed. The recent release of the film will encourage a host of activities, from book trailers to multimedia discussions, for students searching out opportunities to expand on the popularity of this electrifying trilogy (Insurgent, 2012, and Allegiant, 2013).

Sharon Grover is head of youth services at the Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI. Lizette (Liz) Hannegan was a school librarian and the district library supervisor for the Arlington (VA) Public Schools before her retirement.

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.