Audiobooks vs screen time for kids

Audiobooks help to develop proper listening skills, which are critical for all aspects of learning.

There are many advantages of allowing your child to listen to audiobooks, from improving their listening skills to boosting their vocabulary.

Audio storytellers have boomed in popularity over the last year with more parents turning to audiobooks over screen time for their children. For parents, audiobooks offer a good compromise for screen time because they still offer a distraction mechanism for little ones. Your child can listen to a story while you finish cooking dinner. However, they are more engaging than simply staring at a television, computer, or iPad screen.

Why audiobooks?

When children (from as young as age 2) listen to a story via an audiobook, they’re learning to listen attentively, rather than simply hearing something,” says lecturer, teacher, and education expert, Simone Tonkin. “Listening is different from hearing in the sense that hearing involves perceiving sound by the ear while listening to something like a story via an audiobook involves more understanding. It’s something you choose to do and respond to,” she adds.

8 Benefits of audiobooks for kids

  1. They help to develop proper listening skills, which are critical for all aspects of learning.
  2. They teach children to pay attention to detail.
  3. They help to build a child’s memory skills – especially if they listen to the story more than once.
  4. They stimulate the imagination and encourage visualisation skills.
  5. Audiobooks build a child’s vocabulary- especially as they listen to how words are used in context.
  6. They offer a two-way engagement, rather than a one-way engagement with a screen.
  7. The best way for older children to listen to audiobooks is with a hard copy of the book in-hand. “Research shows that when good reading is modelled to a child, who can follow along on the page, they read better than when they simply listen to themselves reading,” explains Simone. “So, if a child can recognise the words on the page as they listen to the story, that’s the first prize!”
  8. If you’re sitting with your child listening to the story, you can also pause the story and ask your child questions about what she’s heard. This will help make it even more engaging and will encourage your child to listen and understand more effectively.

Where to download audiobooks

If you do a quick search for audiobooks for kids on the social network, you’ll see hundreds of narrated audiobook suggestions for kids. These range in length from longer stories to quick short-stories, stories for road trips and bedtime, and much more. You’ll also find a host of educational apps loaded with audiobook suggestions linked to themes such as animals, sharing or kindness, to name a few.

Here are a few places you can download or purchase audiobooks for your children:

e-Library: While this service isn’t free, e-Library offers free access to all materials, including a wide range of audiobooks for children, for a month, after you subscribe. You can access all digital content in the library via your tablet, smartphone, or PC.

Raru: Online retail store, Raru, has a library of over 1000 audiobooks for kids, arranged in age-appropriate sections. Most of these audiobooks are available in CD/audio version and will take three to seven days to be delivered.

AudioshelfDownload the Audioshelf app and you’ll have access to purchase and download 11 audiobooks for your children. After registering, you can shop through the app immediately and download. Available for IOS and Android.

Readers Warehouse: Retail stores such as Readers Warehouse have a wide range of audiobook collections such as the Famous Five or Roald Dahl, which you can purchase in-store or online.

Epic (International): Hailed as the leading digital library for kids 12 and under, Epic boasts thousands of audiobooks and learning videos for kids in age-appropriate categories, with the aim of making books more accessible to kids. There’s also a wide variety of fictional and non-fictional stories, including topics such as animals and cars. This app also allows access to educational videos and quizzes for older kids. Download the Epic app, register, and get started. There’s also the chance to join free for 30 days.

A word on picture books

As a language therapist and author of Baby Talk, Dr Sally Ward, explains, it’s never too early to start telling your little one stories. From the time your baby is born, she’ll learn to recognise your voice and respond to different tones in your voice, as well as how you express things. It’s how she’ll learn to make sense of the world. From about the age of 6 to 9 months, you can start introducing picture books and colour books to your child’s toybox. You can also build storytime in your little one’s bedtime routine. Then, as her language and listening skills develop, as well as her attention span, you can slowly introduce audiobooks, starting with short stories, and gradually building up the length of the story over time.