Thursday, February 15, 2018

Audiobooks for the Classroom: Websites, YouTube and Mobile Apps

I am 99% recovered from a nasty eye infection which had made it very difficult for me to perform tasks that would require me to strain my eyes; and that would, of course, include reading. If it wasn't because of audiobooks, I think I would have gone crazy. I spent my two-week sick leave listening to three Shakespeare plays and Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities' on LibriVox, and am currently half-way through the award-winning 'Evicted ' by Matthew Desmond on Audible. My audiobooks have been my life-saver during those difficult times when I couldn't use my eyes to the fullest capacity to read properly :)

Cambridge University Press ELT has recently published my article on their website World of Better Learning on the use of audiobooks to engage reluctant readers. I have since then received a few messages from teachers who are interested in trying out audiobooks in their reading lessons. One of the most common questions is on the sources of audiobooks, i.e. where teachers can get them.

In this post, I will share my sources of audiobooks for use in my reading lessons in the classroom (and also for my own pleasure reading/listening).

WEBSITES

Storynory

If you are teaching young children and primary school students, you will love this site. It has a wide range of choices of audio stories for children. The categories include original stories, classics, fairy tales, poems and music.

In order to use Storynory in the classroom, you would have to have Internet connection as the stories can only be accessed online. Here are some screenshots of the site:







LearnEnglish Kids

This is one of my favourite sites. It has tonnes of free teaching materials that teachers can use not just for reading lessons, but also for listening, writing and grammar. If you are looking for stories with visuals and audio to be used with young learners, have a look at the Short Stories section. It offers wide selections of stories that children can watch and listen to. The best part is that each story comes with interactive games, printable version of the story, downloadable worksheets and teaching materials, pictures and flash cards! And these are all available for free!

Just like Storynory, the stories are only accessible online. Here are some screenshots:








YOUTUBE CHANNELS

There are many kind souls out there who have been generous enough to upload teaching materials on the World Wide Web for teachers all over the world to download and use - and audiobooks are no exception. Internet search can easily bring you to a list of hundreds of audiobooks that are available online. Teachers would need to use their own discretions and professional judgements - as not all the audiobooks available on the Net are suitable or appropriate for our students. I would share here some YouTube channels that I think offer quite good-quality audiobooks that are generally suitable for primary and secondary classrooms.




Audio Book Learning English

This channel has lots of audiobooks that are suitable for upper-primary levels and young teenagers. I'm sharing here one of the stories so you can have an idea of how the stories on the channel generally look/sound like:



Pick Up English

Pick Up English is a good channel to get audiobooks for teenagers / secondary school students. What I like about this channel is that it provides categorisations for the levels of the audiobooks, i.e. beginner's, intermediate and advanced levels. I believe this will certainly be useful in helping teachers choose the right kind of audiobooks for their students. Here's a sample from the channel:



Great AudioBooks

For more matured or advanced learners, this channel offers some quite good selections of audiobooks. I notice that most of the audiobooks on this channel actually come from LibriVox. Accessing audiobooks through this channel is perhaps a good alternative if you prefer not to download the LibriVox app on your device. Here's a sample of an audiobook from the channel:





MOBILE APPS

I love listening to my audiobooks using my mobile device. I think it's very convenient. I would usually listen to audiobooks while I'm driving (it makes being stuck in a bad traffic jam more bearable), while cleaning my front porch in the morning, while doing my gardening or when I'm down with an eye infection so bad that it makes it impossible for me to read printed words. I'm sharing here two of my favourite mobile apps for audiobooks.

LibriVox

LibriVox is of course my ultimate favourite. All LibriVox's audiobooks are available for free because they only record works that are in the public domain, i.e. works with copyrights that had expired (published before 1923). Therefore, if you're looking for books published after 1923, LibriVox wouldn't have them. If your students (and you) love classics like Dickens, Austen, Wilde, Shakespeare etc., LibriVox is the perfect place to find great audiobooks.

Another important thing to point out is that the recordings are all done by volunteers. So, there's no guarantee that you would like the quality of the recordings. However, LibriVox has its own quality-control standard and from my own experience of listening to some 50++ audiobooks so far, LibriVox has been nothing short of amazing. I can say with absolute confidence that the quality of many LibriVox recordings are on par with (if not better than) some commercially produced audiobooks.

You can access LibriVox's audiobooks through their website, or by downloading the mobile app. Here are some screenshots of LibriVox's mobile app:









Go here to download LibriVox mobile app through Google Play Store.


Audible

Audible is another audiobooks app that I love to use. According to Audible, "Listening is the new Reading" :) I love this app very much, and I think teachers can get quite a number of good audiobooks for the classroom.  However, Audible is not free. It costs $14.95 per month (about MYR58.22). Each month, subscribers will be given one credit that can be used to download one audiobook for free (regardless of price). Subscribers get 30% discount on purchase of additional audiobooks. The greatest thing about Audible is that it has most of the bestsellers and latest titles in its selections.

Audible also offers great selections of audiobooks for kids. It has audiobooks for kids aged 0 - 4 years old, 5 - 7 years old, 8 - 10 years old, and 11 - 13 years old. If you are teaching secondary school level, Audible has over 15, 000 titles under its category of audiobooks for teens.

Here are some screenshots from the website and the mobile app:







Go here to download Audible mobile app through Google Play Store.


I would love to hear from you

There are plenty of great sources of audiobooks out there that I haven't got the chance to explore yet. In this post, I can only share the ones that I have personally used and can confidently recommend to every one. Do you know of any other great sources of audiobooks? Please share with me. I would love to hear from you, and I'm sure many other teachers would love to know about the sources,  too :)

Next post

Today, I have downloaded a few more mobile apps that claim to offer good audiobooks for children. I can't include them here yet in this post since I haven't tried them :) But I intend to try out a few within these few days and write reviews  for the apps. I'll share the reviews in my next post.

The next post will also discuss some classroom activities that can be used with audiobooks, and a few audiobook-related projects that teachers can do with their students.

Till then, thanks for reading! -ccj

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