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School Library Research

Audiobooks: Legitimate “Reading” Material for Adolescents?

May 5, 2016 4:00pm ‐ Jul 29, 2020 4:00pm



Several decades of research have established that time spent reading has a positive impact onthe cognitive development and academic success of school-aged children and adolescents. Yet, reading among adolescents has been in decline in recent years while engagement with audiobooks has increased. Professionals in librarianship, children’s literature, and literacy education have long promoted the educational benefits of transacting with audiobooks. Critics, however, contest the idea that listening to an audiobook can serve as a legitimate form of reading. This paper reviews the literature on audio delivery of content to three distinct participant groups: adolescents with visual impairments or learning disabilities, adolescent second language learners, and typically developing adolescents. Findings from the studies of audio delivery of content are mixed, and great variability in outcomes have been reported, depending on the characteristics of the groups studied. Numerous gaps exist in the research surrounding ado escents’ use of audiobooks, including examinations of the effectiveness of commercially produced audiobooks and explorations of adolescents’ listening preferences. This review points to the need for much more research in this line of study and raises questions about librarians’ promotion of audiobooks for use with adolescents.


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