We carried out new research, commissioned by the Publishers Association, to explore the use of audiobooks and their link to wider literacy engagement from the point of view of children and young people.
The report, based on our surveys of young people aged 8 to 18 in the UK conducted before and during lockdown, showed that audiobooks have the potential to be a key resource for children’s literacy and wellbeing.
Nearly a quarter (23.4%) of children and young people have listened to audiobooks more during lockdown than they did before, saying that they have more time to do so and that they are able to access audiobooks more easily than other book formats.
What's more, listening to audiobooks during lockdown has brought benefits to children's mental wellbeing, with a third (31.8%) saying audiobooks have helped them to feel better.
Audiobooks were also found to provide many children with a route into reading and writing: half (52.9%) of children and young people said that listening to audiobooks got them more interested in reading, while 2 in 5 (42.6%) said that listening to audiobooks made them more interested in writing.
It is incredibly encouraging to see that so many children have been actively choosing to spend their extra free time in lockdown listening to stories. It shows the value of stories to children’s lives and the comfort and entertainment they can offer – particularly in times of uncertainty. In addition to this, our research shows that audiobooks have the potential to improve learning outcomes for children who are traditionally the least engaged with literacy, such as boys and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. For these children, audiobooks could prove vital in closing the literacy attainment gap that is set to widen significantly as a result of six months of disruption to children’s education.Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive
In March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak fast tracked the removal of the 20% VAT from ebooks and digital publications to 1 May, following the Axe the Reading Tax campaign run by the Publishers Association, of which we are a key member. However, audiobook listeners have not received the same benefit.
Audiobooks are a great way to get children into stories and are helpful for those who are not confident to read aloud to their children and share stories this way or those who are visually impaired.
In light of our findings on how essential and engaging audiobooks are for so many young learners's literacy and wellbeing, we hope to see the reading tax removed from audiobooks.