Our new research reveals the positive power of podcasts on children’s reading, as lockdown sees rise in listenership

20 Oct 2020
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Today, we publish new research which finds that an increase in children and young people listening to podcasts during lockdown could have led to wider benefits for their reading engagement, with particular benefits for boys and secondary students.

Podcast consumption has increased steadily in recent years. Most podcasts are free and can be accessed on smartphones, laptops and smart speakers through free apps such as Spotify, or iTunes and dedicated apps like BBC Sounds, Podbean and Audible.

Our new research shows that podcasts can be used to support children’s learning, giving them greater access to a whole world of topics inside and outside of the classroom.

We found that:

  • More children and young people who listen to podcasts enjoy reading and read daily than their peers who do not
  • Nearly 1 in 4 children and young people listened to podcasts or audiobooks more during lockdown than they did before
  • 1 in 5 children and young people said they listened to podcasts at the beginning of the year
  • More boys than girls tune in to podcasts
  • Young people aged 14 and above listen to more podcasts compared to their younger peers
  • Fewer pupils who receive free school meals listen to podcasts compared with their peers

There are many reasons why children and young people turned to podcasts and audio materials during lockdown. The most common reasons given were the extra time they had in their days, the ability of podcasts to assist relaxation and the draw of key role models as podcast creators.

Looking at two data sets from before and during lockdown this year, the report considered survey responses from 58,346 children and young people aged 9 to 18 at the beginning of 2020 and 4,141 pupils aged 8 to 18 during the school closures and UK-wide lockdown.

As a charity, we’ve long known that audio can provide new opportunities to engage children and young people with literacy – and our latest exploration into podcasts builds on this. We were excited to discover that podcasts not only support children’s reading engagement but that their rise in popularity during lockdown could present new opportunities for the classroom and distance learning, particularly in terms of getting pupils interested in different topics, encouraging further reading around subjects and nurturing a love of storytelling.

Emily Best, Research Manager at the National Literacy Trust and co-author of the report

Read the full report and check out our new guides to help teachers and parents make the most of podcasts in the classroom and at home, including lists of recommended podcasts for different key stages and topics.

We’ve been working with partners including Audible and Fun Kids to include podcast and audio elements in many of our projects and programmes.

  • Working in partnership with Audible and National Prison Radio, we deliver podcast making training sessions to young people in HMYOI Feltham as part of our criminal justice programme New Chapters
  • We’re delighted to be developing a new children’s podcast with Fun Kids to get young people excited about books and storytelling.
  • Take part in our latest podcast survey to find out more about your students' interest in and behaviours around podcasts.