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Children, young people and audiobooks before and during lockdown

Added 01 Jul 2020 | Updated 31 May 23

We were 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.

This report outlines findings from our tenth Annual Literacy Survey relating to children and young people’s engagement with audiobooks in 2020, in addition to findings from our survey of children and young people’s engagement with audiobooks during the COVID-19 lockdown.

58,346 children and young people aged 9 to 18 in the UK took part in our Annual Literacy Survey between January and March 2020, while 4,141 children and young people aged 8 to 18 in the UK took part in our survey during lockdown between May and early June 2020.

Key findings

Wider engagement with audiobooks during lockdown

  • At the beginning of 2020, 1 in 6 (16.3%) children and young people aged 9 to 18 said that they listen to audiobooks
  • During lockdown, nearly 1 in 4 (23.4%) children and young people said that they have listened to audiobooks more than before lockdown
  • Children and young people cite various reasons for their greater engagement with audiobooks, including having more time, being able to access audiobooks more easily than other book formats and being able to access wider content

Impact on reading and writing behaviours

  • Of those who listen to audiobooks, 1 in 2 (52.9%) children and young people say that listening to audiobooks has increased their interest in reading, and 2 in 5 (42.6%) say that it has made them more interested in writing
  • Those who listen to audiobooks are also more likely to say that they enjoy reading and writing than those who don’t listen to audiobooks (61.4% vs 40.8%)
  • Similarly, more of those who listen to audiobooks say that they read daily in their free time compared with their peers who don’t listen to audiobooks (40.2% vs. 27.0%)
  • Audiobooks stimulate the imagination: 7 in 10 (70.8%) children and young people who listen to audiobooks said that they use their imagination more than when they watch videos

Listening to audiobooks supports children and young people’s mental wellbeing

  • 1 in 3 (31.8%) children and young people said that listening to audiobooks made them feel better during lockdown
  • This is also highlighted in their comments, which indicate that hearing stories provides a welcome distraction from current events that may otherwise cause anxiety

Audiobooks, boys and teenagers

  • While fewer boys than girls reported listening to audiobooks in early 2020, more boys than girls said that they had listened to audiobooks more during lockdown (25.0% vs. 22.4%)
  • As our research reports on reading and writing will show, listening is the only format in which boys report higher levels of engagement and enjoyment during lockdown compared with girls
  • At the beginning of 2020 there was a sharp decline in audiobook listening as children got older. However, nearly 1 in 4 (around 24%) children and young people in each age group said that they listened to audiobooks more when asked during lockdown

Find out more about our audio and literacy resources and programmes.
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