On World Read Aloud Day, We Need Diverse Audiobooks

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AudiobookerListening to literature expands our horizons, connecting us to commonalities across cultures while honoring the differences that define our identities. Celebrate World Read Aloud Day every day with audiobooks!

World Read Aloud Day, observed on the first Wednesday in March, is a global program that calls attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. Check out the resources on the official website for classroom, community, and home activities. There are also suggested titles applicable for use throughout the year, with print as well as audiobooks.

The audio format is a fantastic way
to share multicultural literature.

The audio format is a fantastic way to share multicultural literature and honor the mission of the We Need Diverse Books movement, committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. Through careful attention to authentic accents and atmospheric musical soundscapes, audiobooks offer an immersive literary experience that provides the windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors into the human experience for all ages.

Reading aloud isn’t just for little ones—new research details the benefits for older kids & teens. And adults will find plenty of great listening on Booklist’s Top 10 Multicultural Fiction on Audio: 2015, by Joyce Saricks, featuring youth and adult novels on audio that offer insights into America’s diverse cultures.

Yousafzai-I-Am-MalalaThe recent Grammy Award-winning audiobook I Am Malala is a great example of authentic production qualities. Find out more about Neela Vaswani’s narration of the 2015 best children’s album for the Young Reader’s Edition of this memoir in “Giving Voice to Malala” by Rohini Nair.

I wrote a column for Book Links titled “Through the Headphones, Clearly,” where I explored some of these ideas. I mention Earphone English, a reading group created by the Berkley (CA) Public Library & Berkley High School that highlights the use of audiobooks by English Language Learners, as well as my thoughts on how audiobooks can push away our unrecognized biases and allow a different gender perspective into our minds.

Literacy experts Junko Yokota and Miriam Martinez created “Authentic Listening Experiences: Multicultural Audiobooks” for the American Library Association with more information and suggested titles. ALA has a tremendous collection of multicultural and diversity resources, including the excellent Read Around the World with your Ears audiobook lists for kids and teens, courtesy Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, Wisconsin:

Happy diverse listening every day!

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About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

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