Teachers and librarians, rejoice! Epic!— a fast-growing service developed by audiobook industry leaders to provide engaging, quality literature from a wide range of publishers on most digital devices—is giving out the best back-to-school freebie ever: Thousands of ebooks, many with audiobook read-along accompaniment, for your unlimited use, with no end date or limit! Better still, you can create up to 36 individual student profiles with personalized recommendations based on reading level and interests. Even though Epic! advertises itself as geared towards grades K-5, available selections include fiction and non-fiction, and even graphic novels, with some titles that should appeal to middle-schoolers. This is an absolute must for educators!
If you’re looking to add listening skills to your curriculum for older students, try podcasts! In a recent story for The Atlantic, Michael Godsey provides compelling evidence that podcasts like “Serial” enhance learning and links to a list of eight educational podcasts. If this piques your interest, here’s a mega-list of podcasts to use with students, searchable by subject area.
If you want to use audiobooks with your students but lack the budgetary funds to purchase them, here’s an idea: Partner with your local public library to get students their own library cards and teach them, with a librarian’s help, how to access the library’s online services. Now that audiobooks and eBooks have gone digital, students will be able to download them onto personal devices, and schools can incorporate them into one-to-one device initiatives. Some teachers and school librarians have even installed a kiosk mini-branch of the public library right in their own school libraries. Here’s an article on how I did so with a small grant, and here’s another article on how LSTA funds have expanded the pilot program.
Are you looking for free lesson plans to use with any audiobook, or annotated lists to guide your audiobook collection development, or a guide to implementing audiobooks to meet Common Core state standards in grades K-12? If so, check out the free materials on the Audio Publishers Association Sound Learning website. This year, they’ve added a Transmedia Literacy collection of titles available in both paperback and audiobook, which covers a wide array of genres, themes, and topics for students in grades three through 12, as well as research and infographics that show how audiobooks impact reading accuracy, vocabulary skills, pronunciation, reading speed, and more.
Audiobooks have long helped blind, visually impaired, and dyslexic students achieve their goals. Be sure to take full advantage of the no-cost or district-funded resources that make all print material accessible on audio to students who have identified needs for adaptive materials and technology. Learning Ally, formerly Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, has wonderful resources for students, parents, and teachers, from free webinars to audiobooks for students from kindergarten through college. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is a vital service for anyone with print disabilities. You can learn more about these and other free materials in my Booklist article, “Audiobooks: That All May Read.”
I hope that you’ll be inspired to bring the sound of great books into your classroom this year and incorporate some of the titles I suggest in my “We Need Diverse Audiobooks” column for Booklist. If not, here’s a persuasive reminder from Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, on the power that stories have for young learners. Best of luck this school year!