New research shows audiobooks benefit children’s literacy, learning and mental health

NewsPress Release
National Literacy Trust research

7 in 10 (69.5%) children and young people said that listening to audiobooks makes it easier to understand the content of a book. This number is even higher for boys (71.7%) and children who receive free school meals (74%).

The study conducted by the National Literacy Trust shows that audiobooks have the potential to be a key resource for children’s literacy and wellbeing. Even if children struggle with reading, audiobooks allow them to access the benefits of books including developing their vocabulary, developing empathy, helping them learn how to express themselves and accessing educational content.

The report also found that nearly 1 in 4 (23.4%) children and young people said that they have listened to audiobooks more than before lockdown. The main reasons children gave for this increase in audiobook listening was having extra time and to help them relax.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak decided to fast track the removal of the 20% VAT from ebooks in May, although readers of audiobooks have not received the same benefit.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • 1 in 3 (31.8%) children and young people said that listening to audiobooks made them feel better during lockdown
  • 1 in 2 (52.9%) children and young people say that listening to audiobooks got them more interested in reading
  • 2 in 5 (42.6%) children said that listening to audiobooks made them more interested in writing

Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said:

“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.”

A spokesperson for the Axe the Reading Tax campaign said:

“The reading tax needs to be axed across all formats including audiobooks. It is fantastic that the Chancellor has acted in relation to ebooks but increasing numbers of audiobook readers are still paying 20% more. Audiobooks are great at getting kids excited by books and literature, they are also a lifeline for people who are blind or visually impaired. It is unfair that those who need or prefer to read audiobooks are having to pay VAT while print and ebooks are rightly not subject to this tax.”

You can read the full report here.