Audiobooks and Literacy: Own Voices

Inclusivity in children’s books and audiobooks

The JumbiesThe lack of diversity in children’s books has been noted by many parents, teachers, librarians, and children who seek more new books that reflect experiences that are more inclusive than the traditional reflection of white middle-and upper-class characters and concerns.

Children’s authors, publishers, librarians, and book bloggers have written extensively through social media and editorials about the disconnect between available children’s books and potential audiences whose experiences were under-represented. Two movements, We Need Diverse Books (#WNDB) and #OwnVoices, were born.

While the We Need Diverse Books movement’s goal is to increase inclusivity overall, #OwnVoices specifically focuses on story creators. The message? Telling stories from marginalized experiences requires authenticity, and the storytellers who live outside the empowered culture are the ones whose voices need to be heard.

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Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Our Website Leads the Way to Great Listening

A treasure trove of audiobooks is just a click away

Since 1992, AudioFile Magazine audiobook reviewers have applied critical listening skills to evaluate so many hours of audiobooks that it would take 65 years of endless audiobook listening (yup, 24/7) for one person to hear them all! Needless to say, that means our database of reviews has more than just one something for everyone. And we add reviews of about 200 new audiobooks every month.

For the past year, AudioFile‘s publisher and staff have been working to increase the ease with which you, our website users, audiobook fans, and anyone else wanting stellar critical review coverage of audiobook publishing can browse and dig deep into our stores of resources. Along the way, we’ve changed a name or two of our featured access points, and also boosted our online and social media publishing presence. To help you discover parts of this treasure trove you may not have realized are at your fingertips, here’s a quick overview from our home page.

Newest reviews iconOur Newest Reviews can be reached right from this icon. They can be searched according to any of 17 thematic areas, from Audio Theater to Young Adult titles. New reviews are added so frequently that you may find something new here on each visit.

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Looking for audiobook reviews for children’s and teen titles? Searching Audiobooks for Kids & Teens can help you to find reviews written with the listening needs and interests of kids  and families in mind.  Seven age groups can be searched separately.

AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award iconOne reason our Earphones Award for “exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text” sets the standard for narrators and audiobook publishers is because we’ve been evaluating audiobooks critically for so long–38,000 and counting, to date. Dip into this search for guaranteed excellent listening.

Golden Voices icon GIFIn addition to audiobook reviews, we also give you quick access to information about dozens of award-winning Narrators. Check out our Golden Voices for those who have achieved narrator hall of fame status.

Wherever your audiobook listening happens, we can be there to help you find exactly what to hear next. Pack your earphones and join us!

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Want a regular email about new audiobooks to love? You can subscribe our free e-newsletter at the E-news icon! 

 

Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Poets Aloud

Celebrating poetry on audio

Silhouette of head with headphone-wearing reader holding open book in area of brain
April is National Poetry Month, and poetry is a form of language and literature that begs to be
heard. In short, it’s a great time to call attention to poetry and poets we can meet in the medium they deserve, thanks to audiobooks. Poetry paints with rhythm and imagery what visual artists may use paint or other material to convey.

CHILDE HAROLD'S PILGRIMAGE audiobook cover

As with any fine work of art—as well as with our first exposures to spoken language—form and the moment may be more engaging than the effort to understand the how and why of meaning. Lord Byron’s CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE, as brought to our ears in Jamie Parker’s performance, doesn’t demand that we act as students investigating meaning or the workings underlying its form in order to enjoy its flow.

SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY audiobook cover

Caroline Kennedy, an experienced and sensitive editor, has compiled SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems as a way of offering the guidance of the art of poetry to the winding path many women’s lives can take. Sandra Cisneros, Gertrude Stein, and Sharon Olds are among the poets whose words come to us through performances by Jane Alexander, John Bedford Lloyd, Hope Davis, Campbell Scott, and Kennedy herself. The range of selections here is broad as well as well chosen: e.e. cummings, Anne Bradstreet, Gregory Corso, and Vikram Seth, as well as Mary Oliver and William Blake. In short, if anything is stinting here, its the direction the title might suggest that this be for women only; look beyond that title, just as, for centuries, women had to assume that “man” was inclusive of all humans.

HERE IN HARLEM audiobook cover

Our tradition of poetry in America is diverse and makes imaginative use of the past as well as the poets’ own present. Walter Dean Myers’s HERE IN HARLEM, recorded by a full cast including Patricia R. Floyd, Kevin R. Free, Dion Graham, Robin Miles, and Lizan Mitchell, is itself an homage to Edgar Lee Masters’s now century-old SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY. Marilyn Singer’s FOLLOW FOLLOW, which she performs with Joe Morton, looks to folktales for initial spark and then turns what we think we know as the narrative upside down, the play of words when reversed or performed in tones that alter their habitually expected meaning.

 

Audiobooks and poetry offer a natural combination for enjoyment of both. You can find more of them to explore in our newest reviews.

 

 

Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Drop Everything And Listen

Celebrating iconic children’s author Beverly Cleary

THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE by Beverly Cleary audiobook coverApril 12 marks iconic American children’s author Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday. It’s been nearly 70 years since her writing career began, and her books, made instantly popular for the very ordinariness of her fictional people, have become touchstones for readers and writers interested in the compelling nature of ordinary concerns of many children.

RAMONA FOREVER by Beverly Cleary audiobook cover

Mrs. Cleary’s storytelling found a voice precisely because she saw a disconnection between the kids who were coming to her library and the then-stocked books available to them. Her dedication to connecting the dots between potential reader and stories in which familiar childhood experiences and feelings evoke a sense of identification and comfort. This approach delighted young readers for a few generations and continues to serve as instructive to more contemporary authors who write today. This sense of making satisfaction discoverable through story in a book also has inspired a birthday celebration of decades’ standing in Mrs. Cleary’s honor. Drop Everything And Read—or DEAR Day—becomes an occasion for community members to visit school classes simply to read aloud to students for 20 minutes or so, with no pressure beyond listening to a good book.

AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award for Exceptional AudioMrs. Cleary’s books seem to have arrived primed for listening enjoyment. Even when read with the eyes, cadences and character tones are clear. A variety of excellent narrators have performed many of them. In particular, B.D. Wong’s aural celebration of Ralph S. Mouse, who appears in THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE, as well as a couple of sequels, and Stockard Channing’s Ramona performances, including her Earphones Award-winning RAMONA FOREVER, can leave listeners peering into their audiobook players to see how Mrs. Cleary’s characters could have set up housekeeping there.

FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo audiobook coverMrs. Cleary’s influence on other writers, both for children and as children, has furthered the riches available to us as reading and listening choices.  Judy Blume, Kate DiCamillo, Sara PennypackerAmy Poehler, and Eric A. Kimmel are among many authors she inspired when they read her earlier in their lives, and they, too, are well represented in audiobook choices. It seems a Drop Everything And Listen occasion might be an event with which we listeners would happily DEAL. So grab an audiobook by Beverly Cleary, or by someone who names her as inspiration, and expand your own experience with how extraordinarily engaging and satisfying the ordinary world can sound.

25065_tHappy birthday, Beverly Cleary, 100 times!

 

Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Outspoken Girl to Outspoken Woman

An Autobiography from Janis Ian

Janis IanJanis Ian came to public attention using both her voice and her lyricism while she was still a teenager. Today, she continues to work both with her voice and her poetry, and we’re all still listening and learning to think prejudices under her tutelage.

In SOCIETY’S CHILD: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY, we have the wonderful experience of hearing her memories and developing ideals and ideas in her own narration. STARS takes us on journeys of the imagination in which Janis Ian’s songs inspire speculative short stories from a variety of science fiction authors and are performed here by ten narrators, including that songwriter who sparked these short stories.

SOCIETY'S CHILD: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

She lends her mellifluous and quiet voice to others stories with equal justice and Earphones Award-winning grace. Miriam Therese Winter’s autobiography, THE SINGER AND THE SONG comes to us in Janis Ian’s voice. As happens with some author and narrator combinations, they became a team to create this, reaching out to befriend each other as the print book moved to voice.

These days, Janis is working on a couple of audiobook projects, including a collection of poetry from her youth. We’re looking forward to that and hope you move it onto your future listening list, too! While waiting, we can visit her at home performing the upcoming children’s audiobook, THE TINY MOUSE.

Portrait photo of Janis Ian by Floyd Bagge

Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.