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.

Read more…

Francisca Goldsmith
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.

Behind the Mic: Honestly Ben

A funny, complicated, and moving tale about growing up from Bill Konigsberg

AudioFile Magazine goes Behind the Mic with Dan Bittner to hear about his narration of HONESTLY BEN, an Earphones Award winner. Bill Konigsberg’s novel is a complex portrait of Ben, a scholarship student and baseball team captain at an elite East-coast boarding school. Ben is confused about his sexuality, namely his feelings for his ex-best friend, Rafe, and a cute girl at the neighboring school. Rafe and Ben briefly became more than just friends in the first novel in the series, OPENLY STRAIGHT, which was told from Rafe’s point of view.

“Growing up is messy and it’s complicated, and Bill nails it in his writing”—Narrator Dan Bittner

Honestly Ben

HONESTLY BEN: Openly Straight, Book 2
by Bill Konigsberg, read by Dan Bittner
Scholastic Audiobooks
AudioFile Earphones Award

HONESTLY BEN and OPENLY STRAIGHT are both about growing up and developing a sense of identity in the petri dish that is high school. Dan thoughtfully portrays Ben in all of his complicated emotions and sensitivities, along with the other jocks and wealthy classmates surrounding him at his high school. This novel will engage teen and adult listeners alike for its humor and its empathetic portrayal of learning about who you are.

Find more audiobooks narrated by Dan on our website!

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

Solve: Crime for Kids

Crime written for kids by authors such as John Grisham, Kathy Reichs, Ridley Pearson, and James Patterson is reaching listeners of all ages. What have you heard lately?

Lock and KeyThere seems to be a proliferation of adult mystery and suspense writers dipping their toes–or taking the full plunge–into writing for younger readers. John Grisham has kid lawyers, Ridley Pearson brings a young James Moriarty to life, Kathy Reichs and her son created a “pack” of young crime fighters–one of whom is the grandniece of Reich’s Temperance Brennan–and James Patterson has an entire imprint for children with books spanning the age range.

These mysteries aren’t limited to American writers either. The Scandinavian rage that’s captured the adult side of the genre is present on the YA shelves as well. Salla Simukka’s AS RED AS BLOOD, the beginning of The Snow White Trilogy, is a prime example.

But children’s or YA mysteries aren’t anything new. Many of us learned to love the genre from series such as The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown or books like THE WESTING GAME.

And while the classic stories as well as the newer generation of mysteries continue to hook youth on reading and listening, the same stories are captivating adults as well. What is it about these audiobooks that make them so magical to audiences of all ages? Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Behind the Mic: Ramon de Ocampo

Create a conversation about welcoming immigrants and refugees. The “new” kid. Oh yes, we’ve all been there.

AudioFile goes Behind the Mic to talk with Ramon de Ocampo about recording Anne Sibley O’Brien’s inspiring children’s audiobook, I’M NEW HERE. Part of an ensemble cast of voices, Ramon encourages us to explore this read-along and learn about welcoming immigrants and refugees.

“We’ve all been there—we’ve all been the new kid at school. And we probably will be again.” —Narrator Ramon de Ocampo

I'm New Here

I’M NEW HERE
by Anne Sibley O’Brien, read by Frankie Corzo, Ariana Delawari, Ramon de Ocampo, Ruth Livier, Anne Sibley O’Brien
Live Oak Media

The voices who introduce us to Fatima, Maria, and Jin remind us how it feels to be the new kid. This read-along might help your children, or the children in your life, understand and reflect on what it means to be new to a country and to leave everything you knew behind. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Explore AudioFile’s short recommended audiobooks list to give children windows into the lives of others and to help them see their own experiences reflected back to them here.

Find more great audiobooks here across many subjects and topics at Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with age ranges.

How Families Can Explore the Immigrant Experience With Audiobooks

How do you teach your children to develop empathy for others? Our family found that part of the answer lies in audiobooks.

My daughter is one to ask a million questions. She is three, and precocious, and we find ourselves having deep discussions about how the human body works, Pete Seeger’s life, why Fritz breaks Clara’s Nutcracker, and more recently, why we help others who are here as refugees and asylum seekers.

Here in Portland, Maine, we have a growing community of immigrants and refugees who have come from countries where their lives are at risk, their homes are destroyed, and they and their children have experienced things no person should. How do I explain that to my three-year-old without making her frightened?

The answer, in our case, came in part through reading. There are many beautiful and moving picture and chapter books for learning about the experiences of immigrants and refugees with content that is approachable for children and helps facilitate discussions at their level. These titles are excellent, as well, for helping children who have come to America as immigrants and refugees see a mirror of their own lived experiences.

Through a wonderful initiative developed in Maine called I’m Your Neighbor, we found a beautiful collection of books to give children windows into the lives of others and to help them see their own experiences reflected back to them. Dive in and see what amazing resources you can find!

We’ve selected six audiobooks to help your children, or the children in your life, understand and reflect on what it means to be new to a country and to leave everything you knew behind. There are audiobooks appropriate for kids as young as three to ages ten and older.

I'm New Here

I’M NEW HERE
by Anne Sibley O’Brien, read by Frankie Corzo, Ariana Delawari, Ramon De Ocampo, Ruth Livier, Anne Sibley O’Brien
Live Oak Media, Ages 4-6
Young, vibrant narrators voice heartfelt concerns as students from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia are each welcomed into new classrooms in a new country. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

We Are America

WE ARE AMERICAA Tribute from the Heart
by Walter Dean Myers, read by Macleod Andrews, Olivia DuFord, Dion Graham, Lizann Mitchell, Christopher Myers, Walter Dean Myers, Johanna Parker, Adriana Sananes, Kaipo Schwab, et al.
Live Oak Media, Ages 6+
A chorus of voices welcomes listeners to this meditation on what it is to be American. Poems and quotes are delivered by a talented cast of narrators that reflect the diversity of the United States. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Save Me a Seat

SAVE ME A SEAT
by Sarah Weeks, Gita Varadarajan, read by Josh Hurley, Vikas Adam
Scholastic Audiobooks, Ages 8+
Using two narrators is the perfect way to deliver this story, told as the alternating first-person recollections of two fifth-grade boys. Vikas Adam is the voice of Ravi, a recent immigrant from India, and Josh Hurley is the voice of Joe, a boy with auditory processing disorder (APD).  Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

The Red Pencil

THE RED PENCIL
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, read by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Hachette Audio, Ages 8+
Pinkney performs her novel in free verse, which features Amira, a girl listeners meet when she’s living a happy life with her family in the South Darfur region of Sudan. Everything changes when her family is forced to flee. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

A Crack in the Sea

A CRACK IN THE SEA
by H.M. Bouwman, read by Bahni Turpin, H.M. Bouwman [Afterword]
Listening Library, Ages 10+
Bouwman weaves a fascinating story of brothers and sisters, history and fantasy in this incredible tale. Narrator Bahni Turpin is extraordinary in bringing this fantasy world and its characters to life. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Brooklyn Bridge

BROOKLYN BRIDGE
by Karen Hesse, read by Fred Berman
Macmillan Audio, Ages 10+
Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse’s deeply moving story concerns Russian immigrants in 1903 Brooklyn. Fred Berman beautifully captures 14-year-old Joseph’s electric excitement to participate in the life of the city around him. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Have you listened to a family audiobook on this topic? Please share about it below!

Don’t miss our interviews with Ramon de Ocampo, one of the narrators of I’M NEW HERE, and a two-fer interview with Josh Hurley and Vikas Adam narrators of SAVE ME A SEAT— both part of our ongoing Behind the Mic series!

Find more great audiobooks here: Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with age ranges.

 

A former wildlife biologist, avid reader, and parent to two book-loving kids, Emily is excited to be jumping into the world of literature, and happy to be working with AudioFile’s wonderful team of reviewers.

Behind the Mic: Hoodoo

Hoodoo is the magic. Hoodoo is the hero.

AudioFile went Behind the Mic to talk with narrator Ron Butler about the ‘magic’ of his performance of HOODOO by Ronald L. Smith. Magic indeed, you’ll come under Ron’s spell to seek out this audiobook.

“Hoodoo, the 12-year-old boy has so much heart—a huge heart—the heart of a poet.”—Narrator Ron Butler

HoodooHOODOO
by Ronald L. Smith, read by Ron Butler
Dreamscape
AudioFile Earphones Award
2016 Coretta Scott King Award

We loved the way the author weaves together the 1930’s small-town Alabama, Hoodoo’s magical family and the spooky Southern Gothic atmosphere. Narrator Ron Butler pulls in listeners immersing them in this great family listen. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

HOODOO is featured in our 20 Exceptional Audiobooks to Kickstart Your Family Listening, and is part of AudioFile’s comprehensive Kids & Teens Listening lists.

20 Exceptional Audiobooks to Kick-start Your Family Listening

Start here with audiobook listening for the whole family. AudioFile’s recommendations give you so many stories to share.

Audiobooks and kids make a great match. Intimate and exciting performances from dynamic voices can help bring the stories to life in new ways. We’ve made some great matches for you, pairing up newer titles along with well-loved classics that all share a similar theme or idea.

There are misfit girls, journeys to self-discovery, battles against injustice, and opportunities to learn about cultures and experiences that may be different from our own. There’s sure to be something that will appeal to every young listener in your life—and will be fun for you to listen to right along with them!

Fantastic Worlds
37006.jpg

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
by Lewis Carroll, read by Jim Dale
Listening Library

If you like Wonderland, you might like . . .


HATCHED
by Bruce Coville, read by Matthew Frow, Jeremy Gumbs, and a Full Cast

Listening Library, Ages 8+

BAKER’S MAGIC
by Diane Zahler, read by Tavia Gilbert, Michael Crouch, and a Full Cast
Live Oak Media, Ages 8+

THE HIDDEN ORACLE
by Rick Riordan, read by Robbie Daymond
Listening Library, Ages 10+

Other Times & Cultures
When the Sea Turned to Silver

WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER
by Grace Lin, read by Kim Mai Guest,
Hachette Audio, Ages 8+

If you like learning about cultures from around the world, you might like . . .

ONE HALF FROM THE EAST
by Nadia Hashimi, read by Ariana Delawari

Harper Audio, Ages 8+

THE RED PENCIL
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Shane W. Evans, read by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Hachette Audio, Ages 8+

A CRACK IN THE SEA
by H.M. Bouwman, read by Bahni Turpin

Listening Library, Ages 8+

The Battle Against Injustice
The Giver

THE GIVER
by Lois Lowry, read by Ron Rifkin,
Listening Library, Ages 12+

If you liked uncovering the world of THE GIVER, you might like . . .

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, read by Carolyn McCormick
Scholastic Audiobooks, Ages 12+

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

by Kelly Barnhill, read by Christina Moore
Recorded Books, Ages 10+

THE INQUISITOR’S TALE
by Adam Gidwitz, read by Adam Gidwitz, Vikas Adam, Mark Bramhall, Jonathan Cowley , Kimberly Farr, Ann Marie Lee, Bruce Mann, John H. Mayer, Benjamin Bagby, Arthur Morey
Listening Library, Ages 10+

Discovering the Magic Within
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE
by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale
Listening Library, Ages 8+

If you wish you could learn at Hogwarts, you might like one of these . . .

THE GOLDEN COMPASS
by Philip Pullman, read by a Full Cast

Listening Library, Ages 12+

GRAYLING’S SONG
by Karen Cushman, read by Katherine Kellgren
Recorded Books, Ages 10+

HOODOO
by Ronald L. Smith, read by Ron Butler
Dreamscape, Ages 10+
Keep your eye out for our Behind the Mic visit with narrator Ron Butler!

Family & Community
Because of Winn-Dixie

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE
by Kate DiCamillo, read by Cherry Jones
Listening Library, Ages 8+

If you shared Opal’s family with yours, you might like . . .

THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE
by Jacqueline Kelly, read by Natalie Ross,
Brilliance Audio, Ages 12+

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET
by Matt de la Peña, read by Lizan Mitchell,
Recorded Books, Ages 4-6

BROWN GIRL DREAMING
by Jacqueline Woodson, read by Jacqueline Woodson,
Listening Library, Ages 10+

What audiobooks have you listened to with your kids that you would recommend for someone who loves Harry Potter? What audiobook have they loved that helped teach them more about valuing family and community? Share your favorites in the comments!

Find more great audiobooks here, Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with with age ranges.

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

Behind the Mic: Grayling’s Song

Newbery medalist Karen Cushman brings us another magical story with Katherine Kellgren “at her best”

We know that narrator Katherine Kellgren can weave spells with her versatile voice and her prodigious narration talents. As AudioFile goes Behind the Mic, we learn about another of Katherine’s gifts when she recorded Karen Cushman’s GRAYLING’S SONG.

“Karen Cushman loves to have music in her books . . . We agreed that I would write all the melodies for Grayling’s songs.”—Narrator Katherine Kellgren

Grayling's Song
GRAYLING’S SONG

by Karen Cushman, read by Katherine Kellgren
Recorded Books
Earphones Award Winner

AudioFile Editors knew the combination of Karen Cushman and Katherine Kellgren would again create terrific listening. Celebrated Cushman titles ALCHEMY AND MEGGIE SWANWILL SPARROW’S ROAD and now GRAYLING’S SONG make a trifecta of song, history, magic, and memorable characters. Listen to a sound clip of Katherine and read our full review here!

Katherine Kellgren
Photo: Jo Anna Perrin

Find more recent audiobooks by Katherine!

Best Audiobooks 2016AudioFile
2016 Best Audiobooks
Award Winner

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

Behind the Mic: Save Me a Seat

Two fifth-grade boys from worlds apart find a common bond in this dual narration

Narrators Josh Hurley and Vikas Adam go Behind the Mic for AudioFile and give us a dual perspective on SAVE ME A SEAT as two boys start school at Einstein Elementary.

“These kids are like a lot of kids in grade school who deal with bullies, insecurities, and trying to fit in.”— Josh Hurley

Save Me a Seat
SAVE ME A SEAT

by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan, read by Vikas Adam & Josh Hurley
Scholasitc Audio
Earphones Award Winner

Two fifth-grade boys, Ravi and Joe, come from very different places. Ravi is newly immigrated from India, and Joe is dealing with learning challenges. Using two narrators is the perfect way to deliver this story, and Vikas Adam and Josh Hurley bring every moment to listeners with clear connection and involvement. Listen to a sound clip and read our full review here.

Vikas Adam and Josh Hurley

Read our interview with Josh and Vikas!

Best Audiobooks 2016AudioFile
2016 Best Audiobooks
Award Winner

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!