Audiobooks and Teenagers

I got tired of listening to country music and NPR, driving from college to home, last semester. My dreary car ride home led me to check out the audiobooks at the public library and now I admit that I absolutely love listening to books on tape. This summer at home I have continued to always keep an audiobook handy because it’s a 10-15 minute drive into town and I usually make 2-3 trips into town every day. My audiobook regime rotates between professional development books and a young adult books. I like moving between informational books and fictional books because listening to too much of either gets boring.


Because I always have an audiobook in my car’s CD player, when I drove two fifth grade girls to camp last month, I desperately wanted to listen to Unwind, a young adult book, on the three hour drive. At first I asked the girls if they would mind if I turned the book on and they completely resisted.

“Let’s play car games!”

“Let’s listen to music!”

“Anything but a book!”

I was bummed but I remained persistent. Halfway through the car ride I could tell they were tired of car games and music. Again, I suggested that we listen to the book and then I launched into the back story of Unwind.


I was about halfway through the CDs already and I didn’t feel like listening to the whole story again, so I animatedly recounted what I had already heard. I told them about the characters, the society they lived in (it’s a dystopian book), and the plot twists that already happened. After about ten minutes of detailing the book, the girls’ eyes were wide open and they were sitting on the edge of their seat.

“Let’s listen to it!!!”


thumbs up

It was funny to see their perspectives transformed and, by the end of our car ride, they didn’t want to leave the car – they wanted to hear what would happen to their beloved characters. Because I was excited about the book and worked to get them excited, they became enveloped in literacy.

However, last week I had a very different experience with audiobooks and teenagers. After listening to pop music for a very long car ride, the adult driver got tired of tryingsoccer to please all five teenagers’ diverse music tastes and both of us were tired of listening to poorly developed rhymes and bad beats. Without warning, he switched from pop music to a podcast about soccer. The podcast was very dry and even I was bored with it. The teenagers resisted the podcast with every fiber of their being. The driver was ready for a fight; he was not going to give up. Needless to say, the 45 minute podcast lasted 1 ½ hours because the teens kept interrupting with their requests for music.

These two experiences received very different reactions from teens and I want to use my tactics with the former experience in my classroom:

  1. Get excited about what you’re sharing.
  2. Wait for the opportune moment.
  3. Build anticipation.
  4. Be animated.
  5. Leave them wanting more.