Accessing Audio for Reluctant Readers

Reading is one of the most important things a parent can encourage a child to do to enhance their education (see our blog all about why). However, some children do not engage with reading and at Smithbrook Tuition we have found that is usually because they find it too challenging. A good way to combat this is through the use of Audiobooks because listening, like reading, increases children’s knowledge, confidence and independence. Luckily, gone are the days of expensive story tapes and now technology has made it easier and cheaper to listen to audiobooks.

Here are Smithbrook Tuition’s tried and tested options for audiobooks:

Calibre Audio

At Calibre, we believe in social inclusion and the wider benefits that reading brings, including combating social isolation and increasing confidence and independence

Calibre Audio is a UK charity that lends free audiobooks to any child or adult who has a print disability, i.e. anyone who struggles with the written word, physically or mentally. The top reasons the charity sites are: Dyslexia, sight loss, ME, MS, MND and brain injury. However, there are multiple other reasons why your child might need to access audiobooks and if this is the case, this amazing free service is also open to your child. Calibre Audio brings the joy of audiobooks to anyone struggling to access the written word.

You can access unlimited borrowing of books, including over 3,000 audiobooks specifically in multiple ways:
– Free app available on Apple and Android devices
– Stream it online or download it to your computers
– Posted free to you on a memory stick
Their collection is crammed full of leading contemporary children’s authors, including Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, J.K Rowling, Malorie Blackman, David Walliams, Phillip Pullman and all the classics. They have current titles that support the GCSE, A-Level and PSHE national curriculum.


The library is a wonderful resource to help get your child into listening to books. Both Surrey and West Sussex offer a wide selection of audiobooks for all ages to borrow. The libraries have books suitable for children and young people of all ages; from preschool and primary-age to teenagers.
It’s free to join, and even children can join (as long as an adult gives permission). The ability to be a member as a child or teen can help them want to borrow audiobooks, as it gives them a sense of ownership and agency over their choices.

The benefits of joining the library for listeners are:
– It’s free to borrow audiobooks through the library website or chosen app
– You can borrow the books for 21 days
– a huge range of bestsellers, fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and more, available for free
– You can borrow multiple audiobooks at a time, handy for school curriculum books and also allows listening to books for fun at the same time
– You can renew the books or audiobooks if they have not been reserved.
– Loans expire automatically after 21 days, so there are no late charges, which is incredibly helpful with hectic family schedules
If you enjoy taking your children into a library, as you think browsing the shelves will inspire them more to choose a story, then the libraries also offer audiobooks on CD and on portable MP3 players, this is a really lovely way to introduce a struggling or reluctant reader into the realm of books.

BBC Sounds

BBCs radio app and website offers lovely free content for children and young adults. From mini audio narrated educational segments such as the Horrible Histories Podcast to gorgeous stories like Tales From Malory Towers and Carries War to the retelling of Shakespeare. This free resource offers short bursts of audio, to keep even the most unwilling reader engaged. The content changes regularly, always offering a new audio experience for any child who needs to listen rather than read.


Audible is the leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling, enriching the lives of our millions of listeners every day. With our customer-centric approach to technological innovation and superior programming, Audible has reinvented a media category, and is the driving force behind today’s audio entertainment revolution“.

Audible offers monthly subscription packages where you purchase credits to buy any audiobook.

The benefits of an audible membership are very extensive and include:
– £7.99 a month is their basic membership
– 50,000 books for children and teens available
– Include extras for your membership such as free audiobooks, dramatised productions of many popular children’s stories, many of the classics including ones appropriate for school curriculum and series such as Winnie the Pooh!
– You can listen online or on an app (android or apple devices).
– Gift credits to your child as birthday and Christmas presents which is a great way for them to start exploring books they would like to listen to.
– For a reduced price on Amazons website you can purchase the kindle version of your choosen audiobook, and it links the two together, so if your child wants to read parts sometimes and listen to parts other times (or listen while reading) they can. This is incredibly handy for any child who struggles to engage with the written word all the time.

If you prefer to stay away from Amazon based companies, you can try a similar service with Kobo, which also offer a child and young adults section but for only £6.99 a month. However, their offering of free content for members is less impressive. Both companies are very easy to use through their apps on your android or apple devices and offer a free 30-day trial.

Let us know have you tried any of these services? Did they help encourage your children to start listening to audiobooks?

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