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Audiobook Resources for Teachers (Free & Low Cost)

A question today over on this post about how to run an in-class reading program:

From Krista
I’ve been doing your rendition of SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) for a year and LOVE IT!!! You mention audiobooks a few times in the comments. Can you give a list of resources for audiobooks? I know about Audible ($$), but our district’s audiobook resources are licensed for SpEd only, and other affordable/library resources are super limited in selection and quality… Have you found any that tick all the necessary boxes?? Thank you!! 

Thanks, Krista, for checking in with me. Oh yeah, Audible and other paid apps have tons of options, but access comes at a cost that puts it out of reach for most classroom teachers. My approach has been a patchwork solution. Here are some things I’ve used:

• Ask your school librarian to purchase audiobooks for popular titles and, as you mentioned, the special education department usually has quite a collection they aren’t actively using. If those folks have older CD packs (common, in my experience), those can easily be transferred into mp3 files and loaded onto students’ devices. Check to make sure their licensing agreements allow this, of course. Some do, some don’t.

• Ask parents to make donations, either for their own kid’s SSR book choice or gifting a copy to you to check out to students.

• Use my own Amazon Prime account to access the “free” options that come along with membership. (Choices are so-so.)

• Use your public library as a resource. Encourage students to get their own library cards and/or ask your local library to send a staff member to visit your class as a guest speaker to show students what’s available. Library outreach folks love to do this sort of thing and can usually sign teens up for their own cards on the spot. Free apps they provide, including Libby (some places call it Overdrive) and Hoopla, have a surprisingly high number of current, high-interest audiobook options available and, hopefully, your students who want this accommodation can find something to catch their eye/ear.

LibriVox is a website that hosts audio versions of TONS of public domain works. The texts are old (that’s usually what comes along with being in the public domain) and the actors are all volunteers (quality varies widely), but I have found some nice readings to use as supplements with my classes, primarily with core texts.

• Many voice actors post readings on YouTube. Not sure of the legality of some of those performances (if the YT channel doesn’t have the publisher’s permission, it’s a copyright concern), so use with caution and the understanding those postings might disappear if a complaint is filed. 

Hope this is a helpful starting spot. Teacher friends, what other resources for free/affordable audiobook catalogs have you found? Leave the info. and/or links in the “reply” thread below. 

Header photo licensed via Canva Pro.

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Laura Randazzo
1 year ago

Comment from JSH via Facebook:

May I add two other awesome FREE resources to this blog? The website below has loads of audio books, short stories, and even poetry that the kids can use. They can even change the speed at which the author reads the text to them! It has the text right along with the audio, so there are no more excuses for “I forgot my book at school so I couldn’t do my reading assignment!” I use this all of the time! It’s great! Check it out! ? https://esl-bits.net/

CommonLit.org also has audio versions of their texts sometimes too. You’ll just have to check to see if the article you are reading has it with it or not, but sometimes they do.

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