New research reveals positive influence of podcasts on young people’s reading

Surveys by the National Literacy Trust found that almost a quarter of children listened to podcasts or audiobooks more during lockdown than they did previously

Almost a quarter of children listened to podcasts or audiobooks more during lockdown than they did before, according to new research by the National Literacy Trust.

And that, says the trust, could have a knock-on effect on their reading engagement.

“As a charity, we’ve long known that audio can provide new opportunities to engage children and young people with literacy, and our latest exploration into podcasts builds on this,” said Emily Best, research manager at the National Literacy Trust and co-author of the report.

Forty-eight per cent of those who listen to podcasts enjoy reading, according to the research, compared with 41% of non-listeners.

“We were excited to discover that podcasts not only support children’s reading engagement, but that their rise in popularity during lockdown could present new opportunities for the classroom and distance learning,” added Best.

“Particularly in terms of getting pupils interested in different topics, encouraging further reading around subjects and nurturing a love of storytelling.”

This first-of-its-kind research shows the potential of podcasts for building literacy outcomes and presents a huge opportunity for the education sector – Jonathan Douglas, National Literacy Trust

Researchers compared two data sets for their findings, one compiled at the beginning of the year and another once lockdown was underway.

The extra time afforded by lockdown was one of the most common reasons offered for the surge in listening, together with podcasts’ capacity to aid relaxation.

The National Literacy Trust uses podcasts to support its work in a range of school and community programmes, and has published two new free guides to help educators and parents make the most of podcasts in class and at home.

Further research into the subject is already underway, with registration for a new survey – on how podcasts can support secondary students’ literacy and learning – open until 1 December.

“We are committed to supporting the literacy, learning and wellbeing of one million children most seriously affected by Covid-19,” said Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust.

“Lockdown and the closure of schools meant that teachers, parents and students alike had to adapt to the challenges of blended learning. This first-of-its-kind research shows the potential of podcasts for building literacy outcomes and presents a huge opportunity for the education sector.

“It is comforting to see that podcasts were able to support the wellbeing of children and young people during what continues to be a very uncertain time. The positive power of podcasts for children’s learning is an area we are exploring further with schools, partners and through additional research.”

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