Listening Books

Beyond the page – Abbie from Listening Books tells us how an abundance of audiobooks can provide children with a wonderful escape

Stories can provide a wonderful escape from scary things in life. As Roald Dahl wrote in Matilda: ‘books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.’

But, for children staying in a hospital, often in pain or discomfort, how do they get all these amazing benefits of stories?

That’s where Listening Books comes in, by partnering with Read for Good and offering access to our digital audiobook library.

We provide an audiobook library service for adults and children who find that a physical or mental illness, disability or learning difficulty affects their ability to read or hold a book. We’ve been providing this service since 1959, and as well as supporting individuals we also work with schools, care homes, voluntary-run hospices, and children in care through the BookTrust Letterbox scheme. We’re always looking at new ways to reach people who could benefit from audiobooks, so when we came across Read for Good and the amazing work they do giving print books to children in hospitals, we knew at once that audiobooks would add to this great work and provide something extra for any child in hospital who were too ill to read.

Staying in hospital can be a really difficult time for children, often swinging between daunting and boring, whether they’re staying away from family or waiting for treatment. Audiobooks make it easy to listen to stories so that children can lie down, close their eyes and rest, while still providing entertainment and a friendly voice – especially if it’s David Walliams or Stephen Fry narrating!

We wanted to help, but we hadn’t worked directly in hospitals before. We got in touch with Read for Good, and together with funding from The Siobhan Dowd Trust, we created a pilot in 2016 with five hospitals where they already provided a book service. We weren’t sure how best to give children in hospital access to Listening Books, so we started by giving each hospital three tablets, speakers, and headphones so they could download or stream over 3,000 audiobooks.

Most recently, we visited Evelina Children’s Hospital in London to see how the Listening Books library was being used. We met some of the children who have enjoyed listening to audiobooks, like the Harry Potter series, without difficulty. And, as we have a range of set texts, study guides and revision books available in our library, we found that children have been able to keep up with their school work as well.

‘It’s just opened up a whole new world,’ said Almaz, an Evelina teaching assistant. ‘We often get children who are not confident at reading as they do miss out on a lot of school due to their ill health. Having an audiobook is just a really great way for them to access the same stories as their peers, and be able to engage in conversations about literature and books – and make friends as well.

‘The hardest bit has been to take the tablets from the children at the end of the day,’ said Fiona, one of the teachers at Evelina. ‘They often want to hang on to them.’

Our work with Read for Good has been really successful so far, and we’re so pleased to be able to help so many more children! We believe everyone should have access to good stories, so we hope to continue to visit other hospitals across the UK to provide access to our audiobook library service.

Abigail Jaggers

Membership and Marketing Assistant

Tel: 0207 407 9417


If you’re interested in the Listening Books service as an individual, or you know of someone who may benefit from the service, you can find out more through our website:, where you can also become a member. Or, you can speak to one of our library team by emailing or calling 020 7407 9417.