Master of Science
Butler, Blake E.
Despite the rising popularity of audiobooks and podcasts, research on children listening to spoken stories remains in its infancy. In addition, the use of spoken stories could significantly improve studies of listening engagement in children. Thus, the present study sought to 1) explore how children aged 8-13 years engage with these novel media and 2) determine which stories might be most engaging to children in this age group. Fifty-two parents of children aged 8-13 years completed an online survey which asked about their children’s listening habits. Results of the survey then informed the development of four engaging stories (and two boring stories) which were heard by 26 children aged 9-12; children provided subjective ratings concerning their levels of engagement. Survey results showed that 74% of children listen to spoken stories, with the vast majority (92.5%) listening at least 1-2 times a week. Across platforms, the genre most frequently listened to was fantasy stories (84.9%; more detailed descriptions of popular themes and sub-themes are described). The listening engagement pilot study indicated no effect of story on engagement ratings. The data described here provide a basis for informed studies of listening engagement in children.
Summary for Lay Audience
Even though audiobooks and podcasts for children are becoming increasingly popular, there is a lack of research on this subject. Because of this, there is much we still don’t understand about the types of stories to which children like to listen. Improving our knowledge of this area could also help us improve other areas of hearing-related research because using engaging stories in the lab would more closely resemble how we listen to speech in the real world. Therefore, this study aimed to explore how children aged 8-13 years engaged with spoken stories and then test which stories children aged 9-12 rated as most engaging. First, we conducted an online survey of fifty-two parents of children aged 8-13 years. Parents reported on their children’s listening habits; these results were then used to inform the development of four engaging stories (and two boring stories) which were heard by 26 children aged 9-12. The children listened to the stories and then answered questions concerning how engaging they found each story. Overall, the vast majority of children listen to spoken stories at least 1-2 times a week, and the most popular genre was fantasy. When children listened to the stories we developed, they reported that the boring stories were no less engaging than the engaging stories; potential explanations for this finding are discussed. These results are an important step in progressing research on how children engage in spoken stories.
Bobbitt, Sarah, "Using Spoken Narratives to Measure Listening Engagement in Children" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8735.