SYNC audiobooks and civic engagement

Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Friday, November 18, 2016

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How is it that a program that seems to encourage the experience of building a personal collection and listening to audiobooks as an individual also encourage civic engagement? We've seen how that happens as many of you shared your support work with teens in accessing SYNC in 2016.


With the growing popularity and ease of accessing downloadable media collections ithrough both public and school libraries, guiding teens toward the use of freely available audiobooks has become part of what librarians, and some teachers, do on a frequent basis. While the downloading mechanics are simple, the awareness of the breadth, depth, and ease of free access to high quality, curated audiobook collections available in community-based agencies requires active outreach to local teens.

When a school and the community's public library collaborate so that downloading from the latter's public-interest collection can occur on school time at the school library, one level of civic awareness can take root for the teen client: Hey! these library people talk to each other and they both are interested in helping me get what I need! And maybe what I need is to hear more about this idea from an expert who communicates so well I don't even notice how hard it might be to read this stuff with my eyes.

Listening to a variety of SYNC titles, both nonfiction and fiction addressing contemporary social and political issues, obviously presents opportunities for straightforward experience, as a listener, with the ramifications of civic engagment as these narratives unfold. However, going beyond listening alone to include the opportunity for an audiobook discussion offers another path to giving teens a place to engage with each other and critical thinking about their own roles in the group, the town, or even the world. Within such discussion groups, fantasy and science fiction titles, as well as those from other genres, can offer good material for discovering how civic engagement can be a factor in many types of narrative, not only in ones where the subject matter is clearly addressing societal matters or actions.

Civic engagement, after all, is a direct correlative of acquiring good critical thinking skills, one of the urgent literacy tasks of adolescents. Yes, SYNC can amplify teen language arts experiences. Side by side, the content of SYNC titles and the experiences of accessing and sharing the experience of a group of listeners can amplify social and civic skill building. By encouraging the building of a personal "forever" collection of audiobooks, SYNC also shows teens that many books are worthy of return visits, that our viewpoints and abilities to consider change as we grow, and the experencing--as well as the having--is where value lies.

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