For students with learning differences, audiobooks can be an incredibly helpful tool. For example, students with dyslexia or ADHD are better supported when they are able to listen to an audiobook while following along with the text.
However, our teachers have found that there are often no audiobooks commercially available for the French language books in our elementary curriculum. INTL* French Learning Support Teacher Valérie Ribo and 4th Grade French teacher Sylvie Hocquet had the idea of recording their own audiobooks for their students, but audiobook production is very time-consuming, so the project never got off the ground.
While brainstorming with Middle School Design Teacher Elisabeth Lepert, they decided that audiobook production could be an ideal activity for the Service as Action component of the MYP (Middle Years Programme). The International Middle Schoolers could use their language skills to give back to their own community, in a very concrete way. They also thought it would be a great way for students to learn about inclusion, and to give them a window into the struggles and difficulties other students may have.
To begin, Valérie gave presentations to the middle school students to explain the project, to teach them about the learning differences that make audiobooks helpful, and to ask for volunteers.
Valérie’s presentation resonated with 8th graders Alexandra D. and Lise D., who were both inspired to help because they have siblings who they have seen struggle with reading. Lise says, “My sister had some difficulties learning how to read, so I thought maybe this could help my sister, and it could also help many other kids.”
Alexandra adds, “My older brother really struggled with reading growing up, I thought the audiobooks were a great idea because they can really help someone learning to read, and they won’t feel like they are alone. It takes a little bit of time to record, but at the end of the day you are doing a really cool thing, and you are helping someone, so it’s worth it.”
The small group of students who volunteered for the project meet once every two weeks to discuss their progress, but do the actual recording on their own time using Garage Band. During the process, they learn both the technical side of recording and the artistry required for an engaging and clear vocal performance. Even more importantly, they learn that they can take direct action to help solve a problem in their own school community.
The audiobooks the middle school students recorded are already in use in the elementary classrooms, and the project will be ongoing, meaning our French audiobook library will continue to grow, helping students for years to come.
*In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.