I’m sure I’m not the only one who grew up listening to audio books on tape. Long journeys to my grandparents house for example, were made bearable by fun stories to listen to in the car and I would regularly see my mum after school in the kitchen ironing whilst listening to a story herself.
We’ve obviously moved on a little bit now from cassettes but my love for audio books hasn’t. I think they are fantastic. As a former teacher/SENDCO and someone who’s passionate about improving children’s literacy (my next book due out in November is all about boosting literacy skills) I surprised a friend the other week when I was raving about audio books for children. Her point was, surely encouraging children to listen to books stops them from practising how to read? Whilst I understand her point, I completely disagree. Our job, as parents or teachers, when trying to encourage reading first and foremost is to spark that LOVE of books. Audio books aren’t there to compete against physical books but they can make an excellent ‘way in’. They can help children realise that books aren’t just a chore, something in your reading folder from school that you have to practise reading every night, but they can transport us to different worlds, bring up new emotions we haven’t felt before and learn about new things. Quite simply, audio books help children to enjoy books.
For children who have special educational needs, for example, audio books can make stories more accessible. Children shouldn’t be denied the privilege of a brilliant story just because they can’t yet read it. I taught a child who was upset that she couldn’t read the same books as her friends at school, she felt left out of the conversations about the books, but having the audio book version meant she didn’t have to be.Now whilst I love audio books, I’ve always been disappointed that you can’t read along with the books whilst listening, or read a bit of the book and listen to the rest. So I was absolutely delighted to discover that an independent business based in Cornwall and London has also spotted this flaw and has now invented an award winning new audio book app called xigxag that allows you to do just this.
What is xigxag?
Pronounced ‘zig-zag’, this very cool audio book app brings all the brilliant functionality of regular audio books and then adds a splash of new features and technology that makes it a cut above the rest. Downloadable on Google Play for Android user and the App Store fro iOS users, the most exciting feature of xigxag is its very special x-book®s. The x-book® is basically the ultimate blend of an audio book and an ebook in one and you get exclusive access to them via the xigxag app.
So what did I like about xigxag app and the x-book®?
- ⁃ Help for busy parents – Life can be busy and what’s great about xigxag is it enables your children to listen to stories when you don’t have time to physically sit and read to them yourself. Obviously I’m not saying we can replace that special time of reading to our children, but as an extra or back up for the times when life just gets in the way, it can be really helpful.
- ⁃ No subscription & great prices – What I particularly loved about this app is that there’s no subscription fee. You pay for what you listen to and you’re rewarded with lower prices per title the more books you download. For example, If you buy 1-5 books they cost £7.99 per title but if you buy say 11-15 they cost £5.99 per title. There’s also a selection of books priced at £3.99 per title and some free ones meaning there’s something for all budgets. As an author myself, I was relieved to know that the authors and narrators are being paid fairly too. There’s a really good balance between ensuring they get paid what they deserve for the books but still giving the app users a great price. You can also gift books to your friends too if they have the xigxag app – which is a lovely feature.
- ⁃ Accessibility Features – the x-book® s have some really clever, specific features and I’ll go into them in a minute, but in terms of all the audio books on the app there’s some great things you can do that make them more accessible. For example, you can change listening speed. This means you can slow down the speed that the narrator reads it out, or speed it up. Another brilliant accessibility feature is the ability to change the brightness of screen (light theme or dark theme or one to match the phone settings) – this can be useful for children with visual stress and or dyslexia for example, making it easier to read text on the screen.
- ⁃ Sleep Timer – A feature of the app that I love as a parent, is the sleep timer. You can set the audio book to play for a certain amount of time and to turn off when the time is up. Great if you only want your children to listen to a story at bedtime but don’t want them staying up too late.
- ⁃ Swap Devices – Cleverly, you can use your account across six devices and you can download the same book across two. Meaning you could download on your phone and listen on there one day then your tablet the next! I also loved that you can use your car’s bluetooth connection to play your xigxag audiobooks through the audio system, fantastic for long journeys!
- ⁃ For us grown-ups too– Whilst I was reviewing this app with kids in mind, I noticed when I was searching on the app for books that there were lots of audiobooks for adults too. So there’s the added bonus that the app isn’t just for your kids! I listened to one for example whilst I was doing some work. I found it refreshing to have an app that’s useful for the children and for me too.
⁃ Exclusive access to the listen-and-read x-book® – This is the most exciting aspect of the xigxag app, it allows you access to thousands of x- book®s ,which are (as I mentioned before) an exciting blend of audiobooks and ebooks.
In terms of the specific x-book®, there’s some more amazing features specific to them too:
- ⁃ Illustrations – Whenever I’ve listened to audiobooks with my own children, they’ve been disappointed that they can’t see the pictures that they would have seen if we had the physical copy of the book. x-book® has solved this problem! They allow you to see each illustration as you listen to the story, making it even more engaging and immersive for children.
- ⁃ Search feature – I adored this feature! If you’re listening to a story and you hear a word that you don’t understand, simply search for word! There’s an inbuilt dictionary that you can use or it send you to Wikipedia to find out more. This not only helps with children’s understanding of the story but these skills of looking up words and researching definitions are excellent study skills that children can start to develop from an early age. You can also listen to sections again if you need to, making it more accessible.
- ⁃ Flexibility – The best thing about the x-book® is the flexibility it provides. Children can choose a book, read it for a bit, then decide to listen for a bit, then maybe read along for a few pages and then go back to listening. It makes reading and stories so much more fun, less tiring when learning to read and accessible for all. And when reading along you can scroll at your own pace or choose to auto sync the text with the audiobook. So clever!
To find out more about xigxag and the x-book® head over to their website here. You can also find their app on Google Play for Android user and the App Store for iOS users.