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ALSC/Booklist/YALSA Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production

The first Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production was announced Monday, January 14 at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media Awards Press Conference.  This annual award is given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.  The selection committee may also select honor titles.  The Odyssey Award is jointly given and administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), divisions of ALA, and is sponsored by Booklist magazine.

The selection committee consists of nine members: four members appointed by ALSC; four members appointed by YALSA; a chair, whose appointment alternates between ALSC and YALSA divisions; and a consultant from the staff of Booklist magazine who works with audiobooks.  The consultant may participate fully in all book discussions but may not participate in voting.

Odyssey Award Background Information

An award for the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults available in English in the United States.

A committee made up of the following persons developed the rationale and requirements for this award:
Producers: Bruce Coville, Full Cast Audio; Tim Ditlow, Random House; Arnie Cardillo, Live Oak Media
Booklist Staff: Bill Ott, Editor & Publisher; Sue Ellen Beauregard, Media Editor
ALSC Members: Mary Burkey, Chair, 2007 Notable Children's Recordings; Ellen Fader, 2005-2006 ALSC President
YALSA Members: Sharon Grover, 2007 Chair of Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults; Pam Spencer Holley, 2005-2006 YALSA President

Name Selection for Award
The story of the wanderings of Ulysses, as he returns to his kingdom of Ithaca after the Trojan War, are ascribed to the blind poet Homer who either wrote, or dictated, the epic poem called The Odyssey. Whether this odyssey of Ulysses was based on one specific event, or many different ones, is argued by researchers today, though they all seem to agree that the poems comprising The Odyssey were originally told and retold in the oral tradition, hence the name for this award. The Odyssey Award allows us to return to the ancient roots of storytelling, while living in our modern world.

The youth divisions honor books and movies with awards, such as the Caldecott, Carnegie, Newbery and Printz, but there is no official ALA award for audiobooks, which constitute a fast growing area of usage in libraries.

Consider the following:

  • Circulation for children's audiobooks rose 10.7 percent and the budget for these materials rose 4.8 percent (Audio Publisher Association, December 2004)
  • The growth in circulation of audiobooks is outpacing overall library circulation. Book clubs are increasingly made up of hybrid listener-readers, and the market for children's audiobooks is booming! (“Loud, Proud, Unabridged: It Is Too Reading!; The New York Times, May 26, 2005)

It's important that we, as a group of professionals committed to lifelong literacy, recognize the role of audiobooks in the development of literacy. Consider the following:

  • Research shows that one of the most important reasons for the increasing interest in audiobooks for young people is the correlation between listening to audiobooks and improvements in reading comprehension, fluency, language acquisition, vocabulary development and improved achievement. (“Not Just for Listening,” Book Links, May 2005)
  • Fewer Americans are reading books than a decade ago, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, but almost a third more are listening to them on tapes, CDs and iPods. (“Loud, Proud, Unabridged: It Is Too Reading!; The New York Times, May 26, 2005)
  • According to Wendy Kasten, an education professor at Kent State University, “Listening to tapes with books in front of students is very, very good for building vocabulary.” (“To Curl Up with a Good Book, Listen Up,” The Plain Dealer, May 23, 2005)

Listening is an important skill to be both taught and learned. Children of this century live in a world where media is a dominant form of communication (25 million iPods sold last year), and imagination's greatest champion in this technological realm is the spoken word. Through the years our cultures have been nurtured and our customs passed on by storytellers--audiobooks carry on that tradition.

In addition, with all of the audiobooks available today, and with the increasing number being produced, we believe it is essential for ALSC and YALSA to provide the same level of support for this nonprint format that they have historically provided for print materials, by creating an annual award for the best audiobooks in the field. We believe that by doing so, ALSC and YALSA can not only assist their members to better serve their library patrons, but also raise the profile and standards of audiobooks by having those honored serve as models toward which all audio producers can aspire.

ALSC, YALSA, audiobook, award, Booklist
Information about the ALSC/Booklist/YALSA Odyssey Award, given annually for the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults during the preceding year to be awarded for the first time in January 2008.