Podcasts Galore! Summer Listening for Students of All Ages.

These curated playlists for elementary, middle, and high school students feature dozens of podcasts that embrace the 2021 Collaborative Summer Library theme, Tails and Tales.

Kidcasts Tails and Tales coverSummer library programs offer a great opportunity to guide patrons toward podcasts they’ll enjoy, and libraries across the country are getting creative about connecting families with listening material. Some, such as Oak Park (IL) Public Library and the Princeton (NJ) Public Library, are adding playlists to their websites. Others, such as the Maricopa County (AZ) Library District, are embedding lists in their summer reading program software so kids can easily access them, earning points and prizes for listening.

One in four kids reported listening to podcasts during the past year—a 20 percent increase—as families searched for alternatives to screen time. The growth in podcast popularity has also yielded more information on how we listen, inspiring new ways to engage kids and families. For example, according to a recent Kids Listen survey, 63 percent of families report listening to episodes with their children, with 49 percent listening for fun and entertainment, 33 percent for educational purposes, and 25 percent for something to do in the car. Librarians developing programming around podcasts include the podcast listening club for kids at Melrose (MA) Public Library or the one for adults at Cole Library in Mount Vernon, IA.

Of course, many libraries operate with limited resources and are simply unable to offer more labor-intensive programming. If this describes your library, then you’ll be glad to know what kids do while listening to podcasts: 78 percent report that they just like to listen. Which means that by simply helping families connect to playlists this summer—on your website, in your newsletter, on social media—you can engage kids and families in your community with great audio content.

To jumpstart your summer, here are three playlists tied to the 2021 Collaborative Summer Library Program’s theme, "Tails and Tales."

Summer Podcast Playlists

This year’s summer playlists include, first and foremost, tales about characters with tails, in line with this year’s Collaborative Summer Library Program theme. If you ask a child to tell you what types of tails creatures have, they’ll talk about wagging tails or flapping tails, stinging tails, or buzzing tails. But ask a child what types of tales they love to hear, and their answers might turn to lions or tigers, ants or spiders, dragons or unicorns. With this in mind, we listened far and wide, selecting shows from the last year that will introduce families to a range of audio styles, genres, and subjects, not to mention a whole bunch of tails.

Within the three playlists, listeners will hear fairy tales, folktales, interesting fact tales, cautionary tales, and many funny tales, with a range of pacing and audio production styles to suit different parts of their day. The top reported time of day for listening to kids’ podcasts was between commute time and bedtime, with spikes at 3 p.m. (after school), 6 p.m. (dinnertime), and 8 p.m. (bed time). Families also reported listening before school, between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

You’ll find fast-paced game shows to get kids excited and engaged; short news episodes to pique interest in world events; mindfulness-inspired episodes to help kids and families feel calm; fact-filled episodes for listening and learning during dinner or bathtime; and plenty of bedtime tales for winding down. Each list features 20 to 30 shows and provides at least seven hours of entertaining, sometimes educational, always enjoyable listening.

The playlists are freely accessible and can be embedded in your website, newsletters, summer reading program software, and promotions. They can be linked in library communications, emails, or on social media. Listen Notes also offers an easy way to create and share your own playlists (instructions below).

Tails and Tales: Elementary School

30 shows, 7+ hours of listening

This playlist includes African folktales about dogs and jackals; classic fairy tales about ducks, wolves, and goats; nonsense stories about cats competing for cake, panthers making phone calls, and lions eating spaghetti. Plus, book recommendations about sharks, skunks, and badgers; bedtime stories about ants, llamas, and octopi; and calming stories about porpoises, camels, and cicadas. The list also features a couple of fabulous serial podcasts about dogs, including The Adventures of Power Dog in Dogland and Hank the Cowdog, the latter voiced by Matthew McConaughey.

Tails and Tales: Middle School

25 shows, 8+ hours of listening

This playlist includes historical tales about the bears in Theodore Roosevelt’s life; an indigenous Mi'kmaw tale about a whale; scientific tales about whales and dinos; a debate about whether armadillos are better than porcupines; a serial outer space adventure starring space horse Briscoe; facts about zebrafish, spiders, and ocean creatures; audio dramas featuring a famous headless man riding a horse; weird unicorn sightings; news facts about virus-sniffing dogs; biographies of environmentalists; answers to questions such as, “Why don’t dogs poo in the toilet?”; and more silly humor.

Tails and Tales: High School

15 shows, 9+ hours of listening

This playlist includes several fascinating interviews with experts from fields as far-reaching as behavioral ecology and cognitive dog science to climate journalism and disease ecology. Episodes include deep dives into animal habitats, and one from Bill Nye, talking about how we just need to save the bears! Young adults who love audio dramas will find gripping shows in the mix, including The Oyster, a dystopian hopepunk serial voiced by an amazing slate of actors. Those who love gaming will enjoy geeking out about who would win between Godzilla and Megazord.

Accessing and Sharing Playlists

Listen Notes searches across a broad range of podcasts to help you build a playlist spanning fictional stories, science, history, biographies, music, and more. You can create a multidisciplinary playlist based on a topic you are covering in class, then share it with your students and their families so they can listen later, anytime, anywhere.

How to Listen Later

Listen Notes allows keyword searching to build podcast playlists you can save using the Listen Later website tool. Librarians can share public playlist links with colleagues, students, and families. Listen Later allows others to tune in from their desktops by sharing, or they can export their playlists for on-the-go listening. When others “subscribe” to your curated playlist, it allows the RSS feed to be copied, so you can paste it into a mobile podcast app, including the popular Apple Podcasts and apps for listening wherever you normally subscribe to podcasts.

Simple steps to export a playlist from Listen Later:

1. Click on the playlist link on the web in your smartphone browser.

2. Click on the “subscribe” button.

3. Select the mobile app that you use to listen to podcasts.

4. The list will appear under your list of podcasts. (For troubleshooting, look here.)

Subscribers do not have to download episodes to listen to the playlists. They can play the podcasts anywhere they have access to the internet—no mobile device or phone storage space required. Listen Later search capabilities and playlist features make it far easier to organize and access audio content than browsing the internet or searching podcast apps on a mobile device.

Consultant Anne Bensfield teaches librarians how to be mentors for managing new media in their schools and communities. Pamela Rogers is a children’s librarian and the creator of “Buttons & Figs.”  

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing