As infants, we learn to listen to a language before we can speak or read it. Many children are first exposed to books when they listen to a story read aloud by a parent or teacher.However, as children progress in school, more emphasis is placed on reading books and less on listening. Some teachers believe that using audiobooks encourages scholastic laziness or that it somehow constitutes “cheating.” On the contrary, studies have shown that audiobooks can be extremely beneficial for students in several ways.
- Listening comprehension improves reading comprehension – When young readers follow along with a printed version of the text while listening to a story, they are able to match oral language to written words. Some children tend to focus on reading each word individually and have difficulty understanding the meaning of an entire phrase. Audiobooks also provide a model for fluent reading and phrasing.
- Builds vocabulary and pronunciation – Most commercial TV shows use an average of 5,000 words— the same number the average child knows when they begin school. Audiobooks introduce children to new words and new uses for words they already know. Hearing the words used in context leads to a better understanding of words while improving pronunciation.
- Provides a level playing field for struggling readers – Audiobooks allow students who may struggle with word recognition and decoding skills to experience books in a new form. By using audiobooks, these students can participate equally in discussions and keep up with the rest of the class.
- Encourages a love of reading in disinterested students – Many audiobooks use sound effects, music, and multiple narrators to make the experience more engaging for listeners. Children who were previously disinterested in books are often captivated by the way a book comes alive when it is read aloud.
- Keeps children engaged with reading as they grow up – Research shows that after age 8, the number of children who regularly read drops significantly due to time constraints. Audiobooks are a great way to listen to books on the go, during long car rides and free-time. Many assigned reading books are also available as audiobooks, a welcome alternative to students who are tired of reading.
Incorporating audiobooks into your classroom encourages a more comprehensive style of learning that involves both listening and reading. They can be an extraordinarily useful tool for students and teachers alike.