How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle with Reading

(Mind/Shift) School librarian Mary Ann Scheuer remembers a second grader who couldn’t keep up with the class during reading time. The child was a grade-level behind in reading, and while the rest of the class could sit quietly for 30 minutes, engrossed in Horrible Harry, this child began to act out after ten frustrating minutes with the book. On Scheuer’s recommendation, the teacher introduced the student to the same story via an audiobook; he listened to the story, and then sat alone with the book to read on his own. Scheuer recalls the boy saying, “I read it so much faster by myself after I listened to it!.” She added, “It was a game changer for him.”

Teachers and parents who read aloud to children have long known that good stories have the power to captivate the most restless of kids. Before books became the main means of conveying information, spoken word was the vehicle for sharing culture, tradition and values. The continuation of those experiences depended on the attention of the listener. Being able to listen well and remember what was said was an essential part of the oral tradition.

Research underscores the link between listening and literacy. Work by Betty Hart and Todd Risley found that the vocabularies of three-year-olds were predictive of their language and reading skills at age ten. Studies carried out at Stanford showed a gap in vocabularies between children of the well-off and those with lower socioeconomic status is apparent in children as young as 18 months. And professor Nina Kraus at Northwestern University, who explores the complexity of sound processing in the brain, has found that a variety of factors, including income level and a mother’s education, play a role in how well children process sound—which in turn affects reading ability. Read Article

Publication:      Mind/Shift (KQED-NPR)
Author:             Linda Flanagan
Publish Date:   10.23.2016